Log In


To log in click here:


Please enter your details.

News Headlines

High Street: How many UK shops have closed?

Fashion chains Karen Millen and Coast recently announced closures. They had more than 100 outlets and concessions between them. The fast-growing online fashion chain Boohoo snapped up the brands following their collapse. But Boohoo isn't interested in owning and running physical stores and so relaunched them as online-only retailers.

The number of empty shops already stands at a record high. In July the proportion of all shops that are empty reached 10.3%, its highest level since January 2015.

Last year, big chains such as Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld went bust and vanished altogether. New research also indicates the top 150 UK retailers have 20% more store space than they need and can afford.

Full Article

'Unlawful practices and buck passing' over special needs

The Commons Education Committee said the government had set councils up to fail by upping parents' expectations while cutting council budgets overall.

Already stretched families were being torn apart, its report said, as they fought for their children's rights in schools, with councils and in tribunal.

The report, which took 18 months to produce, from numerous interviews and evidence sessions, said a child's access to support should not be determined by their "parents' education, their social capital or the advice and support of people with whom they happen to come into contact".

Full Article

Powys council plans to open children's care home

A council wants to open its own residential care home for children to give it more control over placements.

It comes after Powys county councillors were told a child's night-time emergency placement in the Midlands fell through while they were en route.

Head of children's services Jan Coles said a property search had begun.

Full Article

Other Headlines

Funding cuts take toll on support for visually impaired pupils

Thousands of children and young people with vision impairment (VI) are being failed because of a shortage of funds for specialist education services, research by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has found.

Less than half (44%) of councils in England have either cut or frozen funding for educational support for VI children, putting specialist provision under significant pressure, according to the RNIB report.

A similar proportion (43%) have already had reductions in specialist staff and increasing workloads for those who remain, and almost a quarter (24%) are planning further reviews that could result in more cuts.

Full Article

Airbnb probed by UK tax authorities

Home rentals site Airbnb has warned a tax inquiry by HM Revenue & Customs could lead to legal proceedings.

A note in newly filed accounts for Airbnb UK said it had been contacted by HMRC over "tax laws or regulations impacting the company's business".

"The company is also subject to tax inquiries and proceedings concerning its operations and intra-company transactions," it added.

"Some of these matters may result in litigation."

Full Article

UK government borrowing up by a fifth over past six months

Public sector borrowing has risen by a fifth during the first half of the financial year, official figures show.

Borrowing for the six months to September has now hit £40.3bn, up £7.4bn from the same period in 2018.

In the month of September, borrowing was £9.4bn - slightly lower than expected but still up from £8.8bn last year.

Full Article

Business rates reform key, says Labour business chairman Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves, chairman of the Parliamentary business select committee, sees business rates reform as the tool to heal hurting small businesses.

Speaking at an event this afternoon organised by the Federation of Small Businesses, Reeves said the Government’s priority has been cutting corporation tax for corporates, while ignoring small businesses.

Reeves said: “Small businesses are the backbone of the economy. They’re where future profits, employment come from. Labour in government would do all it can to support small businesses so you can grow to create prosperity throughout the country.”

The Labour MP said that the burden of business rates was felt very keenly by small business.

Full Article

UK population forecast to reach nearly 70 million in the next nine years

The population of the UK is projected to increase to just under 70 million within the next nine years, according to official figures released today.

Almost three-quarters of population growth is because of net migration, with the remainder due to more births than deaths.

Projections from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the population rising from 66.4 million in the middle of last year to 69.4 million in mid 2028.

Full Article

World economy is sleepwalking into a new financial crisis, warns Mervyn King

The world is sleepwalking towards a fresh economic and financial crisis that will have devastating consequences for the democratic market system, according to the former Bank of England governor Mervyn King.

Lord King, who was in charge at Threadneedle Street during the near-death of the global banking system and deep economic slump a decade ago, said the resistance to new thinking meant a repeat of the chaos of the 2008-09 period was looming.

Giving a lecture in Washington at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund, King said there had been no fundamental questioning of the ideas that led to the crisis of a decade ago.

Full Article

Police arrest 743 in blitz on 'county lines' drugs gangs

Police have made a record number of arrests in a week-long push to tackle so-called county lines drug gangs. Officers arrested 743 people and seized drugs worth over £400,000, 12 guns and dozens of other weapons.

The operation, by forces across England and Wales, resulted in the "disruption" of 49 "deal lines", police said. Senior officers say better co-ordination between police forces means they know more than they've ever done about the gangs and their activities.

Full Article

Boris Johnson Confirms Agreed Brexit Deal

We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS, violent crime and our environment #GetBrexitDone #TakeBackControl

Full Article

Chanceller urged to scrap inflationary business rate rise

Altus Group said a 1.7% uprating for inflation would cost businesses an extra £536.03m in England next year if implemented.

The retail sector would face a £136.92m hike despite the ongoing high street crisis.

Alex Probyn, UK president of expert services at Altus Group, said: ‘The compound effect of annual inflationary rises are completely unsupportive of UK businesses. Revenue from rates has risen by almost a third in England, up by £6.04bn a year, during the last decade. Firms would greatly benefit from respite from increasing property taxes that are both uncompetitive, and the highest across Europe.

Full Article

Pension tax relief to cost public purse nearly £40bn

Pension tax relief will cost the government nearly £40bn in 2019-20 - up more than £2bn on last year, HMRC figures have shown.

The cost of employee pension savings alone is to rise from £20.4bn in 2018-19 to £21.2bn in 2019-20, the government statistics have shown. But the cost of tax relief on employer contributions to occupational pension schemes will also rise from £17.4bn last year to £18.7bn in 2019-20.

Taken together the total cost of subsidising retirement savings will stand at £39.9bn in 2019-20, according to the HMRC figures. The total cost of pension tax relief has risen from £31.7bn in 2014-15.

Full Article

Free schools ‘not helping disadvantaged pupils’

Free schools are failing to improve education in the areas that need it most, a think-tank has said.

Further roll-out of free schools, which are state-funded schools but independent of local authorities, must be targeted towards areas where educational attainment is low, the Education Policy Institute has argued.

The EPI noted that free schools have been successful in taking on pupils from economically disadvantaged areas but not always where pupils have low educational attainment such as deprived, white, working class communities.

Full Article

Vaping: 'I'm 17, and rarely ID'd for e-cigs'

Almost 40% of sellers targeted by councils in England have been caught illegally allowing children to buy e-cigarette products, a report has found.

Ninety of the 227 premises tested sold vaping goods to under-age teenagers in 2018-19, data from 34 councils showed.

Trading Standards - which compiled the research - has called for greater resources to enforce the law.

Full Article

Queen’s Speech sets out Boris Johnson’s election manifesto

Boris Johnson loaded the Queen’s Speech with measures to fight crime and improve the NHS yesterday as he prepared to step up efforts to secure an early election.

The prime minister unveiled 26 bills, including tougher sentences for violent offenders and measures to improve patient safety, that he said reflected the “people’s priorities”.

MPs are all but certain to reject his legislative programme a week today, however. Downing Street said yesterday that Mr Johnson, who has yet to win a Commons vote, would not resign should he suffer the first defeat of a Queen’s Speech since 1924.

Full Article

Care for mental health patients has deteriorated in England, regulators say

The quality of care provided at inpatient units across England for those with mental health, learning disability and autism has deteriorated in the last year, regulators have said.

Concerns over safety on these wards, staffing levels and inappropriate care has been highlighted in the Care Quality Commission's (CQC) annual State of Care report, which looks at all health and social care across the country, including NHS and the independent sector.

Some 10% of inpatient services for people with learning disabilities and/or autism were rated as inadequate - the lowest rating - by inspectors, compared to 1% the year before.

Full Article

Troubled fund shut down leaving Kent council waiting for repayments

The troubled Woodford fund is to be wound up, leaving Kent County Council waiting longer than expected for repayments.

The fund, which was suspended in June when Kent tried to withdraw its £263m investment, was previously expected to reopen before the end of the year.

Fund administrators Link Fund Solutions said the Woodford Equity Income Fund would be wound up beginning 17 January in a move that will return investors money “more quickly than if the fund had remained suspended for a longer period of time”.

Full Article

PM seeks to thrust law and order on to agenda in Queen’s speech

Violent and sexual criminals as well as foreign national offenders who return to the UK will face drastically heavier penalties under measures that will form the centrepiece of a Queen’s speech aimed at wresting the agenda away from the delicate Brexit negotiations.

With just days to go before the deadline for Boris Johnson to clinch a last-ditch Brexit deal in Brussels, the Queen will on Monday set out his government’s priorities for a new session of parliament, including 22 new bills.

But with MPs deadlocked over Brexit, few at Westminster believe a general election will be long in coming – and the Conservatives hope the policies will form the basis of their campaign.

Full Article

Labour's nationalisation price tag would start at £196bn, CBI says

Labour's nationalisation plans would cost at least £196bn, according to the Confederation of British Industry.

The employers' group said the up-front cost of taking control of the water and energy utilities, train firms and Royal Mail was equivalent to all income tax paid by UK citizens in a year.

It was the combined total of the £141bn health budget, and the £61bn spent on education, analysis by the CBI said.

A Labour Party spokesman said it was "incoherent scaremongering" by the CBI.

Full Article

Chancellor Sajid Javid reveals date of next Budget

"This will be the first Budget after leaving the EU. I will be setting out our plan to shape the economy for the future and triggering the start of our infrastructure revolution," Sajid Javid said.

"This is the right and responsible thing to do - we must get on with governing," he added.

Mr Javid has already announced the biggest increase in day-to-day spending in 15 years, promising to raise public spending by more than £13bn.

Full Article

County publishes business case for single unitary

The current two-tier model of local government in the area covered by Leicestershire CC is unsustainable and a single unitary council would deliver net savings of £30m a year and protect services, according to a business case published by the county council.

The report published on Friday says that while additional funding announced in the 2018 budget improved the finances of most councils, “this is simply a delay to further financial crisis as the funding is temporary and no solution to service demand pressures is forthcoming”.

It adds the latest financial forecasts found Leicestershire will only be able to balance its budget for the next two years after making £200m of savings since 2010.

Full Article

Families in England hit by 70% cut in school uniform grant

Financial aid for uniforms has fallen by more than 70% across England since 2010. More than 80% of cash-strapped local councils now offer no assistance, blaming years of cuts.

Data collected through the Freedom of Information Act reveals for the first time that the “school uniform grant”, introduced in 1980, has been dramatically scaled back in England over the past decade. While the Department for Education (DfE) still advertises the grant, it is left to struggling councils to find the resources to pay it out.

Full Article

Revealed: the private landlords profiting from England’s housing crisis

Private companies have been accused of profiting from England’s deepening housing crisis after an Observer investigation found homeless families crammed into squalid hostels, crime-ridden tower blocks and rundown estates.

Freedom of information responses from councils in England’s top-50 homeless blackspots reveal that the 156 largest private providers of temporary accommodation collected more than £215m in the last financial year. On average these firms received £10,000 of public money for each booking.

Full Article

NHS sets out to tackle homelessness crisis

Homelessness has become so endemic in Britain that the NHS is launching specialist services for rough sleepers in seven of the worst-hit areas.

Despite repeated pledges by consecutive governments to tackle the housing crisis, about 320,000 people are homeless.

The problem is so acute that rough sleepers will be offered health advice and direct access to mental health care and GPs.

Full Article

How councils 'ignoring the law' on social care forces families apart

Families are at risk of being needlessly torn apart and making long journeys to visit loved ones due to the underfunding of the care system.

Councils will fund care for those with little cash, or whose assets have already been swallowed up by care home fees, but few will pay the full cost of charges in the areas they operate.

The law requires local authorities to draw up a personalised budget for each claimant of support for care fees, and this should take into account the charges in the local area.

Full Article

Government accused of wrecking plans to build more social housing

The government has been accused of “trashing” plans to build more social housing across the UK after it imposed a shock interest rate rise on cheap Treasury loans.

Councils reacted with frustration to the one percentage point increase on public works loan board (PWLB) finance, which was imposed “out of the blue” this week, warning it could delay or scupper housebuilding and regeneration schemes.

The LGA estimates the rate rise will add about £70m to financing costs for all new loans to English councils, a change that will scupper housebuilding projects already on the edge of viability. The Treasury said the new PWLB rates still worked out cheaper than commercial loans.

Full Article

Thousands of pensioners could be homeless in next 10 years due to soaring rent costs

Thousands of people could face becoming homeless in retirement over the next decade, experts warn. Research has revealed that around 25% of private renters aged 65 and over worry about becoming homeless and 67% of 55 to 64-year-olds who rent privately say they will not be able to afford rent on a suitable home when they retire, unless they get housing benefit.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of charity Shelter, which carried out the research, said: “At worst, in the next decade we could see a generation of older renters at risk of homelessness.

Full Article

South east seeks rail fare freeze to help double economy

South east councils have called for a freeze on rail fares and a new Thames crossing to allow the region’s economy to grow while reducing car use.

A draft strategy from the newly-created Transport for the South East (TfSE) has gone to public consultation ahead of a final version expected next spring. The body, which counts 16 councils as members, is currently consulting on proposals for becoming a statutory sub-national transport body.

Full Article

Modular homes endorsed by Prince William to be built by charity to 'end youth homelessness'

Hundreds of modular homes will be built by a youth homelessness charity with capped rent in the first scheme of its kind aiming to “end homelessness”.

Centrepoint, is announcing its multi-million-pound scheme - billed as its “most ambitious programme to date” - to help young homeless people aged 16 to 25.

The charity, whose patron is Prince William, is announcing in The Telegraph a project to offer a “pro-active solution to help young people help themselves by giving them a job and a home” following an interview with its chief executive, Seyi Obakin OBE.

Full Article

Queen's Speech: What is it and why is it important?

The government has suspended Parliament to allow a Queen's Speech to take place.

For a government to lose the vote that follows the speech would be highly unusual. But it is possible and could have serious consequences.

So, what exactly is the Queen's Speech and what would happen if MPs rejected it?

Full Article

CIPFA proposals to 'revolutionise financial reporting'

Launching a set of discussion papers, the institute said it wanted to explore how financial reporting could be improved and whether accounts could be ‘made scalable through differential reporting frameworks’.

It said the discussion papers were ‘poised to fundamentally alter local government financial reporting in the UK’.

The papers argue that the length and complexity of accounts produced by councils often make them ‘impenetrable’, as well as being time-consuming tasks which place ‘considerable strain on what are now leaner finance teams’.

They claim the issue is ‘particularly acute for smaller authorities’.

Full Article

Extinction Rebellion could disrupt Queen opening Parliament

The Extinction Rebellion protest could force the Queen to abandon carriage trip to open Parliament, police have suggested.

Officers have told those leading the demonstration that state opening cannot take place if they are camped on the streets as Scotland Yard admitted that they have “contingency plans”.

Full Article

No-deal Brexit would push borrowing above £100bn, IFS warns

A no-deal Brexit would see government borrowing rise to almost £100bn a year and overall debt reaching levels not seen since the 1960s, a leading economic think-tank has warned.

Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) predicted a mini-boom in public spending, funded by the extra borrowing, to help soften the blow if the UK crashes out of Europe without a deal.

But the boom would likely be followed by bust as the government struggles to cope with the consequences of a smaller economy and higher debt on its funding of public services, the IFS said.

Full Article

Boris Johnson’s spending spree threatens to leave no cash for tax cuts

Boris Johnson is planning to spend as much on public services as Jeremy Corbyn promised at the last election and cannot afford the tax cuts he pledged in the Tory leadership campaign, a think tank has warned.

The prime minister’s proposed spending spree would mean Sajid Javid, the chancellor, overshooting the government’s borrowing limit by £5 billion in 2020-21, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which said that the government was “adrift without any fiscal anchor”.

Full Article

NHS bosses warn of social care timebomb

Nine in ten NHS bosses are worried that not enough money is being poured into social care, a survey reveals today.

Nearly half – 46 per cent – said they were very concerned about the lack of such investment in their area. Only 2 per cent were confident that their local council was putting in enough funding to meet care needs. The survey, by NHS Providers which represents hospital, ambulance and community trusts, was completed by 131 NHS chief executives and chairmen.

Full Article

Brexit casts its shadow over budgets

Its latest Green Budget, produced annually before the real Budget, does not buck the trend. It predicts the deficit will bust the Government’s 2% fiscal target next year and total public sector debt is at an historic high, that even a benign no-deal Brexit will double the deficit to 4%, and that this fails to include extra health and care costs (estimated to be an extra 2% of GDP every decade).

Had there been no referendum the economy would be now £55-£66bn larger than it is and as a result the UK ‘has missed out on a bout of global growth since 2016.’ Local authority treasurers would be advised not to get too excited about the extra cash pledged to them in chancellor Sajid Javid’s recent Spending Round for fear of what might be round the corner.

Full Article

Living wage boost would benefit hundreds of thousands of council staff

The two biggest political parties have committed to increasing the National Living Wage, which currently stands at £8.21 per hour for those over 25, £7.70 for those aged 21–24 and £6.15 for ages 18-20.

At the Conservative party conference last month, chancellor Sajid Javid pledged to increase the National Living Wage to £10.50 within the next five years and lower the age threshold from 25 to 21.

Labour has previously promised to raise the wage to £10 in 2020 and reduce the age to 18.

Although the national agreement ‘Green Book’ covering 1.4m workers sets minimum pay at £9 a hour, the Living Wage Foundation campaign found earlier this year that 389,000 council workers and 249,000 outsourced employees are earning less than this.

Full Article

Fuller: Counties also under threat if devo push has unitary focus

Councils at all levels could be under threat if the government plans to frame its devolution push around the creation of unitary councils, the chair of the District Councils’ Network has said.

Speaking at a Conservative conference fringe event last week, housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick said two-tier local government does not feel like it has a long-term future, and the mayoral model in conjunction with unitary councils is strongly preferred by government when considering devolution deals.

This came after a devolution white paper was announced by chancellor Sajid Javid on Monday.

Full Article

Leaked Brexit planning memo offers no new guidance for departing EU

Brexit planners say they have been left frustrated and despairing after receiving a confidential eight-page memo from Whitehall that gives no new details or specific guidance about how the UK is preparing for its departure from the EU.

The document, leaked to the Guardian, states the “UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October whatever the circumstances”, but acknowledges there is still a mountain to climb to prepare people and businesses for a potential no-deal Brexit.

Though time is running short, the memo makes clear that the government is not yet ready to share its latest “reasonable worst case scenarios” – which help local emergency planners to focus their resources.

Full Article

More than three million Brits struggling to pay basic bills like council tax

More than three million people are struggling to pay council tax and other essentials bills, a new study reveals.

Over the past year almost 1.6million households have fallen behind with council tax payments, nearly one million are in rent arrears, while over one million are behind on water bills.

The report from the Universities of Birmingham and Lincoln shows poverty is rising for all groups, even those in work, as six in ten people in the poorest fifth of the population are deep in debt.

More than eight million of those living in poverty have at least one person in paid employment in their family. The research highlights a worrying trend as more than two million people were contacted by bailiffs in 2018.

Full Article

Consultation opens on local government finance settlement

Consultation on the local government finance settlement for 2020/21 has been opened by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

The Government has hailed it as ‘the biggest year-on-year real terms increase in funding for almost a decade’ with a core spending power rise of £2.9bn, or 4.3%, to £49.1bn.

As announced in the Spending Round, the Government is proposing to provide grant funding of £1bn for social care, with freedoms to levy a 2% adult care precept. While no further business rates retention pilots will run in 2020/21, the Government has proposed to continue to pay off negative RSG in full.

Full Article

Climate change targets ‘unlikely to be met’ without funding, council chiefs say

National climate change targets are ‘unlikely to be met’ unless local authorities are given long-term funding and more powers, council chiefs say.

The Local Government Association (LGA) issued the warning after the charity Friends of the Earth said that councils were doing ‘far too little’ to tackle climate change.

The charity has assessed local authorities in order to determine which are the greenest and which should do more to alleviate the impact of the climate crisis.

Full Article

Queen’s Speech ‘must give councils greater fiscal freedom’

The Queen’s Speech should be used to reinvigorate the devolution agenda, local government leaders have said. Speakers at a Local Government Association fringe event at the Conservative Party conference said Whitehall must “let go” of powers and give councils greater fiscal freedom.

Izzi Seccombe, leader of the LGA Conservative group, said yesterday: “We are asking that devolution should be back on the agenda quite firmly…Whitehall must trust us and let us fly.”

“I want to see Whitehall let go,” she added.

Full Article

‘Councils should be reduced in size to make savings’

Reducing the number of councillors in local government could make savings, a conference panel has said. Local government must try to “end the conveyer belt of entitlement” that exists in the sector, councillors at a Conservative Party conference fringe event have said.

The event, held by the Taxpayers’ Alliance campaign group, discussed the need to reduce the size of councils to make savings. Andrew Kennedy, a councillor from Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council said that downsizing “does produce savings but it also improves the quality of councillors”.

The sector has been “dredging the bottom of what is already a shallow pool of talent”, and must “scrape the barnacles off the boat”, he claimed.

Full Article

Auditors get tough new rules after high?profile collapses

The accounting watchdog, which has been criticised for a number of high-profile corporate failures, is to force auditors to apply more rigorous checks when assessing whether companies have the resources to continue operating.

The Financial Reporting Council has published a new set of rules for auditors when deciding whether a business is a “going concern “ and able to trade for another 12 months. Audit firms will have to test “more robustly” the evidence provided by managers to demonstrate a company’s viability.

Full Article

Tories tot up cost of free social care

Free social care is being considered by No 10 as the Conservatives look for ways to match Labour on helping the elderly.

Four options are under discussion in Downing Street to make good on Boris Johnson’s promise to fix a crumbling social care system “once and for all”.

Possibilities include a comprehensive offer that makes elderly care free at the point of use, as well as less expensive alternatives such as reverting to the coalition policy of a lifetime cap on care costs.

Full Article

Javid announces white paper as devo ‘regains its Bojo’

Chancellor Sajid Javid has promised to publish a white paper on further devolution in England.

Speaking at the Conservative party conference today, Mr Javid said too many people “feel power is distant to them, be it in Brussels or Westminster”.

He said: “I can announce today we will bring forward a white paper on further devolution in England, giving more local areas more local powers to drive investments in the infrastructure and services they know they need.

“We already have four brilliant Conservative mayors. Let’s have one in Manchester too.”

Full Article

Government takes the first steps in a bus revolution?

New low-fare, high-frequency ‘Superbus’ networks, Britain’s first all-electric bus town, better information for passengers, and contactless payment on every city bus was announced on 30 September 2019 by the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, in a major package of new measures to boost buses.

The package, worth £220 million in the first year, will see many cuts to services reversed. It will create ‘express lanes’ for buses in the West Midlands and elsewhere. It will invest in new ways of providing more frequent public transport in the countryside and other places where conventional buses have dwindled or disappeared. And new apps will also be developed that draw together information on bus routes, fares, and timetables from different bus operators across England into one place.

Full Article

Javid announces £4.3bn Brexit 'funding guarantee'

Chancellor Sajid Javid has outlined plans to distribute £4.3bn if the UK leaves the EU without a Brexit deal.

The ‘Brexit guarantee funding’ aims to protect charities, universities and businesses from the loss of EU grants. This figure will rise to £16.6bn by 2029, Mr Javid said.

Mr Javid said: ‘We’re working tirelessly to get a deal with our EU friends and partners, and our preference remains to leave with a deal, but we will do everything possible to ensure we are prepared for Brexit on 31st October, whatever the circumstances.

Full Article

No-deal Brexit 'still risk to NHS and care sector'

The National Audit Office praised the government for the "enormous amount of work" that had been done but said there were still "significant" gaps.

The extra shipping capacity government was buying to bring medicines into ports other than Dover may not be completely ready by 31 October. The government has arranged the stockpiling of supplies for the NHS.

But for the care sector, which is fragmented in that it relies on 24,000 companies to provide services, no central arrangement has been made to stockpile equipment and supplies, such as syringes and needles, most of which come from or via the EU.

And there was no clear evidence the care sector was ready, the NAO said. The report raises concerns the sector has not received enough government support.

Full Article

Number of empty shops in UK at highest level for five years

Britain’s high streets, shopping centres and retail parks have been left with the highest number of empty outlets in five years as chains have taken a battering from rising costs and low consumer confidence.

Nearly 12% of shopping locations were empty in the first half of 2019, up 0.6% compared to the same period last year, according to research from Local Data Company’s (LDC) review of 3,000 retail centres.

More than 25,700 outlets closed their doors, the highest level since LDC began tracking the market in 2010. That was offset by 22,115 openings, the highest level since 2015.

Full Article

IFS: Johnson’s tax plans will cost economy billions

The prime minister’s plans to cut revenue received from National Insurance contributions and higher income tax would cost billions a year, a think-tank has said.

Boris Johnson has said he wants to raise the threshold for the top income tax rate from £50,000 to £80,000, which would cost £8bn a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The prime minister has not specified how much he wishes to raise the NICs threshold to, but if it was raised to match the current income tax personal allowance of £12,500 it would cost would cost the economy £17bn a year, the IFS calculated.

Full Article

Social care for smokers costing councils £720m a year

Smoking-related social care is costing local authorities £720m a year, new research has revealed.

A new report, published by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), found smokers need social care ten years earlier than those who have never smoked.

It found 670,000 people over 50 have care needs related to smoking, with 45% having unmet care needs.

Full Article

England's most deprived areas named as Jaywick and Blackpool

Eight of the 10 most deprived neighbourhoods in England are in Blackpool, according to new statistics. Seaside village Jaywick, in Essex, has been named the most deprived area overall for the third time in a row since 2010.

Blackpool took the next eight slots while Middlesbrough had the largest share of the most deprived areas. Government officials ranked 32,844 neighbourhoods. The MHCLG's Index of Multiple Deprivation looked at levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment.

Full Article

Youth services ‘decimated by 69 per cent’ in less than a decade amid surge in knife crime, figures show

Spending on youth services in England has been decimated by 69 per cent in a decade and is set to reach its lowest point in a generation next year, new figures show.

Campaigners have issued fresh warnings that austerity is pushing more children and young people into street violence after an analysis of figures revealed average spend on youth services per local authority plummeted from £7.79m in 2010 to a planned expenditure of just £2.45m next year.

Nearly a third of local councils have planned cuts that would see their spending on youth services decline by 80 per cent since 2010-11, while the vast majority of local authorities (83 per cent) are set to cut their funding in half over a nine-year period, the data shows.

Knife crime has meanwhile surged, with 43,516 offences reported to police last year across England and Wales – excluding Greater Manchester Police, which records data differently – marking the highest since comparable records began in 2011.

Full Article

Time is running out for councils to receive EU replacement fund, LGA warns

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for the Government to urgently publish its final plans for the replacement of the EU funding after Brexit.

With the Brexit deadline fast approaching, local councils are reportedly not able to secure vital investments into their local economies without fund certainty

The LGA, which represents councils across England and Wales, is keen to move forward with plans and says that councils are ambitious for their communities and local growth, creating jobs, supporting businesses and boosting the national economy.

In July 2018, the Government announced the EU funding’s replacement, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), but councils are still waiting for details the all-important life-line for their local economies.

Full Article

Boris Johnson reveals £5bn broadband bonanza

Boris Johnson is poised to reveal a broadband subsidy of as much as £5bn in an attempt to deliver his pledge of a complete national upgrade in just a few years.

The massive cheque is likely to be unveiled at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week, according to industry and Westminster sources, who last night cautioned that the schedule could still change.

The taxpayer funding will be aimed at the most sparsely populated rural areas, many of them Tory heartlands.

Full Article

UK ‘needs £128bn’ to solve the housing crisis

As many as 8.4 million – one in seven people - of all generations and in all regions of England are living in unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable accommodation, the National Housing Federation has claimed.

The NHF along with Shelter, Crisis, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have urged the government to spend £12.8bn every year for the next decade to tackle the housing shortfall. NHF’s first ever State of the Nation briefing estimates that over the next 10 years the country needs 340,000 new homes a year including 145,000 social homes.

The government’s current target is to build an average of 300,000 new homes each year by the mid 2020s. But only 220,000 new homes were built in 2017-18.

Full Article

Minister confirms creation of Northamptonshire unitary authorities

The Government has confirmed that the legislation allowing for the creation of two unitary authorities in Northamptonshire will be in Parliament this autumn.

The eight existing councils in the county will be dissolved and replaced by two new councils, one for North Northamptonshire and one for West Northamptonshire.

The former local government secretary James Brokenshire had originally envisaged the new councils being fully operational from 1 April 2020 but it was announced in May that they would not be established until April 2021.

Full Article

Council to 'terminate' care company

Scottish Borders councillors will be asked to agree to shut down its care company next week.

A review of SB Cares, which is responsible for the majority of the council’s adult care services, found it had fallen short of savings targets agreed when it had been established in 2014 and concerns have been raised about the quality of care.

It was estimated in 2014 that transferring the services to an arm’s-length external organisation (ALEO) would generate £5.6m for the council in savings and surpluses over five years. However, SB Cares has fallen short of its target by £822,000, according to a review carried out by chief financial officer David Robertson.

Full Article

Peterborough City Council to tackle homelessness with its own housing company

eterborough City Council to ask for cabinet approval to set up their own Housing Revenue Account (HRA), enabling the council to provide hundreds of new homes over the coming decades to help solve the city's homelessness crisis.

The council has reported a 56% increase in households declaring themselves as homeless only the past year alone. It’s a problem felt country-wide but with Peterborough’s position as the fifth-fastest growing city in England it’s seeming more and more desperate.

The number of families in B&B accommodation has been reduced down from 146 in September 2018 to 73 this month.

Full Article

Government announces over £10 million for 5 more coastal communities

The cash boost will support coastal projects in Cumbria, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Kent and Suffolk to create jobs, boost tourism, improve transport and protect much-loved coastal heritage sites.

The fund helps to develop and improve local attractions, create jobs and promote socio-economic growth.

The Coastal Communities Fund projects announced today are forecast to support nearly 1,000 jobs and attract up to £7.9 million in additional investment from public and private sector sources.

Full Article

Where not to live if you want a good care home

High concentrations of substandard care homes in some areas leave families with no choice but to accept an under-performing home for older and disabled relatives, an analysis suggests.

In each local authority area the IPPR, which worked with research group Future Care Capital, mapped the proportion of care home places rated as inadequate or requiring improvement by the Care Quality Commission.

Overall, 23% of the 456,000 beds were in settings that fell into one of the two categories.

Full Article

Johnson ignores LGA social care deadline

The Local Government Association (LGA) has issued a fresh warning after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ignored its deadline for publishing a paper on social care’s future.

At the LGA’s annual conference in Bournemouth earlier this year, council leaders demanded that a Green Paper be published before Parliament went into recess earlier this month.

The LGA gave the Government 10 weeks to publish a Green Paper outlining future funding options and possible solutions to the crisis before the start of the party conferences.

Full Article

Think-tank calls for more local taxes

There appear to be ‘few’ legislative barriers to bringing in new local taxes as long as the money raised went towards local authority expenditure, think-tank IPPR Scotland has said.

The IPPR said a local inheritance tax could raise up to £300m of additional money while a low pay levy could bring in up to £600m a year in revenues by charging employers for those workers earning up to £8,632 a year, who are currently not subject to National Insurance.

Full Article

Minister handed Brexit cash demand in Portsmouth

Portsmouth has demanded more funds to cover Brexit costs during a ministerial visit.

Leader of the city council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, handed a letter to transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris when he visited the port as part of the Government’s Get Ready for Brexit publicity campaign.

The letter said the Government’s Brexit grant to Portsmouth left a shortfall of £844,000 on the costs of Portsmouth's traffic management programme and pointed out that, when put into action, it will incur running costs of £93,000 per week.

Full Article

Liverpool ‘in crisis’ over £57.6m funding gap

Liverpool City Council is to hold an emergency meeting today after it emerged it is facing a £57.6m budget gap in 2020-21 and is running out of reserves.

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson has described the council's financial position as as worst crisis the city has faced since the World War Two.

The meeting of full council at 5pm will discuss a joint motion put forward by members of the majority Labour group, the Liberal Democrat opposition and Green and Liberal councillors which calls for urgent meeting with the Treasury to discuss the council's "perilous" financial position.

Full Article

[Opinion] The Treasury needs to take a place-based view

For local government, the Institute for Government’s (IfG) latest broadside this week about Whitehall will come as no surprise. In a nutshell, the IfG says the way the Treasury manages public spending is inefficient with too little regard to what effect taxpayers’ largesse is happening on the ground. Despite almost a decade of austerity, public money is still being wasted and much of this is due to the Government.

The IfG study, The Treasury’s Responsibility for the Results of Public Spending, in particular focuses on four areas which concern local government, namely poor accountability, Whitehall silos, lack of certainty over spending settlements and a focus on departments rather than outcomes on the ground.

Of the first, examples include school exclusions where costs are shunted elsewhere such as into the criminal justice system or education where councils are held responsible for school places but have no control over academies.

Full Article

Call for views on the financial reporting of local authorities

The Government has called on council workers to give their views to an independent review on the quality of the financial reporting of local authorities in England.

The review, launched in July, will look into the effectiveness of local authority financial reporting and the audit regime, and will examine whether the information provided by councils helps scrutiny by taxpayers and the press.

Led by the former president of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Sir Tony Redmond, the review is now encouraging practitioners who work in the local government sector, the audit community, and others, to submit their response to an open set of questions.

Full Article

Call for views on the financial reporting of local authorities

The Government has called on council workers to give their views to an independent review on the quality of the financial reporting of local authorities in England.

The review, launched in July, will look into the effectiveness of local authority financial reporting and the audit regime, and will examine whether the information provided by councils helps scrutiny by taxpayers and the press.

Led by the former president of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Sir Tony Redmond, the review is now encouraging practitioners who work in the local government sector, the audit community, and others, to submit their response to an open set of questions.

Full Article

Why audit needs auditing

Growing concerns about the quality of audit lead to support for Sir Tony's Redmond's review.

There are reports of auditors so fresh faced they look like they have just left school and others not understanding the basics of local government finance such as council tax. Meanwhile, the country’s auditor in chief has suggested too many of his colleagues are sitting on the fence. As the 2018-19 accounts season closes, at least for councils at which accounts were signed off by the 31 July deadline, there is a clear case for examining how the audit system is working.

Full Article

Research reveals councils' top Brexit risks

The economic repercussions of Brexit dominate the risks foreseen by councils, according to new research. Shortages of labour and skills in the local economy is the most common threat feared by councils, the research found.

The People’s Vote campaign group, which advocates a second referendum on the UK’s EU membership, analysed the Brexit risk registers of from 63 local authorities obtained via Freedom of Information requests.

Possible economic damage was viewed as a risk by 78% of the respondents, including Bristol City Council, which has concerns about the impact on trade, investment, business confidence and key sectors.

Full Article

‘Wasteful’ Treasury slammed for impact on services

There is "much cause for concern" in how the Treasury's approach affects public services, analysis by a leading think tank has found. Local Government interviewees voiced concerns that the government’s evidence-gathering is lacking, and that departments not understand "comprehensively what money was spent or which results were being achieved on the ground".

They told researchers that MHCLG collected information on “many, contradictory” forms, but added there was no sign that government seeks to understand the impact of public spending on its declared goals.

Interviewees said the Treasury’s approach to managing results often overlooked the way that initiatives by different departments might overlap or have unexpected consequences in particular places, such as metropolitan or county areas.

Full Article

Councils spend £1bn on shopping centres

Councils have committed more than £1bn between 2016 and 2020 by investing in local shopping centres, a study has revealed.

Research by retail property specialists Revo and advisers Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) found direct investment by councils now accounted for one-fifth of all transactions involving shopping centre property.

Full Article

Positive results found for axed project

A report has revealed a since-scrapped Essex CC initiative led to a dramatic drop in children needing to go into care or custody.

The report by the University of Oxford’s Rees Centre highlighted the impact of multi-systemic therapy (MST) in helping keep young people out of care. Evaluation of the initiative, which was delivered over five years via a £3.1m social impact bond (SIB), showed that 91% of the cohort of more than 300 young people had social care provision in the two years before receiving MST and only 55% in the year after.

Essex said it led to a reduction of over 96,000 days spent in care by young people and saved £17.9m. Despite the positive results, the county decided not to continue with the programme, citing budget pressures.

Full Article

Legal action threatens council income

North Yorkshire CC could lose annual income of £300,000 from home-to-school transport amid a legal threat from a disability rights campaigner.

Like councils across the country, North Yorkshire provides a free service for eligible pupils and then allows the families of pupils who do not qualify to buy up surplus seats.

Buses used for the free service do not need to accommodate wheelchairs but the campaigner is believed to be arguing that where the council sells spare seats the bus must be wheelchair accessible.

Full Article

Stinging criticism over ministry's double rates error

Labour has launched a scathing attack as the Government continues to drag its heels over resolving repeated errors in the business rates formula.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) wrote to all business rate pilot authorities in May asking them to contact it by June 21 if they believed they were entitled to ‘special payments’ following an error by officials.

MHCLG made the error despite commissioning former Valuation Office Agency chief executive Andrew Hudson to carry out a review into the department’s oversight of the business rates system in 2018 – weeks after an identical error led to a £37m overpayment.

Full Article

‘Armchair auditors’ frustrated by attempts at accounts scrutiny

Local authorities are refusing to let the public access key information on how their money is being spent, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found.

The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 (LAAA) gives citizens and journalists the right to inspect the accounts and related documents of councils, police, fire and other local authorities, and to object to them if they believe something is amiss. It is an especially important right at a time when public bodies are under unprecedented financial pressure, writes the Bureau's Gareth Davies.

However, when Bureau journalists and volunteers attempted to exercise that right, some authorities refused to release or heavily redacted the information. There was often little evidence that the public interest had been considered and no way of challenging the decision short of a costly court battle.

Full Article

'Care crisis': Sent-away children are 'easy victims'

Local authorities are unwittingly becoming "recruiting sergeants" for drugs gangs, by sending thousands of children in care to live outside their home area, according to a report. These children were "easy victims for predators", Ann Coffey MP told the BBC's Newsnight programme.

She said the government must "slash the number" of sent-away children. The government said it was gathering evidence "to better understand" how out-of-area placements were used.

The report shows a 77% rise in the number of children in England being placed in care homes outside their home council area - from 2,250 children in 2012 to 3,990 in 2018. Two-thirds (64%) of children in children's homes and 41% of all looked after children in England live out of area.

Full Article

Providers: No-deal ‘could lead to social care statutory duty failure’

The government’s Yellowhammer document shows that a no-deal Brexit could mean councils will be unable to fulfil their statutory responsibilities to vulnerable adults, a leading representative of independent care providers has warned.

Chief executive of Care England Martin Green said that the document outlining worst case scenarios after a no-deal exit from the European Union, such as care providers going bust, was realistic, writes Tom de Castella.

Full Article

Chief executives demand 10% pay rise

The trade union for council chief executives has demanded a 10% pay rise – the same claim submitted by other local government staff.

It comes amid estimates from the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives (ALACE) that its members have ‘seen a very significant real terms reduction in pay over the last 10 years, amounting to 30% or more’.

ALACE said it did not believe that chief executives should receive ‘less generous treatment than other staff’.

Full Article

Council PWLB borrowing hits record level in August

Borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board hit another recent record high in August, with councils taking £1.983bn in loans. The figure pips March’s figure of £1.93bn, a spree fuelled by councils swapping short term debt for longer term borrowing due to the low rates on offer.

August’s total is largest amount borrowed in a single month since March 2012, when councils took more than £12bn in advance of the introduction of the housing revenue account self-financing system.

The bumper month of PWLB activity pushes the statutory body’s liabilities even closer to the current cap of £85bn. In July, Room151 reported that figures in the PWLB’s 2018/19 accounts showed liabilities of £78.34bn, up from £70.88bn the year before – driven by a 76.9% increase in new loans advanced to councils and other bodies in the 12 months.

Full Article

Somerset auditors recognise improved finances

Somerset CC’s improved finances have been recognised by auditors, according to a report.

Auditors have given the council a ‘qualified except for’ rating for 2018/19 – an improvement on 2017/18’s ‘adverse’ value for money conclusion.

Full Article

Number of households in temporary residence highest since 2007

The number of households living in temporary accommodation in England is at its highest level in more than a decade and the number of households considered newly homeless rose by by more than 3,000 in three months, government statistics show.

A total of 84,740 households were in bed and breakfasts, hostels and other temporary accommodation at the end of March this year, including 126,020 children, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said. It is the highest number of such households since mid-2007 and compares with a low of 48,010 in 2010.

Between January and March this year, 32,740 households were initially assessed as being homeless, up 11.2% from 29,430 in the previous quarter.

Full Article

Spending Review saves council from depleting reserves

Shropshire Council says last week’s Spending Review has rescued it from exhausting its reserves this year.

A report from external auditors going before councillors this week says the authority faces a 2020/21 financial gap of £12.4m with the complete eradication of its reserves over the financial year.

However, the council said the report by Grant Thornton predated the Spending Review and that it now expects to deliver a balanced budget for the year and retain up to £17m in reserves

Full Article

Retailers call for action as high street store closures soar

Retailers and unions are calling for urgent government action to help struggling high streets as new data shows the number of shops, pubs and restaurants lying empty is rising at the fastest pace in nearly a decade.

About 16 stores closed their doors every day in the first half of 2019 while only nine opened, resulting in a net decline of 1,234 chain stores on Britain’s top 500 high streets according to analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and high street analysts the Local Data Company (LDC).

The decline, which does not include independent shops, was faster than the net 1,123 closures during the same period last year – after just 222 in 2017 – and is the highest recorded since LDC began monitoring high streets in 2010.

Full Article

Cash-strapped councils struggling to support SEND children, auditors warn

Auditors have warned that local authorities are coming under growing financial pressure as the demand for supporting school pupils with the greatest needs rises.

A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that councils are increasingly overspending their budgets for children with special educational needs (SEND).

In 2017-18, 81.3% of councils overspent compared with 47.3% in 2013-14. The NAO says this is primarily driven by a 20% increase in the number of pupils attending special schools instead of mainstream education.

Full Article

Peterborough capital receipts episode prompts prudential framework review

The government is to consider changes to the prudential framework covering local authority finances to prevent a repeat of the controversy over Peterborough City Council’s use of capital receipts.

In March, an article on the Huffington Post website raised the question of whether the authority had acted illegally by using capital receipts to offset its annual minimum revenue provision (MRP) charge rather than the total amount of borrowing.

The department this week announced it would not take any further action against the authority but said it would be taking a close look at the wording of the current rules.

Full Article

Tory conference: Government confirms £25bn for road upgrades

The Conservative Party is attempting to focus attention on its spending pledges for an "infrastructure revolution", on the second day of its party conference.

Chancellor Sajid Javid has promised £25bn for England's roads as well as £5bn for ultrafast broadband in some of the UK's "hardest to reach parts".

It comes as the start of the conference was overshadowed by questions about leader Boris Johnson's private life.

Full Article

Major Review into Support for Children with Special Educational Needs

Five years on from reforms introduced to better support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), the review aims to improve the services available to families who need support, equip staff in schools and colleges to respond effectively to their needs as well as ending the ‘postcode lottery’ they often face.

The review comes a week after the government announced a major funding boost of £700m in 2020-21 for pupils with the most complex needs, delivering on the Prime Minister’s pledge to ensure every pupil can access the education that is right for them.

Full Article

Britain has biggest primary school classes in the developed world, report finds

Britain has the biggest primary school classes in the developed world, a new report has revealed.

State primary schools in the UK now have an average of 28 pupils, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) latest Education at a Glance study.

This is the first year that Britain has been ranked as having the highest number of pupils per class – joint with Chile – out of all the OECD countries.

Full Article

Government pledges £62m flood funding for communities in England

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers has announced a new round of flood defence investment... for communities across Yorkshire, Cumbria, the North East and the South East of England.

Thirteen projects across England will benefit from a share of over £62 million, which as well as helping develop existing flood defences, will boost economic regeneration and increase prosperity in those areas. Many of the projects are located in communities which suffered from flooding during winter 2015.

Full Article

Spending review: Outlined

The chancellor has told MPs the government is "turning the page on austerity" while outlining his spending review in the Commons.

Sajid Javid was rebuked several times by Speaker John Bercow, who claimed that his opening remarks were "out of order" because they veered into Brexit territory.

Mr Javid's core spending proposals for the 2020-21 financial year included:

A 6.3% real terms increase in Home Office spending - the "biggest increase" in 15 years

An additional £1.5bn for England's councils to bolster social care

A £6.2bn increase in NHS funding

A 2.6% rise in funding for the Ministry of Defence

A 13% increase in funding to tackle homelessness, taking spending to £422m

An extra £1.2bn for Scotland, £600m for Wales and £400m for Northern Ireland.

Full Article

Snack tax 'could be more effective than sugary drinks levy'

Increasing the cost of sugary snacks could be more effective at tackling obesity than the tax on sugary drinks, according to a new study.

The authors of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) research found the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy in April last year led to a "wave of reformulation" by the drinks industry.

But they said a voluntary sugar reduction programme in place since 2016 has seen comparably "modest impacts", with small reductions in the sugar content of confectionery.

Full Article

Gap in academic skills of girls and boys widens, show Sats

Girls continue to outperform boys in all subjects by the end of primary school in England, according to the latest key stage 2 test results published by the Department for Education (DfE).

The results, from the national curriculum tests and assessments taken by pupils in year six, known as Sats, showed 70% of girls reached the expected standards in maths, reading and writing, compared with just 60% for boys, widening the gap from 8% last year to 10% this year.

Across England, 65% of pupils in state schools achieved the government’s expected standards in the three subjects, a 1% improvement on 2018.

Full Article

Exclusive: Government to launch major review into support for children with special needs

The Government is to launch a major review into support for children with special needs amid concerns about funding pressures and a “postcode lottery” of services, i can reveal.

The review will look at improving services for families, better equipping school staff to meet pupils’ needs, and what is driving rising demand for support.

It comes in the wake of growing concern about the state of provision for children with special educational needs (SEN).

Full Article

Chancellor set to unveil government spending plans

Chancellor Sajid Javid is set to unveil the government's spending plans for the coming year on Wednesday.

The statement will set departmental budgets for just one year rather than the usual three years, due to uncertainty over the impact of Brexit.

Mr Javid will announce a further £2bn of Brexit funding for the government, as well as confirm additional funds for health, schools and the police.

Full Article

Burns to be Cipfa director

Former Staffordshire CC finance director Andrew Burns has joined the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (Cipfa) part-time as associate director for local government.

He began his career as a finance trainee with Birmingham City Council and has held posts around the West Midlands with responsibility for social care, public service agreements, property and customer services in addition to finance roles.

Mr Burns replaces Brian Roberts, who took up the same role in February.

Full Article

Spending Round 2019: what you need to know

The fastest planned increase in day-to-day departmental spending for 15 years was announced today (4 September 2019) by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid – ‘turning the page’ on austerity.

Today’s Spending Round set out departmental spending plans for 2020-2021 to deliver on the public’s priorities, including health, education, and security. Departmental day-to-day spending is paid for through resource budgets which covers things like schools and hospitals’ running costs, and public sector pay.

[Within this government article there are "thirteen things you need to know about the Spending Round"]

Full Article

Spending Review: What's it all about?

The government's next Spending Review will be unveiled on Wednesday, giving details of how much money will be allocated to different departments during the 2020-21 financial year.

Chancellor Sajid Javid will announce the conclusions of the spending round in a statement to Parliament.

Ministerial sources have said the review is intended to provide certainty ahead of Brexit, which the government has vowed will happen on 31 October.

Full Article

Food banks increasing in schools for pupils' families

More schools in England are setting up food banks to help feed their pupils' families, according to the biggest school governors' organisation.

The National Governance Association's annual survey found 8% of governors were in schools which had food banks - up from 7% last year.

The highest proportion were in the north east - where 13% of governors were in schools with a food bank.

Full Article

Surge in defence spending catches chancellor Sajid Javid off guard

Boris Johnson intervened to double an increase to defence spending next year in a move that raises fresh questions about Sajid Javid’s independence.

The Treasury initially intended defence spending to keep pace with inflation with a settlement in Wednesday’s spending round of £800 million. That has been increased to £1.6 billion after the intervention of the prime minister, according to Whitehall sources.

It will allow Mr Johnson to claim that the UK has not only met the Nato benchmark of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence but that the target has been exceeded.

Full Article

Labour could give private tenants chance to buy their rented homes

The Labour Party could bring in a radical “right to buy” scheme if it gains power at the next general election which could help millions of private tenants in the UK to buy their rented homes at a reasonable price, the shadow chancellor has suggested.

John McDonnell is promoting the idea as a way to make it easier for workers to buy the homes they live in, while also tackling what he calls the “burgeoning buy-to-let market” and the problem of landlords who do not maintain their properties.

Full Article

UK factory output 'falls at fastest pace for seven years'

Activity in the UK's manufacturing sector contracted at the fastest pace for seven years in August, a closely-watched survey has suggested.

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the global economic downturn were some of the factors hitting firms, according to the survey from IHS Markit/CIPS.

The purchasing managers' index (PMI) produced by IHS Markit/CIPS fell to 47.4 in August, down from 48 in July.

A figure below 50 indicates the sector is contracting.

Full Article

Brexit: No 10 'considering' election amid no-deal battle with MPs

Boris Johnson is considering seeking an early general election if MPs seeking to block a no-deal Brexit defeat the government this week.

The BBC understands "live discussions" are going on in No 10 about asking Parliament to approve a snap poll.

Political editor Laura Kuenssberg said it could happen as soon as Wednesday but no final decision had been taken.

Tory ex-ministers are joining forces with Labour to stop the UK leaving the EU on 31 October without a deal.

Full Article

Updated: £700m will form part of high needs block

The £700m extra pledged by the government next year will form part of the ‘high needs block’ of the dedicated schools grant to councils, the Department for Education has confirmed to LGC.

Questions had been raised on whether the funding, announced on Friday as part of a as part of £14bn investment in education over the next three years, would go to council budgets or be handed to schools to spend.

Responding to the announcement, chairman-elect of the County Councils Network David Williams (Con) said: “CCN look forward to the precise details of these funding plans, including how additional resources will be distributed.”

Full Article

Combined authority moots buses takeover

West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) may try to take two major local bus operators' services under public control.

The combined authority last March formed a ‘bus alliance’ with local operators First Bus, Arriva, Transdev and various smaller operators.

First Bus and Arriva have though since been put up for sale by their owners, respectively First Group and Deutsche Bahn

A report due to go before the WYCA transport committee on Friday said officers would seek to hold talks with potential buyers of bus operations in West Yorkshire.

Full Article

[BBC] General Election expected should Opposition Brexit Bill succeed

An election is expected on 14 October if rebel MPs defeat government says the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg.

Full Article

Sajid Javid pledges £400m further education funding

The chancellor is to announce £400m of additional funding for further education in England, as part of his spending review next week.

Writing in the Guardian, Sajid Javid said the money - for the year 2020 to 2021 - would support the introduction of the new T-level qualifications.

He vowed to treat colleges "with the seriousness they deserve".

Full Article

Teacher starting salaries could rise to £30,000

Starting salaries for teachers in England could rise by up to £6,000 under new government plans.

The Department for Education said the move would make new teachers' salaries - set to rise to £30,000 by 2022-23 - "among the most competitive" in the graduate labour market.

Unions say the increase is long overdue, and necessary, to attract enough graduates into the profession.

Full Article

Umbrella groups make Spending Round plea for social care

If the chancellor does not continue to pay temporary grants for social care next financial year councils in England will be forced to decommission services, an umbrella group has warned.

The government has yet to confirm whether it will continue to pay three temporary grants worth £2.4bn this financial year. These include the ‘Better Care Fund’, which finishes its three-year cycle in 2019-20, the County Councils Network has said. The pot was worth £1.8bn to local authorities in England this year.

In the October 2018 Budget the chancellor handed out two one-year grants, also due to end this financial year. These are the ‘social care grant’, worth £316m to adult social care services and £94m to children’s services, and the ‘winter pressures grant’, totalling £239m.

The CCN urged the chancellor, who has served as communities secretary, to confirm in the Spending Round next week he will continue paying these funding streams into next year.

Full Article

Councils facing £2.4bn black hole in social care funding urge the Government to continue grants which make up 29% of their cash

Local councils in England fear they will be left with a £2.4billion black hole in their social care budgets next year. The County Councils Network has, on behalf of local authorities around the country, urged the Government to continue its vital grant funding.

Many councils rely on money from the central government to be able to care for elderly and disabled people. But they say they're 'in the dark' about where the money will come from after next year when current funding schemes are due to end. If the current grants aren't continued councils will have to cut billions of pounds worth of services just to be able to balance their books, the CCN warned.

Full Article

Give schools incentives to admit more special needs children, councils urge

Mainstream schools should be incentivised to admit more pupils with special educational needs as parents are losing confidence in the sector’s ability to cater for their children, councils say.

Schools should be made to pay for alternative provision and transport if a child is excluded, and Ofsted should focus more closely on how inclusive a school is, according to the Local Government Association.

Full Article

Parliament suspension sparks furious backlash

The prime minister's decision to suspend Parliament has prompted an angry backlash from MPs and opponents of a no-deal Brexit.

It sparked protests across the country, a legal challenge and a petition with more than a million signatures.

The government said the five-week suspension in September and October will still allow time to debate Brexit.

Full Article

Sajid Javid’s spending round set to focus on vote winners

Sajid Javid’s spending round next Wednesday is billed by the chancellor as an opportunity to “clear the decks” and focus on Brexit.

But the statement could also prepare the ground for an autumn general election as Boris Johnson seeks to face down his opponents in parliament and break the deadlock over Britain’s departure from the EU.

With Westminster increasingly on an election footing, Mr Javid is expected to focus his spending commitments next week on popular vote-winning areas such as schools, hospitals and tackling crime in a bid to demonstrate that Mr Johnson has an agenda after Brexit.

Full Article

Price collapse threatens paper recycling collections

Councils could have to end or radically change paper recycling collections as the prospect looms of stockpiles that can neither be exported nor reprocessed, experts have told LGC.

Earlier this week the European Recovered Paper Association (EPRA) said the industry was “in crisis” over the rapid closure of Far East markets to UK waste exports. This had seen a 300% collapse over two years in prices paid to councils for collected paper, LGC’s sister title Materials Recycling World has reported.

China last year imposed strict conditions on the standards of recycled material that it will import – effectively closing off the main UK paper export route. Chinese authorities complained the country was receiving paper exports ‘contaminated’ with other materials, which are expensive to recycle and so were often landfilled or incinerated.

Full Article

£4bn school funding boost set to be confirmed

A leaked government document appears to confirm an expected £4bn boost in funding for schools in England.

Details of the cash injection for education, revealed by the BBC at the weekend, have been published by the Guardian newspaper.

It follows warnings by heads and teachers of a worsening funding crisis in schools and colleges.

In the Conservative leadership campaign, Boris Johnson had promised to reverse cuts to school budgets.

Full Article

Javid pledges spending review cash for schools, NHS and police

Chancellor Sajid Javid has promised increased spending on priority areas of schools, police and health.

Setting a 4 September date for the 12-month spending round - earlier than previously planned - he said there would be no "blank cheque" for departments.

Mr Javid said he would stick to the current borrowing rules, limiting the scope for extensive spending increases.

Labour called the move a "one-off pre-election panic-driven stunt budget".

Full Article

£3.5bn education package not enough, say school leaders

Controversial government plans that promise increased funding for education, more free schools and a crackdown on pupil behaviour have been greeted with a mixture of scepticism and outrage by those working in the sector.

The measures, revealed in a confidential briefing document seen by the Guardian, received a lukewarm response from school leaders. They said any additional funding was welcome, but that the £3.5bn on offer was nowhere near enough to repair the damage caused by years of sustained cuts.

Full Article

5G: Rural areas could see bigger and taller masts

Bigger and taller mobile phone masts could be built without councils' permission across the countryside, under a proposed overhaul of planning rules in England.

It is part of government plans to speed up the roll-out of 5G networks and improve mobile coverage in rural areas. Currently masts on public land must be no more than 25m (82 ft) high but ministers want to relax these rules.

Full Article

'Alarm bells' over private equity foster care firms, councils warn

Private equity firms buying up small agencies have "set off alarm bells" within England's foster care system, the Local Government Association says.

Three groups account for 45% of funds spent on independent fostering by English councils, according to new analysis.

The LGA said councils worry about what could happen if one group failed.

Full Article

£800m overspend on children's social care

Severe funding shortages and huge demand pressures mean councils were forced to overspend on their children’s social care budgets by nearly £800m last year.

Local government leaders said the number of councils spending more than they budgeted for indicated the immense pressure they are under to support vulnerable children and young people, and the urgent need for the one-year spending round to plug the £1.4bn funding gap facing children’s services next year.

Full Article

Stabilising Northamptonshire County Council

Theresa Grant, chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council, shares the authority’s remarkable journey from financial crisis to delivering a balanced budget, and discusses the road still ahead.

The story of the demise of Northamptonshire County Council dominated local government media and indeed the national media for much of 2018. The authority became the poster-boy of local government failure, of an out-of-control organisation hurtling at pace towards interminable financial and service decline.

Full Article

England school places shortage 'made worse by academies'

Councils are warning that a looming shortage in the number of school places across England is being made worse by academies, as last decade’s baby boom enters secondary schools over the next five years.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for the government to restore powers to councils enabling them to open new maintained schools if residents support them, and for new powers for councils to require academies to expand to meet local demand.

Anntoinette Bramble, the chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said that without such changes children were at risk of not having a secondary school place.

Full Article

Warning over children's care 'crisis' amid claims of councils overspend reaching £770m

The Local Government Association has carried out an analysis of budgets over the past year, with one authority in Yorkshire warning systems are “buckling” under the pressure.

Despite councils ploughing an additional £542m into children’s social care, and diverting cash from other services to plug a gap, the body warns today over a picture of mounting concern as it found overspends in the region of £770m.

Significant funding cuts, soaring demand for child protection services and rising costs to give children the support they need, it warns, means that local council budgets are falling far short.

Full Article

Schools set for long-awaited cash injection

Complaints about school funding shortages in England are expected to be addressed soon by the government.

There are suggestions that about £4bn in extra funding, as a one-off, one-year cash injection, could be announced as early as next week.

In his Tory leadership campaign, Boris Johnson promised to reverse cuts in school funding.

Full Article

Call to abandon coastal towns before sea claims them

Governments around the world should prepare to make a “managed retreat” from coasts as sea levels rise because of climate change, scientists have said.

Researchers said that the sacrifice of seaside towns and cites was inevitable. “We can do that the hard way, by fighting for every inch and losing lives and dollars in the meantime,” AR Siders, an environmental fellow at Harvard University, said. “Or we can do it willingly and thoughtfully and . . . re-think the way we live.”

The case for withdrawing from vulnerable regions was made in a paper published in Science. “The question is no longer whether some communities will retreat — moving people and assets out of harm’s way — but why, where, when and how they will retreat,” it said.

Full Article

Universal credit 'forces tenants into rent arrears'

Universal credit is causing tenants to fall behind with rent, according to the Residential Landlords Association.

It said 54% of landlords had seen tenants on the benefit fall into arrears in the last year.

Debt charity Turn2Us warned universal credit will lead to "more rent arrears, more evictions and more homelessness".

But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said landlords had reported seeing fewer claimants in arrears in the last year.

Full Article

130,000 families with children live in one-bed flats

About 130,000 families are living in one-bedroom flats and children are sleeping three to a bed as their parents spend the night in the kitchen or hall.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) estimated that 1.3 million children in England — more than one in ten — were living in overcrowded homes.

They are said to be overcrowded if a child has to share a bedroom with two or more siblings or sleep in the same room as their parents or share with a teenager of the opposite sex.

Full Article

Council reserves rise to record levels

Non-ringfenced revenue reserves held by councils rose by 8.7% to reach a total of £23.7bn during 2018/19 last year, according to official figures.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government this week published provisional outturn figures showing the figure at its highest level since the beginning of austerity in 2010.

But there is disagreement in the sector as to whether the rise demonstrates that councils are in a healthier financial state than they are pleading.

Full Article

No-deal Brexit 'will see more waste going to landfill'

More waste could be sent to landfill in the UK after a no-deal Brexit, a major waste company has told the BBC.

There are worries a no-deal outcome will disrupt the export of millions of tonnes of waste to facilities in the EU, so it will have to go to landfill.

It would harm the environment and pile millions of pounds of extra costs onto councils, insiders say.

Full Article

Number of 16 to 24 year olds not in education, employment or training jumps by 30,000

The number of young people not in education, employment or training (Neet) in the UK has leapt by almost 30,000 this year to nearly 800,000, figures released on the same day as thousands of teenagers received their GCSE results show.

More than one in 10 (11.5 per cent) of people aged 16 to 24 were Neet in the period covering April to June, according to data published on Thursday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In total, 792,000 young people were classed as Neet, an increase of 28,000 from the period covering January to March this year, and up 14,000 when compared to April to June 2018.

Full Article

Government's budget surplus shrinks in July

The UK posted a smaller-than-expected budget surplus in July as government spending increased.

A growing wage bill and higher spending on goods and services was behind the lower surplus, which fell to £1.3bn.

Analysts had been expecting a £2.7bn surplus, which would have been less than the £3.6bn booked last year.

Full Article

Disadvantaged teenagers more likely to score low GCSE grades

Teenagers from the poorest areas are at risk of being held back from success in life because they are significantly more likely to score low grades in their GCSEs, a charity has warned.

The most disadvantaged youngsters are almost twice as likely to achieve below a 4 in English and maths than their richer peers, according to research by Teach First.

It warned that low attainment at GCSE level is a cause for concern because it can “shut doors to future success”.

Full Article

Campaigners warn that special needs children have been forced out of mainstream schools

The number of children with special needs in mainstream schools in England has fallen by almost a quarter in seven years – despite pupils with learning difficulties having a legal entitlement to a place in mainstream education wherever possible.

An analysis of official figures for i suggests that thousands of children who require additional help with learning are ending up in dedicated special schools rather than having their needs met while being taught among pupils of all abilities.

Campaigners have issued a strong warning that children with special educational needs (Sen) are increasingly being forced out of mainstream education despite a 2014 law which requires local authorities to ensure that these children are offered a mainstream place in nearly all cases.

Full Article

No-deal papers reveal council fears over food supply

Legal school meal nutrition standards may need to be amended, or discarded, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to internal local council planning documents seen by the BBC. The standards are designed to make sure school children are fed healthy food.

Many councils say school meal costs will rise and funding for free school meals increase if there is no-deal.

Full Article

District had ‘no choice’ in leaving LEP

D2N2 covers Derbyshire, Derby, Nottinghamshire and Nottingham. The district will though remain a non-constituent member of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority.

Councils that are in more than one LEP area came under pressure from the government last year to end these arrangements and choose a single LEP.

Leader Garry Purdy (Con) (pictured) said: “Unfortunately we were left with no option on this if we are to comply with the Government’s requirement for the businesses and communities of the Derbyshire Dales to be represented by a single LEP.

Full Article

Brexit blow as councils miss MHCLG deadline

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick’s flagship Brexit policy has been dealt a blow after dozens of councils missed the deadline for nominating a lead officer.

Mr Jenrick asked all English councils to appoint a Brexit lead who will ‘work hand in hand with me and my team in central Government to plan for our exit on 31 October’ as he ‘intensified’ preparations earlier this month.

He said the appointment of a designated Brexit lead officer in every area, with clear responsibilities and lines of accountability, would mark a ‘shift change in how councils will organise themselves in the coming weeks’.

Full Article

Electric buses: Wales' first to hit the roads in Newport

Wales' first electric bus will start work on the roads of Newport this week.

Newport Transport has bought a former demonstration bus which will be the first in Wales to be used on a permanent basis.

The city, along with Cardiff and Caerphilly, has won grant funding from a UK government grant scheme to promote greener public transport.

Next year Newport will receive 14 more, Cardiff will receive 36 and 16 will go to Caerphilly.

Full Article

North ‘to receive £2,300 less per person in transport spending than London’

Boris Johnson has been urged to keep his promises after a report suggested the North is set to receive more than £2,300 less per person in transport spending than London.

The Government’s planned transport spending for London is almost three times more per head than the North unless investment in the Northern Powerhouse gets the go-ahead, a think-tank said.

Full Article

CIPFA index 'must be forward-looking'

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) must double down on efforts to include indicators that are forward-looking in its financial resilience index, a senior sector figure has suggested.

President of the Association of Local Authority Treasurers Societies, Duncan Whitfield, said including such measures was vital to give early warning of any difficulties ahead.

Mr Whitfield said: ‘A major challenge remains to find indicators that are forward-looking and that give early warning of difficulties ahead.These indicators will inevitably need some subjective evaluation and permit local discretion. Equally, they need to have a consistent base and be potentially auditable.’

CIPFA has said it will consider changing its index to reduce the weighting of reserves - a key indicator - and introducing forward-looking measures in future years.

Full Article

State Pension Age should be raised to 75 to boost economy, argues think tank founded by ex-Tory leader

People in the UK should work until they reach 75 before receiving a state pension, a think thank has suggested.

Raising the State Pension Age (SPA) to 75 by 2035 could deliver a range of benefits, such as better health for older workers and a boost to the country’s economy, according to a new publication by The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).

The policy institute, which was co-founded by Iain Duncan-Smith, the former Conservative leader, has suggested that people working to an older age would support public services economically, and increase the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Full Article

Sajid Javid will 'simplify' the tax system in first Budget

Chancellor Sajid Javid has said he wants to simplify the tax system ahead of his Budget in the autumn.

In his first interview since becoming chancellor, Mr Javid told the Times he was a "low tax guy" but said it was important to "always be thinking about the lowest paid".

He added that maximising revenue "doesn't always mean that you have to have the highest tax rate possible".

Labour said Mr Javid's proposals would make the UK more unequal.

Full Article

Special educational needs crisis deepens as councils bust their budgets

The funding crisis in special needs education is deepening, with council overspends on support for children with conditions including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder rising by 30% in just a year, the Observer can reveal.

Figures sourced under the Freedom of Information Act from 118 of the 151 local authorities in England show that councils are expecting to overspend their high needs block budgets by £288m in 2019-20 – up from £232m in 2018-19. When money raided from mainstream schools budgets is included, however, these figures rise to £315m in 2018-19 and nearly £410m this year – a rise of almost 30% in the space of 12 months.

The high needs block is government funding that supports children with higher cost needs. Children with moderate special needs are funded via mainstream schools budgets.

Full Article

London planned transport spending 'seven times more per head than for Yorkshire'

Planned transport investment for London is set to be seven times more per person than in Yorkshire, a think tank claims today, unless investment in the Northern Powerhouse goes ahead.

The new research, published by IPPR North, suggests per person spend for London is set to be £2,300 higher than in the North, and £3,125 higher than in Yorkshire.

Further analysis suggests the spending gap has widened over the last decade, with the North missing out on around £66bn had investment been equal.

Full Article

Northamptonshire trebles deficit projection

Crisis-hit Northamptonshire County Council is facing more financial hardship as its projected deficit more than tripled in six months.

The council’s updated medium term financial plan, published this week, puts the deficit for 2020-21 at £34.9m - up from £11.2m in February this year.

Northamptonshire’s increased deficit comes just five months after commissioners said the council could lift its Section 114 notice, which banned all non-essential spending. The notice was subsequently lifted on 1 April 2019.

Full Article

Hike in council spend on external legal advice, research finds

Nearly a third of UK local authority legal spending went on external law firms last year, BBC analysis has shown.

Councils spent £322m on in-house legal teams but another £142m was spent on external legal services, according to 2018-19 figures from 270 of the 408 councils in the UK.

The BBC, which also analysed data over a five year period, found that of the 270 respondents around one third spent more on external legal advice in 2018-19 than in any of the previous four years.

Full Article

A love letter to my hometown high street

Last time I was back home on the Isle of Wight, I walked a route I’ve taken over a thousand times. I passed my old school, the park I used to play in and the big house where I first got drunk on a bottle of cheap wine with my best friend. I glanced through the windows of the pub where 20 of us used to cram into the back room and one of our mates, armed with ID and Dutch courage, would order all our drinks. But, when I reached my old high street, my wistful nostalgia evaporated...

Full Article

Two local government pension funds record total deficits of £14.5m

A local government pension scheme pool has reported net retirement benefit deficits this year totalling £14.5m across two funds.

The latest accounts for Local Pensions Partnership, which reported a profit before tax for 2019 of £204,000, revealed the London Pension Fund Authority had a net retirement benefit deficit of £9.8m for 2019 – up from £7.9m in 2018. Lancashire County Pension Fund had a net retirement benefit deficit of £4.7m – up from £3.6m in 2018.

Full Article

Council chiefs call for billions to fix North’s ‘creaking infrastructure’

Leaders from across the North have today called on the Government to commit to multi-billion pound infrastructure pledges that would boost the region’s economic fortunes.

The call, which is backed by Transport for the North’s Board, a group which represents more than 15 million people, asks Whitehall to deliver on previous commitments promised as part of the Northern Powerhouse agenda.

It urges the delivery of a ‘Northern Budget’ which would include a £7bn Northern Infrastructure Pipeline, featuring road and rail projects which could commence in the next five years.

Full Article

Care homes forced to drop nurse provision amid staffing crisis

More and more nursing homes are being forced to shut or remodel as residential homes due to a “chronic” shortage of nurses in the independent sector, leaders have warned.

The caution came after South Lodge Care Home in Leicester announced that registered nurse provision would be removed from the unit from 5 November, because it could not fill staff vacancies, Gemma Mitchell of LGC's sister title Nursing Times reports.

The 106-bed home was taken over by Avery Healthcare Group in May last year and bosses said it was already “heavily reliant” on using agency nurses to plug gaps in the rota.

Full Article

Leaders call for £39bn for Northern Powerhouse Rail project

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to commit £39bn to Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) for high-speed rail links across the Pennines.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is one of 19 regional leaders demanding a "northern budget".

Mr Johnson said a "very, very good case" was being made for connections between Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford and Leeds in his Tory leadership run.

Full Article

Homeless person dying every 19 hours in UK, figures show

A homeless person dies on average every 19 hours in the UK, according to figures that have prompted calls for the prime minister to address the country’s housing crisis.

Data collated through coroners’ enquiries, media coverage, family testimony and freedom of information requests reveals at least 235 people affected by homelessness have died over the last six months, ranging from the ages of 16 to 104 years old.

Full Article

Stop cuts to adult social care, petition urges

More than 150,000 people have signed a petition calling for urgent action to fix the system that provides care for older and disabled people.

It urges the prime minister "to end swingeing cuts", saying more than 1.4 million over-65s in England have been left without the support they need.

Also, 40 health leaders have written to Boris Johnson to warn adult social care cuts have a knock-on effect on the NHS.

Government says real-terms funding is rising by 8% from 2015-16 to 2019-20.

Full Article

Council-owned solar farm generates £1.2m for frontline services

One of the largest local authority owned solar farms in the UK has exceeded expectations and generated more than £1.5m of income in its third year – around £100,000 more than anticipated.

The 12.4MW solar farm at Toggam Farm in Lakenheath has raised nearly £4m for West Suffolk Council since it was started in August 2016 thanks to sales to the National Grid.

West Suffolk Council calculates that the solar farm has generated £560,000 towards the funding of frontline services this year alone bringing the total amount raised in three years to £1.2m.

Full Article

Asda and Boots urge reform of 'broken' rates system

Bosses of more than 50 retailers including Asda and Boots have written to the chancellor urging him to change tax rules to boost the UK High Street.

The group said it wanted him to fix the "broken business rates system", which it called outdated.

It said the tax had jumped by 50% since the 1990s and had contributed to some retailers going out of business.

Full Article

High Streets hit as shop vacancy rate worst since 2015

The number of empty shops in town centres is at its highest for four years, industry figures show.

The vacancy rate was 10.3% in July, its highest level since January 2015, according to the British Retail Consortium and Springboard survey.

Footfall also fell by 1.9% in July, the worst July performance for seven years.

Full Article

Dams in danger of flooding as dozens in need of safety work

The owners of dozens of high-risk reservoirs have not completed important safety work despite a potential risk to people’s lives if the dams burst, analysis reveals.

Forty-eight reservoirs deemed a risk to life if they collapse are still in need of repairs or construction work to meet safety standards.

Figures obtained from the Environment Agency under freedom of information laws show that as of April this year some reservoir owners have yet to produce emergency plans to deal with a dam overflow or collapse.

Full Article

Electric cars to enter next gear as government doubles funding for charging points on residential streets

Government funding for on-street electric-car charging is to be doubled, transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

An extra £2.5m will pay for local authorities to install more than 1,000 additional charge points on residential roads.

The charge points can be built into existing structures such as lampposts, and are aimed at providing access to charging infrastructure near the homes of people without off-street parking.

Full Article

More children being cared for in failing council services, says think tank

Nearly 50,000 children are being cared for in areas where council services are failing, a think tank has warned today.

The Social Market Foundation found 65% of all looked-after children in England are in council areas where services has been rated as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement.’

The report – the Silent Crisis 2019 – shows that spending time in care can cause children to face educational and economic struggle in later life. For example, 40% of care leavers aged 19-21 are not in education, employment or training, compared to the average rate of 11.1%.

Full Article

David Davies MP: General election will be called next month

A Welsh Conservative has said he expects a majority of MPs to vote to bring down Boris Johnson's government and trigger a general election.

Monmouth MP David Davies predicted "an election being called before the end of September".

The prime minister has said he does not want to hold a general election before the Brexit deadline on 31 October.

Full Article

Real pay cut for millions since 2010, TUC study suggests

Pay rates have effectively fallen for the UK's lower and middle income earners since 2010, research suggests.

Workers in jobs paying between £9.56 and £12.73 an hour have seen their "real" wage drop 1% since 2010 after inflation is accounted for, analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found.

However, the lowest-paid workers have seen average real pay rates increase 5%, thanks to minimum wage rises.

Full Article

Government activates emergency funds for flood-hit councils

The Government has activated an emergency fund for councils affected by flooding.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed the emergency ‘Bellwin’ scheme will be available to reimburse local authorities for their costs following the evacuation of Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire and flooding in Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire.

The fund covers costs including rest centres, temporary accommodation and staff overtime.

Full Article

U.K. Economy Unexpectedly Shrinks for First Time Since 2012

The U.K. economy shrank for the first time in more than six years in the second quarter, delivering a blow to newly installed Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Gross domestic product fell 0.2% following a solid 0.5% advance in the previous three months, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday. Economists had expected output to be unchanged. In June alone, the economy stagnated. The pound fell after the report, sliding to $1.2117 as of 10:17 a.m. in London.

Full Article

PSAA records dramatic rise in delayed audit opinions

“Urgent improvement” is needed after a sharp rise in delayed audit opinions in local government, said the organisation that appoints auditors to 98% of council, police and fire authorities.

More than 40% of audit opinions (210 out of 486) on 2018-19 statements of accounts missed the target date of 31 July, figures released today from Public Sector Audit Appointments showed. Last year, just 13% were not available by the target date.

Tony Crawley, Public Sector Audit Appointments’ chief executive, suggested the rise was because of a lack of skills and poorly filled out paperwork.

Full Article

Stay of execution for civil servants’ £95,000 redundancy cap

Current redundancy terms for civil servants will remain in place until at least the end of this year, the government has told the Public and Commercial Services Union.

The government has been trying to change the terms of the 2010 Civil Service Compensation Scheme [see box below] for the last four years and cap civil servants voluntary and compulsory ‘golden handshakes’ at £95,000.

But it has been frustrated in this aim by the unions. The PCS met with the Cabinet Office at the end of last month – soon after a change of administration in Westminster – and said on Wednesday the government had told it that changes would not be made to the compensation scheme before next year.

Full Article

Million more young adults still living with parents

A million more young adults are living with their parents than 15 years ago, official statistics show.

High rents and house prices mean that a quarter of those aged 20 to 34, about 3.4 million people, were still in their family home last year. That figure was 2.7 million in 2008 and 2.4 million in 2003.

The data, published by the Office for National Statistics, will increase pressure on the government to address the shortage of affordable starter homes.

Full Article

Northants finance director to leave after 12-month term

Northamptonshire County Council has appointed a new finance director and Section 151 officer as it prepares for reorganisation.

Ian Duncan will step down in September after opting not to extend his fixed-term contract for a further year as the council prepares to be merged into two unitaries in 2021.

Duncan, appointed in October 2018, will be replaced by CIPFA member Barry Scarr, currently serving as interim director of finance at Bradford City Council.

Full Article

Local government ‘shut out’ of Brexit discussions, Labour warns

Andrew Gwynne, the shadow secretary of state for communities and local government, has raised concerns that local authorities will not be represented on the Government’s EU Exit Operations Committee.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has selected 14 out of 23 cabinet ministers to attend the committee. However, the secretary of state for communities and local government, Robert Jenrick, will not be present.

‘Once again, Government claims to be supporting our councils with Brexit preparations ring hollow,’ said Mr Gwynne.

Full Article

Druid Heath's disused Baverstock Academy costs council £241k

A council paying for security at a school no pupil has attended for two years has incurred costs of £241,000 that it cannot afford.

There is no budget to cover the sum this year, admits Birmingham City Council, citing a "financial risk".

Since August 2017 Baverstock Academy in Druids Heath has been vacant - a site the authority wants to demolish under plans to regenerate the wider estate.

Full Article

Chancellor fast-tracks Spending Round to free up departments to prepare for Brexit

Sajid Javid said the Treasury will carry out an accelerated exercise to ensure departments and devolved administrations have the financial certainty they need to deliver their plans on public services next year.

The Spending Round, which is due to complete in September, will support the commitments made by the Prime Minister since he came to office including the recruitment of 20,000 extra police officers and his ambition for additional funding for schools, as well as delivering the government’s promises on the NHS.

This will ensure the Government continues to keep borrowing under control and debt falling by meeting the existing fiscal rules.

Full Article

Dame Barbara Windsor calls on Boris Johnson to improve dementia care

Dame Barbara Windsor and her husband have called on Boris Johnson to solve the dementia care crisis.

The couple, who have been named ambassadors of the Alzheimer's Society charity, have released an open letter calling on the prime minister to sort out care for the condition.

Full Article

Thousands of sexual offences reported against children aged four to eight

Thousands of sexual offences against children as young as four are being reported to police, a charity has warned.

There were 7,618 offences involving victims aged between four and eight recorded by forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the past year, according to figures obtained by the NSPCC.

The charity contacted 44 UK forces and 30 responded with details of reported offences between April 2018 and March 2019.

Full Article

John McDonnell questions chancellor's suitability for office

John McDonnell has accused Sajid Javid of profiting from the greed that fuelled the financial crisis, in a stinging attack on the chancellor’s former City career before his move into politics.

In an explosive letter to Boris Johnson, the shadow chancellor questioned whether Javid was suitable for high public office given his time at Deutsche Bank. Javid held several senior executive positions at the German investment bank, including a role selling collateralised debt obligations (CDOs), a type of complex and risky financial product responsible for turbocharging the financial crisis.

McDonnell said the new chancellor must also answer questions over any connection he may have had with a tax avoidance scheme known as “dark blue” during his time at Deutsche.

Full Article

Jenrick announces £10m for council ‘Brexit leads’

Councils will be told to appoint a ‘Brexit lead’ to work with central government in order to ramp up Brexit preparations across the country.

Their roles will be to liaise with central government and oversee teams in every community, who will work with stakeholders to plan intensively for Brexit.

Of the £58m so far announced by government to help councils prepare for Brexit (including £1.5m additional funding for ports), 78% (£44.9m) has already been allocated.

Full Article

Brexit: Anger as government set to spend five times more on 'propaganda' than helping councils prepare for no deal

Government ministers have been condemned for spending five times more on no-deal Brexit "propaganda" than on helping local councils prepare for the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

On Saturday the government announced a £20m fund to help councils with no-deal planning and ordered every local authority to appoint an official to work with the government and oversee preparations.

But critics pointed out that the sum is dwarfed by the up to £100m that will reportedly be spent on a "public information campaign" designed to inform people about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

Full Article

UK spends less on social care than nearly all the other countries in Western Europe with dementia patients among the worst affected by spending shortfall

Britain spends less on social care than nearly all the other countries in Western Europe.

The UK is ranked 10th out of 12 comparable nations, with its level of state social care spending just half that of Norway and the Netherlands.

Only Portugal and Spain are below Britain. However, they – like most other Mediterranean countries – see relatives play a much greater role in caring for loved ones.

Full Article

Councils will share £20m extra to fund no-deal tsars

Councils across England have been ordered by the government to appoint no-deal tsars to lead local preparations for Britain’s departure from the European Union.

In a letter to all local authorities Robert Jenrick, the communities and local government secretary, said it was imperative that councils “step up vital preparations” ahead of October 31.

He announced that local authorities would share an additional £20 million to pay for the extra work preparing for no deal on top of the £58 million allocated by the Treasury in January.

Full Article

Brexit: How have UK councils prepared?

Councils have spent money repaving roads, hiring vets, stockpiling food for school meals and registering their own staff for the EU settled status scheme in preparation for Brexit.

Details of council spending were released to BBC News in response to Freedom of Information requests made to all upper-tier authorities in the United Kingdom.

The burden fell most heavily on councils in strategically important areas, such as those near ports that may have to deal with increased checks and lorry tailbacks in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Full Article

Schools in poorer areas ‘to lose out on pupil funding’

Almost all schools in Britain’s most disadvantaged areas would miss out on extra money under the prime minister’s promise to “level up” pupil funding.

Schools at present receive different amounts of per-pupil support depending on how deprived its area is classed. During the Conservative leadership campaign Boris Johnson said all primary schools would in future get at least £4,000 per pupil and secondary schools £5,000.

An analysis from the Education Policy Institute think tank (EPI) found that the pledge would cost about £590 million for primary schools and £150 million for secondary schools, more than double the total suggested by the prime minister.

Full Article

Councils ‘poor relations of Whitehall’ in no deal funding

A council leader has accused ministers of providing "woefully inadequate" no deal funding as it emerged his authority has spent nine times the amount it has received from the government on its Brexit preparations.

So far, councils have been offered £56.5m to prepare for Brexit and an additional £38m will be divvied up by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. But this is a small slice of the overall amount of central expenditure, with an additional pot of £2.2bn no deal funding announced this week.

Plymouth City Council has so far received £105,000 in Brexit funding, which its leader Tudor Evans (Lab) claims is “woefully inadequate” and that councils are "poor relations of Whitehall" when it comes to Brexit funding.

Full Article

Number of over-16s going into care increases 25% in four years, report finds

The number of children over the age of 16 going into care has risen by 25 per cent in four years, leaving support services “struggling to cope” with the rising demand, a report warns.

There has been a surge of older children with more complex needs entering care because they have been exploited or have gone missing from home, the children’s commissioner has said.

Too many teenagers are “pin balling” around the care system, changing home and family, school and social worker on multiple occasions during a short period of time, a new study has found.

Full Article

Childcare costs set to soar following Government proposals to raise registration costs by 20 per cent

Childcare costs are set to soar for parents, following Government plans to raise registration costs by 20 per cent.

The annual fee to register with Ofsted will rise from £35 to £43 for childminders and from £220 to £269 for nurseries from next April, according to proposals published by the Department for Education (DfE) in a consultation document.

Government officials point out that the registration fee has remained the same for the past decade, and that the “cost of inspection and regulation continues to be heavily subsidised”.

Full Article

Prime Minister opens first meeting of National Policing Board

The Prime Minister has today (31 July) opened the first meeting of the National Policing Board, which will drive forward the government’s commitment to recruit 20,000 new police officers over the next 3 years.

The Board, announced last week, brings together senior police leaders and government. During today’s meeting the Home Secretary outlined plans to begin the unprecedented recruitment drive in September and hire up to 6,000 officers in the first year.

Full Article

Disadvantaged pupils 'stuck 18 months behind'

Progress to close the achievement gap for poorer pupils in England's secondary schools is almost at a "standstill", say researchers.

The Education Policy Institute says disadvantaged pupils are on average 18 months behind the rest of the class in academic achievement by the age of 16.

At the current rate, the study says it will take 500 years to close the gap.

The Department for Education said £2.4bn per year was dedicated to supporting poorer pupils.

Full Article

£1m boost to sports projects that keep young Londoners out of violent crime

Sport projects keeping young Londoners away from violent crime are to receive a £1.1 million boost to help children “turn their lives around”.

City Hall is giving the cash to local groups as it draws on the expertise of coaches and sports workers to propose solutions to capital’s violent crime epidemic.

The fund will be available to projects helping those at risk of exclusion or getting involved in violence and crime.

Full Article

Johnson pledges billions of pounds to ‘left behind towns’

Prime minister Boris Johnson has promised £3.6bn of support to 100 ‘left behind towns’ in England.

The announcement for the Towns Fund over the weekend was followed by the promise of £300m for towns in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The funds for the devolved nations will be given through an expansion of growth deal funding. Growth deals started in 2014 and provide funds to local enterprise partnerships.

Full Article

Will Boris Johnson's present for hard-up teachers be enough?

On Friday 27 September, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, by then comfortably settled into Downing Street and just five weeks away from the Brexit deadline, would, if he walked out of his front door, find himself faced with an unusual group of protesters.

More than 5,000 headteachers from across England are promising to walk out of their schools to take part in a mass march on Westminster to highlight once again the shortfall in education funding that has been making headlines for months if not years. It is their second such protest and there will be more.

Full Article

Resolution Foundation says council tax unfairly burdens the poor

Council tax needs to be radically reformed as it unfairly burdens poorer households, according to a new report into housing in Scotland.

The Resolution Foundation suggests the tax is as regressive as the poll tax it replaced 25 years ago.

They have highlighted wide and rising inequalities in housing wealth across Scotland.

Full Article

More than 4m in UK are trapped in deep poverty, study finds

More than 4 million people in the UK are trapped in deep poverty, meaning their income is at least 50% below the official breadline, locking them into a weekly struggle to afford the most basic living essentials, an independent study has shown.

The Social Metrics Commission also said 7 million people, including 2.3 million children, were affected by what it termed persistent poverty, meaning that they were not only in poverty but had been for at least two of the previous three years.

Highlighting evidence of rising levels of hardship in recent years among children, larger families, lone parent households and pensioners, the commission urged the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, to take urgent action to tackle growing poverty.

Full Article

Value of PWLB loans to local authorities rises 75%

Local authorities’ use of the Public Works Loan Board has rocketed in the last year, figures have shown.

The value of loans advanced from the body shot up by 75% from March 31 last year to the same date this year - from £5.2bn to £9.1bn, according the PWLB’s annual report.

The £9.1bn figure shows the value of loans agreed by the PWLB up to 31 March has almost tripled in the last seven years. In 2012-13 local authority borrowing stood at just £3.2bn.

In addition, the number of loans also grew by 68% from 780 new loans in 2017-18 to 1,308 in 2018-19.

Full Article

Nearly a quarter of the UK's dementia care homes are failing, with many patients neglected and left at risk in 'toxic' environment, new report shows

The appalling treatment of dementia patients in care homes is today laid bare in official inspection reports.

Figures reveal that specialist dementia homes are almost twice as likely as ordinary care homes to be given a substandard rating by watchdogs.

Currently, 22 per cent of homes which accommodate dementia patients are classed as 'inadequate' or 'requires improvement' by the Care Quality Commission. This compares with 12 per cent for non-dementia English care homes.

Full Article

NI civil servants strike over pay and conditions

Northern Ireland civil servants are staging a one-day strike on Friday over their pay and working conditions, which could affect some public services.

The strike follows a vote by members of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (Nipsa) trade union.

Nipsa said its members were angered after receiving a below-inflation pay rise for the ninth year in a row.

Full Article

Controversial Help to Buy scheme may be extended

A controversial scheme that helps first-time buyers on to the property ladder but is accused of inflating house prices and boosting housebuilders’ profits could be extended, the new housing secretary said.

Robert Jenrick said “all options are on the table” when asked if he would consider extending the Help to Buy scheme beyond its expiry date of 2023.

Help to Buy offers buyers who have a deposit of 5 per cent an interest-free government loan of up to 40 per cent of the purchase price in London, or 20 per cent outside the capital. It is restricted to new-build homes.

Full Article

School funding top priority for Gavin Williamson

Gavin Williamson will have to deliver an increase in spending on England's schools after replacing Damian Hinds as the new education secretary.

Mr Williamson was sacked from his previous post as defence secretary at the start of May after an inquiry into a National Security Council leak.

Boris Johnson pledged to increase school budgets on his first day in office as the new prime minister.

Head teachers said tackling the "funding crisis" should be a priority.

Full Article

Sajid Javid: What should we expect from new chancellor?

As a teenager in the 1980s, Sajid Javid, the UK's new chancellor, was an ardent admirer of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the country's first female premier. He even has a portrait of the "Iron Lady" in his office.

So as he packs his things at the Home Office ready for the move to Treasury, that may be one of the things he takes with him, along with the sense that, like her, he is breaking new ground.

He was the first home secretary from an ethnic minority when he took the post last year. Now he will be the UK's first chancellor from the immigrant community...

Full Article

Boris Johnson: We will fix the crisis in social care once and for all

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street for the first time as Prime Minister of England, Boris Johnson vowed that his administration would address the “crisis in social care” for England’s aging population

Full Article

Robert Jenrick takes over after Brokenshire sacked

Robert Jenrick has been appointed housing and communities secretary following the sacking of James Brokenshire.

Mr Jenrick, who had been exchequer secretary to the Treasury, was appointed to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government's top role as incoming prime minister Boris Johnson undertook a radical cabinet reshuffle in which no fewer than 17 cabinet ministers departed.

At the Treasury, Mr Jenrick's role entailed responsibility over devolution deals, industrial strategy and infrastructure.

Mr Brokenshire wrote: “After 13 years service on the front bench including 9 in Government will be heading to the backbenches. Has been a huge privilege to serve, but looking forward to being released from collective responsibility and campaigning on issues that matter to me and my constituents.”

Full Article

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he has a plan to 'fix the crisis in social care once and for all'

After being formally asked by Her Majesty the Queen to form a government, Mr Johnson said outside the famous black door: "My job is to serve you the people. My job is to make sure you don’t have to wait three weeks to see your GP.

"We start work this week with 20 new hospital upgrades and ensuring that the money for the NHS really does get to the frontline.

“My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care.

“And so I am announcing now on the steps of Downing Street that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared. To give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.

Full Article

Prevention green paper blasted as ‘shopping list of half-complete ideas’

Local authority leaders have criticised the Government’s prevention green paper as a ‘missed opportunity’ which neglects the role councils play in delivering public health services.

The Government’s consultation document argues that the 2020s 'will be the decade of proactive, predictive, and personalised prevention’, where targeted support and tailored lifestyle advice will be key to health care.

The paper, entitled Advancing our health: prediction in the 2020s, commits the Government to embedding genomics in routine healthcare and reviewing the NHS Health Check.

Full Article

Government offers 'inflation-busting' pay rises

Chancellor Philip Hammond has handed public sector workers a pay rise that is above the UK's 2% inflation rate.

The move comes just days before Theresa May leaves office, which could lead Mr Hammond to resign as chancellor.

The deals will affect almost one million public sector workers from prison officers to dentists.

Teachers will get a 2.75% salary boost, the equivalent to £1,000 extra a year, for those on an average salary.

Full Article

Schools face cutbacks to fund pay rise for teachers in England

School budgets face cuts to fund a new teachers’ pay rise after the government announced it would only partially fund the award of 2.75%.

Teachers are among almost a million public-sector workers – including hospital doctors and soldiers – who are to receive above-inflation pay rises for a second year in succession.

The increases – which follow the recommendations of independent pay review bodies – are backdated to the start of the financial year and include 2.5% for consultants and dentists, 2.5% for police officers, 2.9% for armed forces personnel, at least 2.2% for prison officers, and 2% for senior civil servants and senior military staff.

Full Article

Schools face cutbacks to fund pay rise for teachers in England

School budgets face cuts to fund a new teachers’ pay rise after the government announced it would only partially fund the award of 2.75%.

Teachers are among almost a million public-sector workers – including hospital doctors and soldiers – who are to receive above-inflation pay rises for a second year in succession.

The increases – which follow the recommendations of independent pay review bodies – are backdated to the start of the financial year and include 2.5% for consultants and dentists, 2.5% for police officers, 2.9% for armed forces personnel, at least 2.2% for prison officers, and 2% for senior civil servants and senior military staff.

Full Article

Government pumps £348million into new schemes to improve local roads

The Government is investing £348 million in two projects aimed at improving the condition and smooth running of local roads over the next four years.

And in a ground-breaking move it will use artificial intelligence on a widespread scale to search through images of roads, looking for those where markings need improving.

This is part of the first pot of investment – worth nearly £200 million – available over the next two years for works such as strengthening bridges and repairing potholes.

Full Article

Public sector pay rise: May gives £2bn to teachers, police and armed forces

Two million public sector workers including police officers, soldiers and teachers are to be given above-inflation pay rises, the government will announce next week.

On Monday the Treasury will unveil the biggest public sector pay rise for six years, at an estimated cost of £2 billion, amid concerns that the private sector is pushing ahead on salaries.

Police officers will receive a 2.5 per cent pay rise across the board, soldiers 2.9 per cent and teachers and other school staff 2.75 per cent. Dentists and consultants will get 2.5 per cent and senior civil servants 2 per cent.

Full Article

SEND duties ‘increasing pressure on councils’

The expansion of special educational needs duties has left councils facing a “financial crisis”, council leaders have warned.

Analysis from the County Councils Network has found 27 English councils racked up a combined £123m overspend on their grant for children with special educational needs in 2018-19.

In 2014 the minimum age limit for councils to care for those with SEN was raised from 19 to 25 and this has created “substantial extra costs” for councils, CCN said.

The 36 councils CCN represents have seen a rise of 46% in the number of pupils on education, health and care plans – almost 10,000 extra each year since the introduction of new duties under the Children and Families Act 2014.

Full Article

‘Anything but inclusive’: No school places for three disabled sisters

Jan Ansell has three disabled daughters whom she adopted with her husband Kevin because, as foster carers, they could not bear the pain of handing back children they had loved and cared for.

They cherish their daughters, but are struggling to cope. As well as dealing with the challenges of adoption, they are at the sharp end of a funding and provision crisis affecting thousands of families with children who have special educational needs and disabilities (Send).

In May the family moved from rural Pembrokeshire to Buckinghamshire to be closer to relatives who could offer support – they have two older children and five grandchildren – and to be in an area more accessible for wheelchair users.

Since moving, however, the girls have been unable to go to school because no places have been available; they have been unable to register for summer holiday activities, having missed the deadline; and they are even struggling to get around their rented bungalow while waiting for ramps to be fitted.

Full Article

Councils in country have far less to spend on elderly than those in cities

Councils in rural areas like Dorset have five times less than to spend on care of the elderly than those in cities, new analysis reveals.

The study by the Salvation Army warns that areas with lower house prices are unable to properly fund social care, because they cannot raise enough from council tax and business rates. Experts said the findings were evidence of a “dementia lottery” which meant the chance of receiving help were a matter of geography.

The analysis suggests that typically councils in Dorset would have around £5,762 a head to spend on elderly care - while those in Lambeth in London could have more than £31,000 at their disposal. Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Somerset, East Sussex, Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire were among other areas with the most limited resources, according to the analysis.

Full Article

Public sector pay rise: May gives £2bn to teachers, police and armed forces

Two million public sector workers including police officers, soldiers and teachers are to be given above-inflation pay rises, the government will announce next week.

On Monday the Treasury will unveil the biggest public sector pay rise for six years, at an estimated cost of £2 billion, amid concerns that the private sector is pushing ahead on salaries.

Police officers will receive a 2.5 per cent pay rise across the board, soldiers 2.9 per cent and teachers and other school staff 2.75 per cent. Dentists and consultants will get 2.5 per cent and senior civil servants 2 per cent.

Full Article

SEND duties ‘increasing pressure on councils’

The expansion of special educational needs duties has left councils facing a “financial crisis”, council leaders have warned.

Analysis from the County Councils Network has found 27 English councils racked up a combined £123m overspend on their grant for children with special educational needs in 2018-19.

In 2014 the minimum age limit for councils to care for those with SEN was raised from 19 to 25 and this has created “substantial extra costs” for councils, CCN said.

Full Article

‘Anything but inclusive’: No school places for three disabled sisters

Jan Ansell has three disabled daughters whom she adopted with her husband Kevin because, as foster carers, they could not bear the pain of handing back children they had loved and cared for.

They cherish their daughters, but are struggling to cope. As well as dealing with the challenges of adoption, they are at the sharp end of a funding and provision crisis affecting thousands of families with children who have special educational needs and disabilities (Send).

In May the family moved from rural Pembrokeshire to Buckinghamshire to be closer to relatives who could offer support – they have two older children and five grandchildren – and to be in an area more accessible for wheelchair users.

Full Article

£2bn public sector pay rise to have limited impact

The government is expected to confirm today details of a £2bn pay rise for public sector workers such as teachers, police and soldiers.

While some two million workers are set to benefit from a real terms wage increase, there will be a price to pay as the salary hike is to be funded from existing budgets, The Times reported today.

The above inflation wage increases of 2.75% for teachers, 2.9% for armed forces, 2.5% for police and 2% for senior civil servants will be one of Theresa May’s final announcements as prime minister, according to the newspaper.

Full Article

Counties warn SEN costs ‘spiralling out of control’

Demand pressures caused by the introduction of unfunded new burdens on councils to provide support for children with special educational needs (SEN) could soon “break” budgets, the County Councils Network has warned.

CCN research has found the 36 councils it represents have experienced a 46% rise overall in young people being granted an education, health and care plan (EHCP) since 2014, when the Children and Families Act raised the age limit for support from 19 to 25.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council has seen the largest increase over the period with 90%, followed by Somerset CC (87%), Hertfordshire CC and Nottinghamshire CC (both 72%) and Kent CC (71%).

Full Article

No deal Brexit ‘will create £30bn black hole’

A no-deal Brexit would blow a £30 billion annual hole in the public purse as the economy shrinks and tax receipts collapse, driving the national debt above £2 trillion for the first time, the government’s budget watchdog has warned.

Using the International Monetary Fund’s least-worst scenario of the impact of a no-deal and no-transition Brexit on October 31, the Office for Budget Responsibility said that the government would have to borrow roughly an extra £30 billion for each of the next four years, loading an extra £272 billion to the national debt by 2024.

If a deal is struck there would be room to borrow more than has been planned. The government could borrow an extra £25 billion a year and still keep debt falling as a percentage of GDP, the OBR said.

Full Article

Unions united on pay claim as Unite back 10% rise

The three largest unions representing local government staff are all backing a 10% pay claim, after Unite confirmed it will call for the same wage rise as Unison and GMB.

Yesterday LGC reported that Unison and GMB are calling for the big increase for most local government staff ahead of talks between the unions on a joint pay claim to employers.

Now Unite has confirmed it is calling for a 10% rise from April 2020, with negotiations due to start with employers later this month.

Full Article

CIPFA launches drive for ‘easier to understand’ public accounts

A survey launched by CIPFA is seeking views about the problems citizens face when looking at local authority accounts.

The institute wants people to be able to hold authorities to account better by simplifying financial statements which show how their tax is spent.

Don Peebles, head of policy and technical at CIPFA, said: “Local government accounts are the primary means by which the public can find out how their hard-earned taxes are being spent.

“Users should be able to access intelligible information that provides meaningful detail on how their council spends its money.

Full Article

CIPFA launches drive for ‘easier to understand’ public accounts

A survey launched by CIPFA is seeking views about the problems citizens face when looking at local authority accounts.

The institute wants people to be able to hold authorities to account better by simplifying financial statements which show how their tax is spent.

Don Peebles, head of policy and technical at CIPFA, said: “Local government accounts are the primary means by which the public can find out how their hard-earned taxes are being spent.

Full Article

Forget the spending review, we should be talking about taxation

The question over whether the incoming government will conduct a spending review in time for the start of the next financial year is technically still live, yet it is fast becoming a truth universally acknowledged that it is unlikely to go ahead. Recent newspaper reports suggest our likely next PM Boris Johnson is preparing to set an emergency Budget in September.

However, before Mr Johnson unleashes his flurry of promised tax cuts he would do well to heed the warning from the Institute for Government this week that the UK’s “inefficient” tax system is fast becoming unsustainable.

Council tax and business rates currently account for 9% of national tax revenues, according to the IfG’s analysis, the same proportion as corporation taxes. By comparison income tax brings in just over a quarter of tax revenues and VAT a fifth.

The case for greater fiscal devolution and reform of council tax has been made repeatedly by those championing local government in recent years. But while a tourist tax might make a nice pay day for plenty of places around the country, local taxation should not be considered in isolation from the wider system.

Full Article

‘More clarity required’ despite pension ruling

UK public sector pension fund administrators remain in the dark despite the government accepting defeat in a landmark pension ruling, PF has learned.

Workers from local government, the civil service, NHS and more will be impacted by a supreme court ruling that found pension changes from 2015 were discriminatory based on age, the government has confirmed.

The government had an appeal upheld by the court and could now pay out billions to remedy the situation, as valuations on public sector pensions were paused pending the legal process.

Full Article

Doctors, teachers and police to share in £4bn-a-year pension boost

Employees in all of the main public sector pension schemes will have their retirement savings boosted after a landmark ruling, the Government has confirmed.

Younger staff in the NHS, civil service, local government, teaching profession, police, Armed Forces, judiciary and fire service will benefit, Elizabeth Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, said in a written statement.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the Government had to accept an earlier judgment that it had discriminated against the workers when it changed public sector pensions in 2015. Only older staff were allowed to stay in the more generous versions of the schemes.

Full Article

Rubbish-tip 'tax' for households prompts fears of a surge in dumping

Councils have begun charging householders to dump waste at rubbish tips, it has emerged, leading the Government to launch a review into the arbitrary fees.

Some 47 local authorities now insist on payments including Buckinghamshire council, which released a new “price list” this month demanding up to £20 for items including boilers, taps, lavatory seats, fence posts, plasterboard, pond liners and wood burners.

Likewise in June, gardeners in Kent were hit with £4 charges for disposing of bags of soil or rubble, while households in Devon must now pay £3.90 for dumping shower trays and tyres.

Full Article

High street suffers 'summer slump' as Brexit and wet weather bite

Shoppers deserted UK high streets during June as the washout weather and continuing Brexit uncertainty helped drive store visits down to a seven-year low for the month.

The “summer slump” took a particularly heavy toll on high streets, with shopping centres also badly affected, according to the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) monthly footfall tracker for the period from 26 May to 29 June.

The data will fuel fears that Britain’s economy has come to a standstill, with fears of a no-deal Brexit prompting consumers to sit on their hands and put off non-essential purchases.

Full Article

UK 'scarily' exposed to next major downturn, economists warn Save

The UK’s recession-fighting tools are already almost exhausted leaving the economy ill-prepared to battle the next slump if and when it arrives, economists have warned.

Interest rates are too low to be cut significantly, while the Government is already heavily indebted from heavy borrowing in the financial crisis and the years since.

This means urgent work is needed to find tools which could be used to stimulate the economy in another crunch, said the Resolution Foundation.

Full Article

Audit review raises prospect of new transparency rules for s151s

A review of local government audit announced by the government this week will consider new measures to give the public better access to financial information produced by section 151 officers.

Local government secretary James Brokenshire this week revealed the review, which will report next Spring, will be headed up by former Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) president Sir Tony Redmond.

Brokenshire told the House of Commons this week that the review will examine the purpose, scope and quality of statutory audits of councils in England and the supporting regulatory framework.

Full Article

Audit review raises prospect of new transparency rules for s151s

A review of local government audit announced by the government this week will consider new measures to give the public better access to financial information produced by section 151 officers.

Local government secretary James Brokenshire this week revealed the review, which will report next Spring, will be headed up by former Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) president Sir Tony Redmond.

Brokenshire told the House of Commons this week that the review will examine the purpose, scope and quality of statutory audits of councils in England and the supporting regulatory framework.

Full Article

CIPFA backs alternative tool for measuring councils’ financial resilience

Another model aimed at measuring the financial sustainability of councils has joined a crowded field, with the claim that more than a third of councils are at risk of failure in the next decade.

Accountancy firm Grant Thornton this week launched its Financial Foresight model, built on central government data, combined with population projections and sector insights.

It shows that in 66% of councils, spending on services is outstripping income and that the imbalance between expenditure growth and income growth will see local authorities reducing their reserves by 84% by 2028.

Full Article

Lack of homes suitable for older people fuels housing crisis – report

England’s small towns are set to swell with increasing numbers of elderly people as they reject city living amid a hidden housing crisis caused by a lack of appropriate homes for a rapidly ageing population, a new study reveals.

Bexhill in East Sussex, Corby in Northamptonshire and Denton in Greater Manchester are forecast to see the biggest increases in populations aged 55 and above during the next two decades, according to the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Centre for Towns thinktank.

Failure to improve housing options for the elderly could add hugely to care and NHS costs, with the Building Research Establishment forecasting that inappropriate housing for the over-55s will cost nearly £20bn by 2041. Hip fractures caused by falls on stairs, excess cold and overcrowding are among the threats.

Full Article

Libraries told to focus on books as lending slumps

The number of books loaned from public libraries has almost halved within a decade, prompting criticism that librarians focus too much on online services and children’s activities.

Lending rates have dropped at much faster rates than in the United States or Australia, with people in England borrowing on average fewer than three library books a year.

Many librarians blame the slump in book lending on cuts to local authority budgets which have led to hundreds of libraries closing as councils diverted money to higher spending priorities.

Full Article

Enterprise zones 'failed to deliver' jobs boost in England

A multimillion-pound government policy to boost job creation has failed to deliver, research has revealed.

In 2011, the government announced "enterprise zones" in England to try to improve economic growth, forecasting 54,000 new jobs between 2012 and 2015.

But BBC-commissioned research found by 2017 only 17,307 jobs had been created in 24 zones around England - and in two areas the number of jobs had fallen.

Full Article

Councils featured in Government’s £135m health research fund

Local authorities are set to play a key role in the newly announced £135m government investment into health research, which looks to bring together partnerships to better tackle a range of problems.

Health minister Nicola Blackwood announced the partnership between local authorities, some of the country’s leading universities, leading innovators and healthcare services in order to help tackle some of the biggest challenges on the NHS in the next five years.

These include improving the lives of millions of people living with a range of conditions, including dementia, mental ill health and obesity.

Full Article

Councils welcome government review of guidance for youth services

A review of the statutory guidance for council-provided youth services has been launched by the government.

Civil society minister Mims Davies made the announcement, stating that the review will “focus on the positive role local authorities can play in the provision of youth services.”

The review will take social into account social isolation, and with many local areas adapting new models of services, it is hoped that the review will provide greater clarity of the government’s expectations.

Full Article

Essex drops library closure plans following sustained public protests

After months of protests involving hundreds of residents and the support of big names including David Walliams and Jacqueline Wilson, Essex county council has dropped plans to close 25 libraries.

The cuts, first proposed by the Conservative council in November 2018, involved closing 25 of the county’s 74 branch libraries, as well as handing a further 19 to volunteers and 15 to run in partnership schemes.

Residents have led multiple demonstrations over the last few months. More than 500 people joined what is believed to be the first ever protest march in the village of Galleywood’s in May, while more than 600 marched in Chelmsford in early June. Almost 60,000 people signed 56 different petitions, while the protests were supported by the likes of David Baddiel, Michael Rosen, AL Kennedy and Billy Bragg.

Full Article

Theresa May’s multi-billion pound school splurge could include a pay rise for teachers

A teachers’ pay deal is being lined up as part of the PM’s multi-billion-pound school splurge. The wage settlement is under discussion in last-minute talks over Theresa May’s legacy plan.

It is being pushed by education officials as they battle to prise cash from the Treasury. A draft deal, worth £3billion a year, is believed to have been agreed but is being held up by the pay settlement talks.

Full Article

UK to become a ‘smoke free’ nation by 2030, leaked government document says

The UK will soon become a “smoke free” nation according to leaked Government documents which detail plans to eliminate smoking by 2030.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to present a Green Paper next week focusing on the importance of prevention. Smoking remains the nation’s biggest preventable cause of cancer, despite rates of Britons lighting up halving in the the last 35 years. More than a million people have quit the habit since 2014, although many more people have begun vaping instead.

Tobacco companies rather than health providers would be made to cover the cost of helping people to quit smoking, according to the leaked documents.

Full Article

‘Well-run’ council faces £15m budget gap

A Conservative-led council claiming to be one of the best-managed in the country has warned it must have more Government money if it is to provide a 'decent level of services'.

East Sussex County Council says it will face a £15m budget gap next year without extra funding, rising to £27m in 2022/23.

The State of the County report, to be presented to the council's cabinet next week, identifies growing pressures due to reductions in funding as well as an ageing population and more children in need of help and protection.

Full Article

Revealed: Shattering £15billion cost of 'cruel and unfair' bills that families have paid in just 2 years to care for loved ones with dementia

Families have spent nearly £15 billion caring for relatives with dementia in the two years they have been waiting for ministers to reform social care, a report reveals today.

The Alzheimer's Society last night branded the system a 'tax on dementia'.

A Government green paper – which ministers promise will fix England's broken care system – has been delayed six times since it was commissioned in March 2017. Meanwhile, the middle classes have borne the brunt of the cost of dementia support, with families denied the chance to hand their homes to their children.

Full Article

Inner London boroughs back fair funding delay

Inner London boroughs are calling on the government to announce a delay to the fair funding review and confirm an increase to funding for 2020-21 in line with inflation.

Under current government plans, reforms to the way funding is distributed between councils are due to be introduced next April alongside an increase in the proportion of business rates local government retains from 50% to 75%. This was set to follow the government’s spending review review which would set the quantum of funding available the sector.

However, last month chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss admitted the review was unlikely to go ahead in time for the next financial year.

Full Article

Katherine Fairclough: Sparsity tests your leadership

Having a clear vision, a motivated leadership team, an engaged workforce and a good old-fashioned hard work ethic will get you a long way with meeting challenges. Combine this with the right culture and I think you’re on to a winning formula for success when it comes to good, if not great leadership.

Being the chief executive of Cumbria CC is the best job I have had so far, and I am very proud to be part of the team driving change here. It’s also the most challenging role I’ve had to date. When I joined two years ago I was lucky there was a good foundation for me to build upon, but there was also a long way to go. And there still is.

Full Article

‘Core offer’ not enough to reduce county’s budget gap

A county council which last year decided to cut its service provision to a bare minimum says it will still run out of money without extra funding from central government.

In August, East Sussex County Council voted to reduce services to the bare minimum required by law – what it dubbed a “core offer” – in an attempt to balance its books.

However, in papers set to be considered by the council’s cabinet next week, the council’s chief executive Becky Shaw says that the move is only likely to reduce the expected cumulative budget deficit in 2022/23 from £34.4m to £27.2m.

Full Article

NHS waiting lists surge due to pensions row

Waiting lists for routine surgery have risen by up to 50% in England because senior doctors say they cannot afford to work extra shifts.

Consultants have begun refusing to work beyond their planned hours after receiving unexpected tax bills, following new pension rules in 2016.

NHS hospitals said delays are becoming increasingly routine as a result.

Full Article

Court date set for NHS business rates challenge

A court date has been set in the long running legal battle between councils and NHS trusts over whether they should be classified as charities and so receive an 80% discount on their business rates bills.

The High Court trial, which opens on 4 November, will hear the case brought by Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and 16 others against 45 councils.

Analysis of government data by the real estate adviser Altus Group shows that NHS Hospitals in England and Wales will pay £408.6m in business rates for 2019-20, a rise of £122.4m (42.8%) since the 2017 rates revaluation came into effect.

Full Article

A proper plan is needed for local government funding

Whoever replaces Theresa May as prime minister will need a very large in-tray on their desk at Number 10. Many of the papers they’ll have to read will relate to Brexit, of course.

Others will be about the tax and spending pledges they have made – which already amount to billions of pounds. Eventually though they’ll come across a paper setting out the issues and options for local government funding – or at least they should. After years of muddling along, a proper plan is needed for local government funding, and that plan should be subject to full and frank national debate.

Full Article

LEPs ‘lack transparency’ despite receiving £12bn of Government funding

The Government has ‘no real understanding’ of the impact which the Local Growth Fund has had on local economic growth despite investing £12bn of taxpayers’ money, MPs say.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) claims that every £1 of local growth funding paid to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) could generate £4.81 in benefits.

However, a new report from the Public Accounts Committee has criticised the MHCLG for a lack of transparency and accountability, and argued that the £4.81 claim is an ‘unsubstantiated estimate’.

Full Article

County Councils Network announces new chairman

The County Councils Network (CCN) has announced today that councillor David Williams has been elected leader of the Conservative group for the network, and will now be chairman elect for the organisation.

This follows a leadership contest between Cllr Williams, who is leader of Hertfordshire County Council, and Cllr Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council.

Full Article

Future High Streets fund shortlist revealed

Fifty-one local areas have been picked to go through to the next round of the Future High Streets fund.

The successful areas will now each receive up to £150,000 of funding to work up detailed project proposals to regenerate and transform their town centres. Some of them will eventually receive multi-million pound funding to complete their projects.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said it will work closely with them, focusing on places that have “shovel ready” projects where there might be opportunities to accelerate these.

Full Article

Matt Hancock: social care green paper held up by 'partisan politics'

Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health and social care, has blamed “narrow partisan politics” for the ongoing failure of the government to produce the long-awaited social care green paper.

The issue of how to provide social care for the growing number of older people in the UK has troubled successive governments.

Admitting that social care has “for many years not received the attention and support that it deserves”, Hancock blamed the delay in the government’s green paper – which has been delayed at least six times over the last 18 months – on “narrow partisan politics”.

Full Article

Northamptonshire CC delivers ‘remarkable’ multi-million underspend

Northamptonshire County Council has delivered a balanced budget for 2018-19 with a “remarkable” underspend of £4.5m, a £34.6m improvement compared to July 2018. Last year the cash-strapped council was twice forced to issue spending bans, the first issued in 20 years, as it faced a £64m deficit.

“Severe financial difficulties” had seen government commissioners appointed to oversee its finances, but the local authority said it actually underspent by £4.5m in the last year. The leader of Northamptonshire CC, Matt Golby called it a “remarkable achievement” and said the extra money would be put into its reserves, which now stands at £39.8m.

Full Article

Twelve children's homes closed down by Ofsted

Twelve children's homes in England were closed down by Ofsted last year due to concerns about the quality of care.

The children's social care inspectorate said it was the highest number of enforced closures since 2007.

A further 25 homes de-registered, after receiving warning notices about breaches of regulations.

Full Article

Spending on children number one worry, says Hillier

Financially squeezed social services and schools have become the top concerns for the chair of the government’s public spending watchdog.

Academy failures, schools dipping into reserves and councils overspending on social care have all contributed to public spending on children rising up the agenda for Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier.

Full Article

Funding of local authorities’ children’s services: government response to the Select Committee report

A response by the government to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on funding of local authorities’ children’s services.

Full Article

Government has to answer questions on council funding

Today I finish my term as chairman of the Local Government Association with a sense of sadness about leaving a role I have loved but also with a huge sense of pride.

I am proud about what the team has achieved for our member councils and the communities they serve: successfully convincing the government to — finally — scrap the housing borrowing cap. This will mean more families enjoy the security of a roof over their heads, extra funding for social care has seen councils drastically reduce the number of people stuck in hospital unnecessarily and the ban on the use of flammable cladding will keep more people safe in their homes.

Full Article

The Communities Secretary's speech at the LGA Conference 2019

Speech by Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP at the Local Government Association Annual Conference.

Full Article

Childcare might become 'available only in rich areas'

Childcare in England risks becoming the preserve of the wealthy, unless a £660m funding gap in a free childcare scheme is plugged, MPs are warning.

Severe financial strain has been placed on private and independent nurseries offering the government's flagship free 30-hours scheme, they report.

And those operating in poor areas are more likely to be threatened with closure, they say.

Full Article

Young people face ‘renting into retirement’, council chiefs warn

Young people today are half as likely to get on the housing ladder than they were 20 years ago, local government leaders have revealed.

A new report from the Local Government Association (LGA) has found that just 11% of people born in 1996 own their home today, compared with 21% of those born in 1976 who owned their own home by the time they were 22.

Titled ‘Understanding Local Housing Markets’, the LGA report says that the high cost of the private rental sector is preventing households from being able to save for a deposit and it warns that many young people face renting into retirement.

Full Article

Councils 'in the dark' over future funding amid cash warnings

Councils in England and Wales have warned they are "completely in the dark" about how much money they will get from central government next year.

The Local Government Association says councils need "urgent guarantees" they will get enough to provide key services like child protection and social care.

More than 90 of its members fear they will run out of money to meet their legal obligations within five years.

Full Article

The Guardian view on the social care impasse: hurting people and politics [opinion]

Someone is going to have to pay for the social care that older people need and English councils cannot afford to buy. Last week’s warning from social services directors that cuts could lead, within a few months, to people being denied help with tasks such as washing and dressing themselves, while policymakers drift in a “sea of inertia”, is only the latest cry for help from a sector whose neglect is shameful. Eight years ago this week the economist Andrew Dilnot delivered a set of proposals that was supposed to be the basis of a cross-party solution. The failure to fix a lacuna in the welfare state lies with all parties, but falls most heavily on the Tories, who have been in power and promised two years ago to publish a green paper on social care....

Full Article

Apprenticeships pledge 'will be missed'

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has confirmed the government's promise of three million apprenticeship starts in England by 2020 is going to be missed.

Pressed by Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee, Mr Hinds accepted that the manifesto target is "not going to be reached".

Mr Halfon warned of declining numbers in some levels of apprenticeships.

But Mr Hinds said the training in apprenticeships was now of "much higher quality".

Full Article

Councils save over £1bn by sharing services, council chiefs say

More than a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money has been saved by councils sharing services, the Local Government Association has calculated.

The LGA’s latest shared services map, published today, shows that there are now 626 individual shared service arrangements across the country resulting in £1.34bn of savings.

‘Councils have embraced efficiency and innovation in a way that is not seen anywhere else in the public sector and these fantastic new figures show they, once again, remain at the forefront of cost-effective service delivery,’ said LGA chairman Lord Porter.

Full Article

Variation victory as LGA lobbies Treasury

LGA efforts to lobby for extra cash have repeatedly been met with scepticism from the Treasury due to wildly different spending levels between councils. Latest figures show that spend per 0-25 year old adjusted for area costs varied from £274 to £1,057. The £782 difference has led the Treasury to reject calls for cash by claiming that big spending councils should be able to reduce their costs without affecting outcomes.

Last year detailed analysis by consultancy Newton for the LGA identified five major factors – largely outside the control of councils – that together explained just over half of the variation in spend. But now further LGA research has found that a collection of 17 factors can explain 71% of the variation in spend per 0-25-year-old between councils.

Full Article

Landmark High Court case told of ‘genuine crisis’ in special educational needs funding

A “genuine crisis” in funding for young people with special educational needs could “blight their lives forever”, the High Court has heard.

Lawyers representing three families who are bringing a landmark legal challenge against the Government said funding intended to support those with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) was “manifestly insufficient”.

10-year-old Dakota Riddell has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and many other disabilities. It means she needs support at school but her mother told ITV News that a lack of funding means it is a non-stop battle to get her daughter what she is entitled to.

Full Article

Striking the right balance - James Maker

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with county chief executives at the Association of County Chief Executives (ACCE) spring seminar. It’s the fifth year I have attended, and every time I feel privileged to listen and learn from some of the most experienced chief officers in our sector.

The County Councils’ Network (CCN) and ACCE have always had a close relationship, but 18 months ago we entered a new partnership arrangement, deepening our formal ties and providing greater support to internal and external activities of chief executives. This is alongside our established CCN officer groups on adults, children’s services and corporate policy, and strong collaboration with the Society of County Treasurers.

For a representative organisation like the CCN, which is member-led and politically driven (and consists of just six members of staff) we need to carefully consider the balance between expanding our support offer for officers and retaining our core focus on national advocacy led by our elected members. CCN’s journey over the past six years has shown just how crucial striking the right balance is to being an effective special interest group.

Full Article

Cambridge school PTA asks parents to raise £60k to plug budget gap

A parent has said she was "appalled and outraged" at being told her daughter's state school had a £60,000 funding gap.

St Matthew's Primary School's Parents Teachers Association has asked parents for monthly donations to help make up the budget deficit it faces.

"This is a state school, it should be funded by the state," added Donna, mother of seven-year-old Flora.

Full Article

UK's problem debtors to get 60-day 'breathing space'

People struggling with serious debt are to benefit from a new two-month “breathing space” during which they cannot be hassled by debt collectors and bailiffs, the government has said.

During the 60-day period, those eligible will be protected from enforcement action from creditors, and will also see their interest, fees and charges frozen.

Those experiencing mental health issues will also benefit from extra protection, said the Treasury.

Full Article

Cuts to social care funding went too far, admits Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt admitted last night that the government had not spent enough money on social care and was now paying the price.

During a fractious debate, the foreign secretary said that “some of the cuts in social care did go too far”.

The admission came after he had identified the social care crisis as among his top priorities if he were to become prime minister. He was Britain’s longest-serving health secretary, in the post between 2012 and last year.

Full Article

Calls for 195-year-old Vagrancy Act to be scrapped

A leading homelessness charity, police and politicians are calling on the government to scrap a 195-year-old law that criminalises homeless people for rough sleeping and begging in England and Wales.

A report by Crisis, backed by MPs and police representatives, outlines the case for repealing the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which critics warn makes poverty a crime and pushes rough sleepers away from help.

Full Article

Rising levels of poverty in working families

As care worker Liam Doherty knows all too well, if you're in a low-paid job, the slightest setback can capsize your finances.

The Irishman moved to the UK in September 2013, bringing his wife Debbie and four children from County Limerick to take up a job in Dawlish in Devon.

"We were struggling to get by," he says. With his wife unable to work because of ill-health, he was the sole provider in the family.

Full Article

Concern as county cancels integration deal

A council’s decision to withdraw from joint working with a mental health trust could lead to a model of delivery which is “uncoordinated and duplicative” for patients, the trust has warned.

Surrey CC has given notice that it will end a section 75 agreement to provide integrated community mental health services with Surrey and Borders Partnership Foundation Trust, the Health Service Journal reports.

For the last seven years, social workers and other staff employed by the council and SABP’s mental health practitioners have worked closely together, often co-located and accessing each other’s computer systems. SABP has line managed the social care workers.

Full Article

Jeremy Hunt admits Tory social care cuts went too far

The longest-serving Health Secretary in British history has admitted social care cuts went too far on his own watch.

Jeremy Hunt - who headed the department for six years - made the jaw-dropping admission about the social care crisis as he made a pitch to be Prime Minister.

He told a BBC debate last night: "I think having been responsible for health and social care that some of the cuts in social care did go too far.”

And today, quizzed on his admission, he went even further.

He gave a devastating verdict on the years of Tory austerity cuts driven through by ex-Prime Minister David Cameron and ex-Chancellor George Osborne.

Full Article

'£3.8bn needed to reverse school cuts'

A one-off increase of £3.8bn would be needed to reverse 8% cuts in per pupil school spending, new analysis shows.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says a further £1.1bn would be needed each year up until 2023 to maintain spending in real terms, once rising costs were taken into account.

Candidates for the Conservative leadership have been making competing promises on education spending.

Full Article

Campaigners renew calls for UK to accept 10,000 child refugees

There have been fresh calls to bring 10,000 child refugees to safety in the UK amid events celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport trains that saved many children from the Nazis.

The home secretary, Sajid Javid, announced a new resettlement scheme for the most vulnerable refugees on Monday but did not say how many children would be included.

Full Article

Fifth of lead finance officers not at top table

More than a fifth of section 151 officers do not report directly to the council chief executive while a similar proportion have been in post for a year or less, sparking concerns their influence is being weakened at a time of unprecedented financial challenge.

LGC’s exclusive research saw us collect information from 147 top-tier councils in response to concerns councils’ leading financial role – which is a requirement of the Local Government Act 1972 – is being downgraded.

The research found all section 151 officers who did not report to the chief executive had been appointed since 2010 with almost two-thirds starting in the role in the past three years, potentially suggesting a growing trend.

The research, conducted during March and April, also found 22% of section 151 officers had been in post for a year or less while 13% were interim or acting up.

Full Article

'Stuck in the past'

Campaigners have claimed parts of local government are ‘still stuck firmly in the past’ after a chief broke cover to reveal her council’s sexist culture. The outgoing head of paid service at Stratford-on-Avon DC, Isabel Edgar Briancon, walked out the door after just seven months, listing a series of complaints of ‘inappropriate behaviour’.

In a now-deleted Facebook post, Ms Edgar Briancon said a councillor had told her that she had ‘good breeding hips’ and that if she wanted fertility support he would do a pagan ritual for her. Another councillor told her that he thought it was a ‘disgrace to have to enforce gender equality on a public board’.

Full Article

Councils sitting on billions in reserves while cutting back services

English councils have amassed huge cash reserves while blaming budget cuts for reduced spending on services, official figures suggest.

Some local authorities, particularly county councils with social care responsibilities, have struggled with chronic shortages and have been dipping into their reserves but others have fared better. District councils, which benefit from business rates and provide less resource-intensive services such as leisure centres or bin collections that can be scaled back or made chargeable, have found their reserves swelling as a proportion of spending.

Since 2010 district councils have grown their non-ringfenced reserves from 50 per cent of service expenditure to 130 per cent. By comparison the savings ratio for county councils has risen from 20 per cent to 30 per cent. This does not include spending on education and public health, which have ringfenced corresponding reserves.

Full Article

Review concludes public health should stay with councils

Responsibility for commissioning public health services will remain with local government, it has been announced.

Speaking at a meeting of the Local Government Association councillors’ forum today, Mr Hancock reportedly said the evidence for maintaining current council responsibilities for public health was “comprehensive, compelling and clear”.

There was widespread criticism from within local government of proposals in the NHS long term plan to review public health responsibilities and consider a “stronger role for the NHS” in commissioning services currently the responsibility of councils, such as sexual health, health visitors and school nurses.

In a statement released this afternoon, Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie said the review had recognised local government is best placed to lead on commissioning local public health services “and the invaluable skills [councils] bring to this”.

Full Article

Truss admits spending review 'unlikely' in time for 2020-21

The spending review is “unlikely” to take place this year, the chief secretary to the Treasury has admitted.

Giving evidence to the Lords economic affairs committee on Tuesday, Ms Truss blamed “goings on” within the Conservative Party for the anticipated delay, a reference to the ongoing Tory leadership contest which is not expected to conclude until late July.

As LGC reported last week, the resignation of Theresa May as prime minster had led to a growing expectation within local government that the spending review would be delayed.

Full Article

Rough sleeping: Arrests fall as police brand law 'archaic'

Police have criticised a law allowing beggars and rough sleepers to be arrested, as figures reveal they are using their powers less.

Arrests under the Vagrancy Act have halved over two years, data obtained by the BBC suggests.

Forces have said they are "moving away" from the "archaic" law which charities say "criminalises" the homeless.

Full Article

Jeremy Corbyn unveils plans for 'progressive' tax raid on homes and gardens of the middle class

Jeremy Corbyn has unveiled plans for a new tax raid on middle-class homeowners which will see those with larger family homes and gardens pay significantly more.

A new report, commissioned by Labour, suggests that council tax should be scrapped and replaced with a "progressive property tax".

The tax would be payable by property owners, rather than tenants, and would be based on "regularly updated" property values.

The report says there would be a "progressively higher rate of taxation" for each of top four property bands by value.

Full Article

Sure Start centres 'big benefit' but face cuts

Sure Start centres, aimed at improving early years health and education in England, brought "big benefits for children's health", researchers say.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found a positive impact from the scheme, launched 20 years ago as a flagship of Tony Blair's Labour Party.

But the think tank warns that funding has been cut and 500 sites have closed.

Full Article

Labour report calls for radical tax and planning reforms

Replacing council tax and business rates are among the radical policies proposed in a report commissioned by the Labour Party. However, Labour councillors have questioned why they were not consulted in the writing of the Land for the Many report.

Chief among the recommendations for future Labour policy is the creation of a ‘progressive property tax’ to replace the ‘regressive and unpopular’ council tax. Centrally agreed and payable by owners - not tenants - it would require annual property valuations with higher rates for empty and second homes.

Full Article

Councils slam ‘misleading’ BBC reserves danger list

A number of councils have complained after the BBC last week named them as at risk of running out of reserves. In December, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy published a briefing on its emerging financial resilience index which claimed that 12 councils could run out of reserves within four years at current rates.

Last week, the BBC published a list of 11 councils it claimed its own analysis revealed would be on the list. However, a number of councils this week described the figures as “misleading”. Dubbing the BBC report as “spurious”, Rob Gledhill, leader of Thurrock Council, said: “This report appears to be based on incorrect assumptions and faulty maths.

Full Article

Amazon to open 10 pop-up shops in UK town centres

First it battered Britain’s high street retailers with its convenience, low prices and huge range of products. Now the online shopping giant Amazon is moving in on their turf, with a chain of pop-up shops selling everything from food and drink to electronics, beauty products and homewares.

Full Article

Councils across the UK have spent £74million in just two years on maintaining 6,000 empty buildings

Cash-strapped councils frittered away £74million in taxpayers’ money on empty shops, offices, warehouses and other commercial buildings in just two years, an investigation found.

More than 6,000 commercial properties that are no longer used by local authorities continue to be owned and expensively maintained by taxpayers.

The price of keeping unwanted offices, shops and other business buildings includes the cost of security, routine maintenance, insurance and refurbishment.

Full Article

Ministry offers 'goodwill' cash after repeating rates pilot blunder

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government is preparing to make £15m of “goodwill” payments to councils involved in new business rates pilots after publishing incorrect guidance for the second year running.

Last year, then communities secretary Sajid Javid decided not to recover £36m wrongly paid to the 27 councils and the Greater London Authority involved in the 2017-18 business rate pilots due to an error in the MHCLG’s formula.

In a letter to outgoing auditor general Sir Amyas Morse, published on Saturday, MHCLG permanent secretary Melanie Dawes says while there has been “no mistake in any of the calculations” for the 2019-20 pilots, officials had failed to correct the original guidance before issuing it again in December.

Full Article

19 face audit delay due to EY staffing issues

Almost 20 local authorities are facing delays of up to three months in the auditing of their accounts due to a staff shortage at their audit firm EY, LGC has learned.

Public Sector Audit Appointments, which appoints auditors to local public sector organisations, confirmed to LGC that 19 bodies, mainly district councils, have been informed their accounts will not be audited until after the 31 July deadline for their 2018-19 accounts to be signed off.

Councils affected include the six districts in Northamptonshire.

Full Article

Ministry offers 'goodwill' cash after repeating rates pilot blunder

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government is preparing to make £15m of “goodwill” payments to councils involved in new business rates pilots after publishing incorrect guidance for the second year running.

Last year, then communities secretary Sajid Javid decided not to recover £36m wrongly paid to the 27 councils and the Greater London Authority involved in the 2017-18 business rate pilots due to an error in the MHCLG’s formula.

Full Article

Austerity to blame for 130,000 ‘preventable’ UK deaths – report

More than 130,000 deaths in the UK since 2012 could have been prevented if improvements in public health policy had not stalled as a direct result of austerity cuts, according to a hard-hitting analysis to be published this week.

The study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) thinktank finds that, after two decades in which preventable diseases were reduced as a result of spending on better education and prevention, there has been a seven-year “perfect storm” in which state provision has been pared back because of budget cuts, while harmful behaviours among people of all ages have increased.

Full Article

May resignation sparks fears for fair funding in 2020

Expectation is growing that reforms to local government funding will be delayed due to the “political upheaval” resulting from the Conservative party leadership contest, sparking fresh calls for the government to provide certainty over funding for 2020-21.

There has been long running concern that the government’s focus on Brexit may leave little time for the completion and implementation of the fair funding review by April 2020, with Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy chief executive Rob Whiteman calling for it to be delayed on 13 May.

However, the prime minister’s announcement last Friday that she will resign, triggering a contest to replace her that is expected to last until mid-July, has prompted a growing acceptance amongst finance chiefs that a delay is now all but inevitable.

Full Article

Three-quarters of councils move to insource services

Local authorities are rejecting the outsourcing of services in favour of delivering services in-house, a not-for-profit local government body has found.

A new study from the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) has revealed an increase in popularity for bringing services in-house.

Based on a 2017 survey which attracted 208 respondents, the report shows that 73% of councils indicated that they had started – or were in the process of starting – insourcing a service.

Full Article

Special needs: Petition demands end to 'national crisis'

Thousands of disabled children and their families will take to the streets across England and Wales on Thursday to demand action on "the national crisis" in special needs funding.

Send National Crisis campaigners will deliver a 13,000-signature petition to Downing Street at 12:00 BST, and will then hold a rally in Parliament Square.

They say special needs funding is failing to keep pace with demand.

Full Article

Families rally against special educational needs funding cuts

Thousands of families with children who have special educational needs and disabilities have staged protests across England against funding cuts.

On Thursday afternoon, children, parents and teachers marched in 28 towns and cities including London, Bristol, Leeds and Birmingham in the first national action of its kind.

Organisers of Send National Crisis said about 1,000 people attended a rally in Parliament Square in Westminster. Among the speakers was the campaigner Emma Parker, whose son James has spent 29 months out of school over the past five years because of exclusions and reduced timetables.

Full Article

BBC Panorama: Crisis in Care

On Wednesday 29 May 2019 at 9PM, BBC Panorama will reveal 'the failings of our social care system, as our population gets older and more of us need help with day-to-day living.'

Full Article

Council spending on local services down 21% over past decade

Council spending on local services has fallen by more than a fifth since 2010, according to a report from Britain’s leading independent economics thinktank.

In a reflection of the austerity drive imposed on local authorities by Conservative-led governments during the past decade, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said spending on services in England had fallen by 21% between 2009-10 and 2017-18.

In a sign of the increasing difficulties facing local authorities across the country, the leading tax and spending thinktank also said the funds available to councils would become increasingly inadequate in the 2020s, rendering the current financing system for the country’s local authorities through council tax and business rates unsustainable.

Full Article

English councils warned about 'exhausting' reserve cash

Some councils in England have been warned they risk running out of cash reserves if recent spending continues.

Analysis by the BBC has identified 11 authorities the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) said would have "fully exhausted" reserves within four years unless they topped them up.

The Local Government Association said councils faced "systemic underfunding". However, the government said councils were responsible for managing their funds.

Full Article

Why councils are bringing millions of pounds worth of services back in-house

Chris Morgan got a job as an electrician repairing council houses in Stoke-on-Trent just over five years ago. Although he enjoyed his job, Morgan, 36, says he did not always feel he could raise issues with his line manager. “Our supervisors weren’t always in the trade we were in,” he says. The city council had outsourced its housing repairs service to Kier group in 2008. But since the council brought the work in-house last year, Morgan says he feels happier. “I know my supervisor knows what I’m on about. It makes me more confident,” he says. “We have had extra talks, health and safety training. They have put in a new canteen and showers, so the facilities are better too.” And with a £1,000 pay rise, plus an extra £500 for doing asbestos work, Morgan is also a bit better off.

Now all repairs, maintenance and home improvements to the council’s housing stock, as well as public building maintenance, are in-house.

Full Article

Council funding 'unsustainable' as budgets cut by 20%

There must be a national conversation about how much people want from their councils and what they'll pay, amid "unsustainable funding", researchers have said.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says funding for English councils has fallen by 21% between 2009-10 and 2017-18.

Spending on housing and planning services has dropped by more than 50% while leisure and transport departments saw cuts of more than 40%.

The IFS report also warns that areas which already face more severe deprivation are disproportionately affected.

Full Article

English 'short-changed on care funding'

Public spending on care for the elderly and disabled is much higher in Scotland and Wales than England, figures show.

In England, £310 per person is spent each year on services such as care homes and home help for daily tasks such as washing and dressing.

But in Scotland, £445 is spent - 43% more than in England - and in Wales it is £414 - 33% more.

Full Article

Council funding system ‘unsustainable’, financial experts warn

Spending on local services by English councils has fallen by more than 20% over the last decade and the funding available to local authorities will become ‘increasingly inadequate’, according to financial experts.

A new analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has calculated that overall spending on local services fell by 21% between 2009-10 and 2017-18, with some – such as housing services – falling by over 50%.

Spending cuts in some areas, such as planning and development, have enabled councils to protect social care services. Spending on adult social care fell by 5% between 2009–10 and 2017–18 and acute children’s social care services spend rose by 10%.

Full Article

Funding gap forces national cycling targets off track

A national target to double the number of cycling journeys by 2025 is likely to be missed because of a lack of money for dedicated bike lanes.

The Department for Transport said that it expected to fall dramatically short of its goal as the current policy was only projected to fill about a third of the gap towards the target. This has fuelled demands for a funding increase across the UK, particularly in rural areas.

The DfT published a cycling and walking investment policy blueprint in 2017, which said that 800 million trips were made by bike in 2013, expected to grow to 1.6 billion by 2025. By the end of 2017 only 991 million trips were taken.

Full Article

Pupils with special educational needs to stage funding protests

Thousands of families with children who have special educational needs and disabilities (Send) are to stage protests across England over funding cuts they say have left many pupils without adequate support and unable to attend school.

Parents, disabled children and their supporters will march in more than 25 locations on Thursday, including London, Bristol, Birmingham, Widnes, Worthing, Stevenage, Leamington Spa, Matlock, Colchester and Dorchester.

It is part of a campaign by families whose struggle to secure the support their children need to access education has pushed the issue of Send funding up the political agenda before the government’s forthcoming spending review.

Full Article

Council tax ‘only regressive tax in the UK’

The UK’s taxes on the whole are progressive – with council tax being the only one that is regressive, an economic think-tank has said.

Direct taxes including income tax and National Insurance Contribution work alongside benefits to reduce inequality, the Institute for Fiscal Studies claimed in a briefing note today.

Council tax, however, is markedly regressive as it is not linked to income, with the poorest tenth of the population paying 8% of their income on council tax, while the next 50% pay 4-5% and the richest 40% paying 2-3%.

Full Article

Rise in special needs pupils forced to attend out-of-area schools

Almost 20,000 children with special educational needs such as autism are attending school outside their council area because of shortfalls in local provision – with the number rising by nearly a fifth in two years, the Observer can reveal.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that some children are studying hundreds of miles from home as the special education needs and disability (Send) system struggles to cope with a funding crisis.

Parents of children with Send are preparing for a national day of action on May 30 in protest at the lack of funding, with more than 25 demonstrations across England and Wales and a rally in Westminster.

Full Article

Treasury ‘must do better’ on Whole of Government Accounts

The spending watchdog has called for “further progress” on the level of information given by departments for the Whole of Government Accounts.

Total government expenditure for 2017-18 reached £815bn for the year ending March 31 2018, according to the WGA released yesterday.

It also showed the UK government’s income in 2017-18 was £760.9bn – compared to £720.8bn in 2016-17. Its expenditure was £814.8 billion – expenditure in 2016-17 was £760.7 billion.

Full Article

Bus services outside London need reform, MPs warn amid passenger decline

Funding of bus services in England is uncertain and needs reform, MPs have warned in a move that has been welcomed by campaigners hoping for services to be re-regulated.

The Transport Select Committee has urged the Government to produce a bus strategy to halt the decline in use and give passengers a fairer deal.

the 'i' was told last month how campaigners in one region, Greater Manchester, want the metro mayor to use new powers under the Bus Services Act 2017 to become the first city outside of London to re-regulate buses.

Full Article

Free social care for the elderly could save NHS £4.5bn a year, think tank says

The introduction of free social care for everyone over 65 would save the NHS in England £4.5bn a year and help improve care in the community, a think tank has said.

IPPR argues that this reform would increase the number of people with access to state-funded care from 185,000 to 440,000, reducing unmet need and relieving pressure on unpaid informal carers.

They also claim it would shift hospital patients back into the community, and deliver a higher quality and better integrated service.

Full Article

Even ‘draconian cuts won’t be enough’ as councils face £50bn funding blackhole

Councils in England face a funding black hole of over £50bn across the next six years, according to a new report warning that local authorities will soon be forced to resort to providing the “bare minimum.”

In the new report, the County Councils Network (CCN) has called for the Treasury to urgently allocate funds towards local government, stating that rising demands and escalating costs are driving councils towards an “untenable” situation.

The independent analysis of the future financial sustainability of English councils concluded that they face a £51.8bn funding shortfall over the next six years unless Westminster does not provide more money.

Full Article

Tory council chief warns of social care funding shortfall

England faces a growing social care funding crisis which, if not fixed, will potentially leave hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and their families without the care they need, a senior Conservative council leader has warned.

Cllr David Fothergill, the leader of Somerset county council – which last year made big cuts to Sure Start centres and libraries to avoid bankruptcy – was speaking ahead of the transmission of a fly-on-the-wall Panorama documentary that shows the traumatic effects of cuts on families reliant on the county’s adult social care services.

Fothergill said: “There is a national crisis and we need to sort it because it is only going to get worse.”

Full Article

MPs call for coordinated bus strategy to address decline

The country’s most popular form of public transport is in serious decline due to fragmented government policy and reductions in council funding, a cross-party committee of MPs has said.

In England, funding for bus services fell by £171.6m between 2010-11 and 2017-18 to £202.7m, with more than 3,000 routes reduced, changed or withdrawn over the period.

The committee has called for the government to set out plans on how it will support councils to improve bus services.

Full Article

County director takes on lead STP role

Hertfordshire CC’s director of adult care services has been appointed to a shared lead officer role with the county’s sustainability and transformation partnership.

Iain MacBeath will share the role at the Hertfordshire and West Essex STP with Beverley Flowers, chief executive officer of the area’s clinical commissioning group, and support STP independent chair Paul Burstow.

Mr MacBeath and Ms Flowers will focus on the development of an integrated care system, which is due to operate in shadow form from April 2020, and the integrated care partnerships that sit within it.

Full Article

'Broken' care system for most vulnerable

Patients with mental health problems, autism and learning disabilities are being let down by a "broken" care system, a report warns.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) says it knows of at least 62 adults and children that have been living in segregation in mental health hospitals for long periods of time.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who commissioned the work, said he was appalled by the distressing stories.

Full Article

English councils 'face £50bn funding black hole'

English councils face a funding "black hole" of more than £50bn over the next six years unless extra cash is made available, a lobby group has said.

The County Councils Network said rising costs and demand for services, like social care, could mean councils resort to providing the "bare minimum".

It said yearly council tax rises and making services more efficient will "not be enough" to plug the gap.

Full Article

Norfolk County Council: Extra cuts to hit children's services

Major budget cuts to children's and adult services are being planned by Norfolk County Council as the authority seeks to save an extra £40m in 2020-21.

The council said the cuts may be necessary if its bid for more money from the government fails.

Its plans include a £9m cut to adult services and £4.5m to child services.

Full Article

£200m boost for rural super-fast broadband

Householders in the most remote ten per cent of UK properties are to receive vouchers worth £1,500 to pay for ultra-fast broadband connections.

Under a £200m initial government scheme being rolled out today, the vouchers will provide remote and rural homes with full fibre-optic broadband at speeds of 1 gigabit per second (1Gbps), about 20 times the national average.

It means they will be able to download a high-definition feature film in seven minutes.

Full Article

Teens in care 'abandoned to crime gangs'

Thousands of teenagers in care are being "dumped" in unregulated homes and "abandoned to organised crime gangs", the BBC has been told.

The number of looked-after children aged 16 and over living in unregistered accommodation in England has increased 70% in a decade, Newsnight has found.

Police forces have raised concerns, saying criminals see the premises as an easy target for recruitment. The government said children in care "deserve good quality accommodation".

Full Article

Social care shake-up delayed again after row over who will pay for new system

Matt Hancock's plans to shake up OAP care have been delayed by at least another five months, The Sun can reveal.

Sources claim a bitter funding stand-off mean the Social Care Green Paper will not now be published until the Spending Review this autumn.

And one insider said the disagreement between No10, Treasury and the Department for Health was so wide it could be shelved altogether. They said: “There’s a chance it may just be dropped”.

Full Article

Councils urged to take control of bus services

Councils have been reminded they can take control of bus services under new powers introduced by the Government.

Buses minister Nusrat Ghani has written to local authorities today reminding them they have the freedom to take greater control of their areas' bus services such as franchising or enhanced partnerships.

Figures show that passenger numbers in several areas have risen between 2009 and 2018, including a 50% increase in Bristol and a 38% rise in Poole.

Full Article

Home Secretary Sajid Javid calls for tax reforms to cut red tape as small business deserts Tories, with 62 per cent saying Government is no longer on their side

Sajid Javid will today back a radical overhaul of small business taxes amid growing evidence that the Tories are losing the support of entrepreneurs.

The Home Secretary will launch a think-tank report which calls for drastic simplification of the tax system to reduce red tape.

The Centre for Policy Studies study by Nick King, a former special adviser to Mr Javid, includes findings that small company owners are losing faith in the Conservative Party.

Full Article

MHCLG oversight of local authority governance 'reactive and ill-informed'

A damning report from the Public Accounts Committee has called on the government to strengthen audit and governance of the “complex and fast-moving” environment that local authorities find themselves in.

The cross-party group of MPs warned that local authorities are now pursuing shared services and taking on commercial risk, but are simultaneously dealing with a “significant” reduction in resources.

The report noted that while some authorities have robust arrangements, others are under strain and have “audit committees that do not provide sufficient assurance, ineffective internal audit, weak arrangements for the management of risk in local authorities’ commercial investments, and inadequate oversight and scrutiny”.

Full Article

Knife crime prevention being ‘seriously hampered’ as councils left in dark about youth offending funding

Efforts to tackle soaring levels of knife crime and county lines activity are being “seriously hampered” because funding for doing so has not yet been announced by central government, council leaders have warned.

Local authorities are still waiting to hear how much money they will receive to tackle youth offending this year – more than two months after they had to set their budgets.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, told The Independent this was making it “extremely difficult” for councils to plan the services that support young people and keep them out of the justice system.

Full Article

Whiteman calls for fair funding delay

The chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy Rob Whiteman says the fair funding review should be delayed until after the Spending Review.

He told the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on Monday that the Fair Funding Review has “quite a bit of work to do yet”, and that it might be best delayed to avoid “unintended consequences”.

He said: “I do wonder whether it might best be delayed in order that there are no unintended consequences to it and that sector is clear on quantum and its abilities to raise money and then any redistributive effects of fair funding …there is a huge amount of work to do to ensure the right foundations for distribution and service specific areas - kids and adult services, and how you look at costs.”

Full Article

Central-local relations at 'all-time low' - study

The relationship between Whitehall and councils has broken down, with local leaders feeling ‘disrespected and marginalised,’ according to a think-tank behind a major new report published today.

One council leader spoken to by the report authors accused central government of ‘bludgeoning’ local government financially and treating it ‘disrespectfully,’ with the relationship now at an ‘all-time low’ after being hindered by frequent ministerial reshuffles.

The report, Hitting Reset – a case for local leadership, called for a ‘renewed relationship of trust and respect’ between local and central government.

Full Article

Troubled Northamptonshire makes ‘unprecedented’ in-year turnaround

Northamptonshire County Council has turned a projected overspend of more than £30m for 2018/19 into a budget surplus of £1m in a turnaround described by the authority’s executive financial director as “unprecedented”.

But the development will not preserve the financial-crisis-hit authority’s future beyond the next two years.

Yesterday, the government confirmed the county council and its seven lower-tier districts will be scrapped and replaced with two new unitary authorities from April 2021.

Full Article

Councils to be placed under legal duty to house victims of domestic abuse

Councils are to be given a legal duty to provide “safe houses” for victims of domestic abuse and their children, under new plans announced by the prime minister.

Theresa May announced the new policy, backed by government funding to be provided to local authorities, in order to end the “postcode lottery” for victims and their children.

Those seeking refuge from violence and domestic abuse currently receive varying levels of support depending on their location, with some unable to find refuge places because there is no provision at all.

Full Article

Mental health spending varies widely across England

There is nearly a two-fold difference in mental health spending across England, an analysis suggests.

Mental health charity Mind looked at investment across 42 NHS regions.

It found that Surrey Heartlands spent the least - £124 per person last year - compared with South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, which spent more than £220.

The charity said the differences were huge and would affect the quality of care but, despite the variation, spending was still rising everywhere.

Full Article

Instant fines for idling drivers ‘would send message about pollution’

Drivers who repeatedly leave their car engine running while parked could be given instant fines under proposals being considered by the government to give councils stronger powers to tackle pollution from idling vehicles.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is supporting Westminster city council’s call to be given the power to fine drivers without warning if they have previously been caught with an idling engine.

At present officers issue a fine if the driver ignores a warning and continues to idle for at least a minute. The fine is £20 or £80 depending on which regulations the authority uses to enforce the law.

Full Article

Female unemployment rate lowest since 1971

Britain's female unemployment rate in the first three months of the year has fallen to 3.7%, the lowest since comparable records began in 1971.

The Office for National Statistics included the figure in data showing the overall unemployment rate in the three-month period stood at 3.8%, the lowest rate since late 1974.

For men the rate was 3.9%, the lowest since mid 1975. Excluding bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees rose by 3.3%.

Full Article

Update on Northamptonshire - Written Statement

Northamptonshire will become 2 unitary authorities, although delayed until after April 2021. Establishment of a Children's Trust to cover the whole of Northamptonshire.

Full Article

Council pays out over £40,000 for ‘mistakes’ in respite centre closure

Southampton City Council has paid thousands of pounds in compensation after an Ombudsman ruled that the authority had caused ‘avoidable distress’ when it closed a respite centre.

In March the Local Government Ombudsman found that families' needs were not properly assessed when the council closed down the Kentish Road centre in 2017 for adults with learning disabilities.

The city council has paid out £40,375 in compensation with most carers due £250-£500 each in recognition of the ‘avoidable uncertainty and distress caused.’

Full Article

Report urges prevention rather than cure in public health spending

A joint report from CIPFA and Public Health England claims that preventative health spending is an investment, not a cost, for communities and called for improved evaluation of public health spending.

The report said that, according to official data, preventative care took up just 5% of the UK's health spending in 2017 at £7.7bn.

CIPFA and PHE claimed that there is “difficulty in forming a coherent, local, system-wide view of prevention investment when costs and benefits are spread across a number of organisations and [when there is] a perception that decisions to invest in prevention are subject to a much higher bar than those to justify treatment spend”.

Full Article

Councils restructuring in face of ‘unparalleled cuts’

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman told the housing, communities and local government committee yesterday that “low-hanging fruit went some time ago”.

“Councils are having to deal with the medium restructuring of their services,” he told the committee. “A real worry is [that] prevention is difficult to protect considering the degree of budget cuts being made.”

Tony Travers, a professor at the London School of Economics, told the MPs that “reductions since 2010-11 are without parallel in modern times [because] of [their] scale, intensity and long time period in which [they have] taken place”. He said that although local government spending had gone up, “central government spending had gone up much more”.

Full Article

Northamptonshire: Unitary authorities plan approved

A plan for two unitary authorities to replace a cash-crisis council has been approved by government.

Northamptonshire County Council's money problems in 2018 led to a scheme to scrap it and seven other district and borough councils next year.

But the new authorities will not be in operation until 1 April 2021, a year later than originally planned.

Full Article

Carillion's ‘relationship with auditors too comfortable’

Ninety-three per cent of construction industry suppliers think the relationship between the ill-fated firm and its auditors, KPMG, was “too cosy”, according to a poll of construction industry leaders.

A further 57% of respondents believed that reforming the ‘big four’ audit firms – PwC, KPMG, EY and Deloitte – is a necessary step.

The poll, which surveyed more than 50 senior managers across the construction sector, found that 76% believed the Financial Reporting Council was too timid in its challenging of questionable financial information.

Full Article

Introduce ‘smart bins’ and hand out tax cuts to drive up recycling, urges think tank

Local authorities should use a new generation of “smart bins” and council tax cuts to drive up household recycling rates, a think tank’s new report has recommended.

Bins fitted with sensors could record household recycling rates, cutting councils’ costs using better-planned rubbish collection routes and then passing these savings onto residents with the highest recycling rates.

The new report, published by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), looks at how new technologies can be used to provide better, more efficient delivery of public services.

Full Article

Councils get £30m boost to look after asylum seeking children

The government has announced a £30m funding boost for councils looking after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) following warnings that minors are being “left in limbo.”

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes revealed that local authorities will receive £114 for each child for every day that they are in their care, which equates to over £41,600 per year per child.

Council leaders welcomed the announcement, saying they were “pleased” the government had listened to councils by announcing new funding to help tackle this rising cost pressure and meet commitments to support children starting a new life in the UK.

Full Article

Government agrees to £30m a year South Yorkshire devolution deal

The government has given the go-ahead for the South Yorkshire devolution deal following a “breakthrough” in March in the stalled £30m a year deal for the Sheffield City Region.

After “years of impasse”, the four South Yorkshire council leaders and mayor Dan Jarvis agreed to a devolution deal, and James Brokenshire the communities secretary has now told the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority (SCR CA) that the deal can go ahead.

The announcement comes more than three years after the initial deal was agreed, with the long delay caused by negotiations and proposals for a One Yorkshire devolution deal.

Full Article

Truss: Spending Review will prioritise SEND children

The chief secretary to the treasury has said that children with special educational needs are a “real priority” in the spending review, which she insisted would cover a three year period.

Speaking at a Local Government Association debate on the spending review, Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss (Con) said she knows that the early years are “incredibly important”.

“We recognise that more funding is needed in special educational needs and children’s services, and I am looking at that in the spending review,” she said.

Full Article

Tories hold on to LGA by tiny margin

The Conservatives have narrowly held on to control of the LGA, following last week’s local elections.

The results of the elections, which saw the Tories lose more than 1,300 seats, means the party now holds 38.8% of the political balance. This is a steep fall from the 43.4% it had in 2018-19 and only 0.8 percentage points ahead of the Labour party.

As the largest party the Conservatives will elect the next chair of the LGA. Current chair Lord Porter must stand down this year after serving the maximum four year term.

Full Article

Deal signed to deliver 3,000 new homes in Nottinghamshire

Rushcliffe Borough Council has welcomed a new deal that will see thousands of new homes delivered in Nottinghamshire.

Homes England has acquired 250 acres of a 605 acre site known as Fairham, and will support all aspects of the delivery to speed up the construction of 3,000 homes.

Working with other land owners, CWC and Rushcliffe BC, the Government’s housing accelerator will also help deliver 100,000 square metres of employment space over the next decade.

Full Article

How rural Britain's 'failing' bus routes compare to our European neighbours

Rural bus services do not provide a “satisfactory alternative” to owning a car, a study reveals, and bus users in the countryside in England have a much poorer service compared to passengers in Europe.

Commuters here have far fewer routes connecting towns and villages, and poorer connections to train services than those on the continent.

Researchers studied bus services in Shropshire – as a typical English shire – and rated them against comparable areas in Germany, Sweden and Switzerland and found “striking” differences.

Full Article

Whitehall ‘unwilling’ to help the high street, committee says

The Government is ‘unwilling’ to give high streets a ‘fighting chance’ in the battle with online retailers, a select committee has concluded.

A report published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in February concluded that business rates were ‘stacking the odds’ against high street retailers.

It urged Whitehall to initiate reforms to provide relief to high street retailers, including giving consideration to proposals for an online sales tax to level the playing field.

In their response to the report, the Government said that such changes would be ‘extremely challenging’.

Full Article

Home Office increases funding for child refugees after warnings lone minors were being left 'in limbo'

The Home Office has said it will increase funding towards the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking children following claims ministers have been “paying lip service” to child refugees as councils struggle to provide for them.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said local authorities would receive £114 for each child every day that they are in their care, regardless of the child’s age or when they entered the UK.

This equates to over £41,600 per year per child and marking a 61 per cent increase on the lowest rate that is currently paid.

Full Article

Rising knife crime linked to council cuts, study suggests

Places in England that have seen the biggest council spending cuts to youth services are likely to see the biggest increases in knife crime, a study says.

Research by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime showed the average council cut real-terms spending on youth services - such as youth clubs - by 40% between 2014/15 and 2017/18.

And the four worst-hit areas have seen some of the biggest knife crime rises.

Full Article

Youth club closures put young people at risk of violence, warn MPs

Youth club closures are putting young people at greater risk of violence, according to a committee of MPs which has found that English councils have slashed funding on youth services by 40% on average in the last three years.

After a bank holiday weekend which began with news of the fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Tashaun Aird and continued with the killing of an 18-year-old in south London, the 28th knife fatality in the capital this year, the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime revealed new data from more than 100 councils showing cuts to youth services of up to 91%. It claimed areas that had suffered the largest cuts to spending on young people had seen bigger increases in knife crime.

Full Article

Excluded pupils' results 'to be part of league tables'

Schools in England will have to stay accountable for pupils they exclude, a government-backed review has said.

It could mean school league table rankings having to include the exam results of pupils who have been excluded and moved elsewhere.

The intention is to stop so-called "off-rolling", where schools remove difficult or low-achieving pupils.

"Exclusion from school should never mean exclusion from education," said review author Edward Timpson.

Full Article

Basic income of £48 a week in UK urged

Every adult in the UK should receive a weekly basic income of £48, according to the recommendations in a new report.

The move could be paid for by scrapping more than 1,000 tax reliefs, Professor Guy Standing's report says.

The Labour Party has welcomed the report, but insisted it was an independent report which it would study ahead of drawing up its next manifesto.

Full Article

Schools 'should fine parents who swear at teachers, skip parents' evenings and fail to enforce their children's detentions'

Foulmouthed parents who abuse teachers, skip parents' evenings or fail to co-operate with Saturday morning detentions should face fines over their behaviour, a former chief Ofsted inspector has argued.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Sir Michael Wilshaw added the rising level of abuse that teachers now have to confront from parents, coupled with a lack of support from government ministers, has persuaded many to turn their backs on state education for good.

As a result, there are fears of a national shortage of head teachers with the right experience and skills in tackling failing schools.

Full Article

Academisation rebellion: parents resist school takeovers

A wave of resistance by parents against their schools being taken over by academy trusts is building across the country, with protests in Essex, Kent, London, West Yorkshire, East Sussex, Dorset, Hertfordshire and beyond, according to campaigners.

This week there were two big protests by parents and teachers: one at Waltham Holy Cross primary school in Waltham Abbey, Essex, last Sunday; and on Wednesday strikes and protests closed three schools in Peacehaven, near Brighton in East Sussex.

Campaigners say there has been a shift in parents’ attitudes, with many now better informed about academisation and more willing to challenge decisions to take their community schools out of local authority control and hand them to private trusts.

Full Article

‘Massively unfair’ gulf in bus fares between London and rest of England

Bus passengers across England are paying “massively unfair” fares of up to £6 for a single journey, four times the amount Londoners are charged to traverse the capital, Guardian research has found.

Analysis of a snapshot of five-mile bus trips in local authorities across England found that while a single bus ticket in London costs £1.50, passengers elsewhere pay far more despite often experiencing worse services.

The research showed the most expensive fare for a five-mile journey was in Hampshire, where a single ticket from Winchester The Broadway to Matterley Farm, Tichborne, costs £5.65.

Full Article

Schools sports facilities may open in summer to fight child obesity

Downing Street is considering forcing schools to open over the summer so they can be used for activities to boost children’s fitness and stop them getting involved in crime.

Theresa May’s advisers have discussed the change with education, physical activity and sports experts who are lobbying for it.

Under the plan, schools in England would start hosting sporting, creative and other activities in their gyms, halls and on sports pitches, but not in classrooms. The drive is intended to help tackle childhood obesity, give under-18s somewhere to go and help tackle the “holiday hell” facing families needing childcare in July and August.

Full Article

Local elections: Results in maps and charts

Results so far from local elections in England and Northern Ireland suggest voters are unhappy with the two main parties in Westminster.

Full Article

Election 2019: Council polls to take place across England and NI

Voters are heading to the polls for council and mayoral elections across England and Northern Ireland.

Elections are being held for 248 English councils, six mayors and all 11 councils in Northern Ireland.

Polling stations for the vote - spanning metropolitan and district councils and unitary authorities - opened at 07:00 BST and will close at 22:00 BST.

Full Article

Secret to happiness? A free bus pass in your 60s as researchers link fewer symptoms of depression with concessionary travel cards

Having a free bus pass leads to a happier life, research has found.

Those who receive concessionary travel are more likely to enjoy a better quality of life, have greater life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression than those who do not, according to researchers from University College London.

Their study also discovered that older people with bus passes are more physically active and less socially isolated than those without one. The analysis comes after peers said last week that pensioners should be stripped of ‘outdated’ perks such as free bus passes to make Britain fairer for younger people.

Full Article

County chiefs call for government to lead on reorganisation


County council chief executives are calling on the government to set out a firm position on local government reorganisation – and say many politicians support their position.

Nottinghamshire CC chief executive and chair of the Association of County Council Chief Executives Anthony May told LGC minsters’ current bottom up approach, which has seen only proposals with broad local support approved, was not working.

“What we would like is for the government to take a lead on [restructuring],” he said. “It does seem to the association that it’s an issue for central government.”

Full Article

Health visiting services on 'knife-edge' as cuts take toll

Health visiting services in England are on a “knife-edge”, a nursing charity chief has warned, as staff numbers continue to plummet in the wake of systematic budget cuts.

Dr Cheryll Adams, executive director of the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), said an extra 5,000 to 6,000 health visitors were needed to be able to “deliver against the research” for early years care.

She cautioned that gaps in services were already leading to more children going into care and more growing up with mental health problems.

Full Article

Leeds child obesity: ‘My two-year-old only ate baked beans’

In 2013, more than 20 per cent of children in the Dutch city were found to be overweight or obese, way above the national average of 13 per cent in the Netherlands.

The “Amsterdam model” of tackling obesity, costing £5 million a year, begins with counselling for pregnant women and continues for the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. The results are striking. The council’s health department figures show the number of overweight and obese children in Amsterdam to be down 12 per cent while the national average has remained the same.

Children and parents are given cooking classes to teach, as the council puts it, “healthy varieties of ethnic dishes”.

Full Article

Children's services 'at breaking point', MPs say

Children's services in England are at breaking point and need a £3.1bn minimum funding boost by 2025, MPs say.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee said current funding levels were unsustainable.

Its report said as services tried to respond to growing demand, amid severe funding pressures, many were reliant on the goodwill of staff.

Full Article

Queen’s speech delayed until Brexit deal reached

The Queen’s speech, which marks the beginning of a new parliamentary session, will be delayed until a Brexit agreement has been reached, the prime minister’s spokesperson has said.

A new session in parliament was supposed to begin in June but the prime minister has suggested this will not happen until a Brexit agreement is reached.

At a lobby briefing yesterday morning Theresa May’s spokesman said that the EU withdrawal bill “is part of the current Queen’s speech cycle and we need to finish that work”.

Full Article

Four Seasons Health Care: Care home giant on brink of collapse

Four Seasons Health Care (FSHC), one of Britain's biggest private care home operators, has appointed administrators after months of failed efforts to reduce its mammoth debt pile.

The announcement, confirming a story first reported by Sky News, will see the group - a key player in the UK's social care sector - put up for sale.

Four Seasons, which has 253 residential and nursing care homes, serves about 17,000 residents and patients, employing roughly 20,000 staff.

Full Article

Unexpected rise in voter registrations

More than half a million people have applied to register to vote in the upcoming local elections, the Electoral Commission has revealed, 36% more than expected.

In the run up to this week’s poll 570,000 people applied to join the electoral register across England and Northern Ireland, compared to a target or 400,000 in England and 27,000 in Northern Ireland, the commission said.

Full Article

Former cabinet minister unveils plan to tackle care funding crisis

A new universal entitlement to adult social care based on the model of the state pension should be introduced to address the current “financially and politically unsustainable” system, according to former cabinet minister Damian Green.

Mr Green, who as first secretary of state was put in charge of delivering the promised social care green paper, says shifting care costs from councils to Whitehall would ease pressure on local authority budgets and boost the delivery of more retirement housing and care homes.

In a report published today by the think tank Centre for Policy Studies, Mr Green suggests that an immediate funding gap of about £2.75bn could be filled by the introduction of a tax on winter fuel allowance or diverting savings from the spending review.

Full Article

Social care: Homeowners urged to pay £30,000 towards care by downsizing

Wealthier homeowners should be asked to make a voluntary payment of up to £30,000 for their care needs in old age, a new report argues.

The Centre for Policy Studies proposes a system in which everyone receives a state-funded weekly care payment.

Those able to downsize or release equity from their homes would also be encouraged to contribute more to plug the current funding gap.

But critics say it would not be enough to address the £7bn shortfall.

Full Article

Rural areas 'ignored' by Government, Lords claim

City Deals should be adapted and offered to ‘ignored’ rural areas, peers have said in a new report.

The House of Lords Rural Economy Committee argued that local rural strategies akin to City Deals, including devolved decision-making and funding, should be developed to redress an imbalance in favour of metropolitan areas.

Committee chair, Lord Foster of Bath, said: ‘Rural communities and the economies in them have been ignored and underrated for too long. We must act now to reverse this trend, but we can no longer allow the clear inequalities between the urban and rural to continue unchecked.’

Full Article

Auditors find ‘significant weaknesses’ in record-breaking investment deal and slam Surrey [district] council’s £1bn ‘property roulette’

Auditors have slammed a district council in Surrey which undertook the most expensive property investment ever made by a local authority after it found “significant weaknesses” in its financial processes.

KPMG delivered a damning assessment of Spelthorne Borough Council’s purchase of a BP research centre in Sunbury for £385m in September 2016, one of a number of costly property investments in the authority’s £1bn portfolio.

The auditors found that the acquisition of the site was decided by council officers without any public scrutiny, and the decision-making process was conducted via email and was “generally poor and difficult to follow.”

Full Article

Amount of unpaid council tax rises to £3bn

The total amount of unpaid council tax has risen to more than £3bn, according to the latest figures. Research by Citizens Advice says around 2.2 million households – 10% of the total – are behind with payments.

Council tax arrears grew by a third in the eight years up to 2018, the charity warns, up by 6% in the last year alone. However, it is calling for a series of measures to prevent bailiffs using aggressive methods to collect the debts including setting up an independent watchdog.

Full Article

Labour pledges to fund 160k extra care packages

Labour has announced a plan to invest £2.8bn to provide support for an extra 160,000 older people.

The party said today a package of increased investment, including a £350m investment in developing the social care workforce, would reverse reductions in government funding since 2015 and ensure both the over-65s and younger adults would receive the care they need.

Labour said it would invest £350m per year to support people with autism and learning disabilities move back into the community from “inappropriate” inpatient units.

Full Article

Spending Review could be next year because of Brexit

Philip Hammond has hinted if the Treasury goes ahead with a three-year Spending Review it might not happen in 2019, to a group of MPs.

The chancellor told the treasury select committee today that it would be “unwise” to make a three-year settlement before details of Britain’s exit from the EU were agreed.

When pressed on whether the six-month extension to Brexit discussion meant the Spending Review would be delayed until next year, Hammond did not answer the question.

Full Article

Government to hear Brexit legal base fears

Continuing concerns around the future legal base of regulatory work after Brexit will be raised at the next EU exit local government delivery board. A meeting – pencilled in for the middle of next month – is expected to hear that there is ‘no clear picture’ of the progress that has been made on converting the EU laws that many regulatory services are based on into UK law.

Full Article

UK falls behind on public service spending

Spending on public services in Britain would be higher by £2,500 per person each year if the government matched comparable European levels of funding, an analysis shows today.

The Institute for Public Policy Research found that Britain spends about 40 per cent of GDP on public services, down from 47 per cent in 2010. European spending has also fallen, but comparable EU countries still spend an average of 48 per cent of their GDP on areas such as health, education and welfare, the think tank said.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden were classed as the comparable countries.

Full Article

Mental health patients detained in hospital wards for up to 21 years

A patient locked in a secure ward for more than 21 years is among hundreds of people with mental health problems being kept in what one MP has called “old-style asylums” in NHS hospitals, an investigation can reveal.

Keeping people in so-called “locked rehabilitation wards” has been condemned as “outdated and sometimes institutionalised care”, by the NHS watchdog, with many patients housed far from their homes. This is despite a 2017 report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that said the model of care had no place in a modern healthcare system.

Full Article

Have the poorest councils had the biggest cuts?

analysis found that, across England, the average [median] cut to spending power was £297 per household. That is to say, half of councils had bigger cuts than that and half smaller.

For example, the London Borough of Hackney's spending power per household fell by £1,432, compared with only £1.78 per household in Wokingham in Berkshire. Only the Isles of Scilly had increased its spending power - by £350 per household.

Full Article

Homelessness charity wins £3.6m lottery grant

A charity which helps people battling with homelessness, long-term unemployment and addiction is set to expand thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund. St Giles Trust plans to establish a national network of seven 'peer hubs' over the next four years with the potential to help 6,000 people.

Full Article

Over 1,500 pubs close since controversial business rates revaluation

Hundreds of local pubs closed down last year due to a ‘myriad of cost pressures’, new research reveals.

According to real estate advisor Altus Group’s annual business rates review, set to be published this week, a total of 914 pubs ‘vanished’ in 2018, an average of about 76 per month.

At the beginning of 2019, the total number of pubs in England and Wales liable for business rates fell to 41,536 with the overall number declining by 1,530 since the revaluation of business rates came into force in 2017.

Full Article

Mental health of pupils is 'at crisis point', teachers warn

More than eight out of 10 teachers say mental health among pupils in England has deteriorated in the past two years – with rising reports of anxiety, self-harm and even cases of suicide – against a backdrop of inadequate support in schools.

In a survey of 8,600 school leaders, teachers and support workers, 83% said they had witnessed an increase in the number of children in their care with poor mental health, rising to 90% among students in colleges.

Many described a sense of helplessness in the face of the crisis. One said it was “like a slow-motion car crash for our young people that I am powerless to stop and can’t bear to watch or be part of any more”.

Full Article

Warning over pupils moving between schools

There are warnings that some of the 55,000 "unexplained" moves by pupils between schools in England over five years could include schools wanting to remove difficult children.

The Education Policy Institute has looked at cases where pupils have changed school without moving home.

Almost a quarter of these moves have taken place in 330 secondary schools.

David Laws, chairman of the think tank, said it raised concerns "whether some schools are 'off-rolling' pupils".

Full Article

County and district push ahead with 'non-structural reform'

A county and district council are set to press ahead with further joint working in a move they hope will “trigger a broader conversation” nationally about how councils can work better together in two-tier areas.

Oxfordshire CC and Cherwell DC have been sharing chief executive Yvonne Rees since October. Since then they have made five other shared senior appointments which a report due to be discussed by the county’s cabinet next week said was forecast to save each council just over £300,000 in 2019-20.

Full Article

LGPS governance consultation moots s151 responsibilities split

Local authorities could be required to remove pension fund responsibilities from section 151 officers under forthcoming LGPS governance reforms.

The suggestion is among a raft of measures mooted within four main proposed governance models on which the LGPS Scheme Advisory Board (SAB) launched a consultation this week.

The proposals follow an initial fact-finding exercise carried out by pension consultant Hymans Robertson, following their appointment in January to explore governance improvements.

Full Article

What about social care? [opinion]

Social care in England provides employment for some 1.5 million people (not including those working as personal assistants) – that’s more than the number of people who work in the NHS. The largest group are care workers – typically in residential settings or working in home support. The sustainability of social care is therefore founded upon this group of people who, despite their pay grade, have significant skills...

Full Article

Four out of 10 teachers plan to quit, survey suggests

Where do you see yourself in five years' time? No longer working in education, 40% of UK teachers surveyed by a teachers' union replied.

It may sound like a cliched interview question, but the National Education Union says that the answer is evidence of a "culture of fear" in schools.

Its survey of 8,600 members found most of those leaving blamed "huge workloads and excessive accountability".

Full Article

Families still struggle to find primary school places in English cities

Families in major English cities are still struggling to find places in their preferred primary schools, with demand remaining high in local authorities including Manchester, Birmingham and several London boroughs.

Despite a levelling off in the number of children enrolling for their first year of formal schooling aged four or five, many councils across England reported rising numbers of applications for about 700,000 primary school places this September.

On national primary school offer day, London’s local authorities announced a one percentage point drop to 85% in the proportion of families who were offered their first preference, while there was also a slight dip in those receiving any of their top three school choices compared with 2018.

Full Article

Special needs provision in schools cut by over £1bn

Children and young people who have special educational needs and disabilities have lost out on £1.2bn of Government funding over the last four years.

The number of children and young people granted an Education Health Care Plan has risen from 240,000 to 320,000 since 2015. These plans are a legal document stating a child’s entitlement to funding for support for complex needs.

Despite this 33% increase in demand, the National Education Union has calculated that funding for the high needs block has only increased by 6% over the same period, from £5.6bn to £6bn.

Full Article

High Court ruling clarifies councils’ SEND funding duties

Local authorities can legally allocate funding for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) using banding levels rather than having to calculate individualised provision costs, a court has ruled.

A High Court judgement last week rejected all 10 grounds of a challenge by a group of families to London Borough of Hackney’s policies on distributing SEND resources.

The court also concluded that the council had not breached its “section 42” duty to provide care for SEND pupils when it reduced one element of the funding by 5% in April last year.

Full Article

SEND funding cut by more than £1bn as nine in 10 councils hit ‘massive funding shortfall’

ouncils have seen a £1.2bn drop in real-terms funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) over the last four years as the Nation Education Union (NEU) warns that local authorities have reached “crisis point.”

Nine of out 10 councils face shortfalls of thousands of pounds and do not have enough money to provide adequate resources for the SEND provision in schools because government funding fails to keep up with growing demand.

The number of children and young people granted an Educational Health Care Plan has risen from 240,000 to 320,000 since 2010, but despite the 33% increase in demand the NEU has calculated that funding has only increased by 6%.

Full Article

Details delay social care green paper

Delays to the social care green paper are a result of the need for “greater consideration” of proposals, PF has heard.

Sector leaders have warned the pressure on social care in England “does not abate” after the government missed a fifth consecutive deadline for the green paper’s publication.

While Brexit has played a part in delaying the document, issues with the early proposals put to sector leaders have also contributed to the slow progress.

Full Article

Children with special needs forced out of school for years as funding fails to meet demand

Hundreds of shocking cases of children with special needs being forced out of school have emerged as figures reveal a £1.2bn drop in real-terms funding over the past four years.

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are out of school for years at a time as government funding to local authorities has failed to keep up with a rise in demand.

In a litany of case studies revealed to The Independent, families say long periods at home have damaged their children’s mental health as they wait for councils to find suitable provision.

Full Article

Are we witnessing the return of the council house?

In the 1920s, Stepney library, in working-class east London, was at the centre of a police investigation. A reader had asked the library to obtain a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses, a modernist masterpiece that governments across the world were trying to ban. As Kevin Birmingham shows in his history of the novel, a covert inquiry was launched to determine the identity of the Joyce fanatic. The police concluded that he was a “red-hot Socialist”.

Stepney library is again part of a socialist experiment, which if not red-hot is at least warming up. Tower Hamlets, the local authority, recently revealed plans to replace the library, which closed over a decade ago, with five council-built homes, as part of a drive to put up 2,000 by 2022. It is quite a change for a council which until recently built almost none. What is happening in Tower Hamlets is happening across Britain. Last year councils put up 4,000 homes, the most since 1992.

Full Article

Council tax debts in England soar 40% in six years

Council tax debts in England have soared by nearly 40% in six years, Guardian research has found, with charities warning these arrears now rival credit card debts as their biggest concern.

Amid warnings that “heavy-handed” collection tactics are putting severe pressure on those already in financial difficulty, households face a fourth consecutive year of above-inflation council tax rises as local authorities attempt to recoup money cut from their budgets by central government. The annual band D bill will rise by an average of £75.60.

Guardian analysis of government figures found the total amount of council tax arrears across Englandin the 2017-18 financial year was £944m, 37% higher than in 2012-13, when it was £691m.

Full Article

Stephen Hughes: Growing national income can fund local services

Gross domestic product, or what the country produces and consumes, stood in 2018 at around £2.03tn in 2016 prices, compared to £1.01tn in 1986.

At an average annual compound growth rate of just over 2%, the country earns and spends twice as much as it did 32 years ago. That is in real terms, including holidays taken, shoes bought, health care and education received, having adjusted for increases in price and consumer tastes.

While current growth rates are not at that level, governments still assume that trend growth rate is going to be 2% a year. For example, the Treasury’s green book for evaluating all spending projects uses a 2% discount rate for ‘wealth effects’ because of assumed GDP growth. Should that come to pass, by about 2054 GDP at 2016 prices will be well over £4tn. That is an extra £2tn of income a year.

Full Article

EU foster children should be given automatic British citizenship, charity says

Thousands of EU children living in foster care in the UK should be given automatic British citizenship to avoid becoming the new Windrush generation, say a leading children's charity.

Coram, a legal children's centre specialising in adoption and fostering services, has warned that thousands of children risk being left undocumented when the UK leaves the European Union because they are unaware of the EU settlement scheme or find it too complicated.

The government has launched an online settlement application which all EU nationals must complete in order to remain in the UK and be able to work, access healthcare and education.

Full Article

Ofsted uncovers 500 suspected illegal schools in England

More than 500 suspected illegal schools, educating thousands of pupils, have been identified in England over the past three years by the schools watchdog Ofsted, according to data published for the first time.

In some cases local authorities were unwittingly sending children to unlicensed alternative provision. In one case, a council paid £27,000 a year for one of its students to be educated in an unregistered setting. Elsewhere, students were found being taught by teachers who had been banned and untrained staff who had undergone no employment checks, in buildings where hygiene and facilities were poor.

The data, released by Ofsted on Friday and never published before, shows the illegal schools task force has investigated 521 settings, and inspected 259 since January 2016.

Full Article

Unregistered schools given council funding

Local authorities are paying for places for children in settings that are not even registered, Ofsted is warning.

England's education watchdog has called for tougher rules on tackling illegal "schools" with risks of poor conditions and a lack of safeguarding.

Inspectors suggest 6,000 children are taught in such unregulated settings.

But the watchdog said councils were subsidising these unregistered alternatives to school, paying up to £27,000 a year for places.

Full Article

Care homes 'failing to keep pace with just 10 beds for every 100 people over 75'

Care and nursing homes places are failing to keep pace with the ageing population, a report reveals.

There were just 10.1 care beds for every 100 people over the age of 75 last year, says Public Health England.

This is the lowest figure in at least six years, and a drop from 2012 of 11.3.

Data also recently revealed older people’s social care has faced a £160million cut in the past five years.

Full Article

Developers encouraged to fund school places

The Government has published new guidance which sets out how councils can encourage housing developers to fund the school places their developments create.

The guidance, which was published today by the Department for Education, will support local authorities to negotiate what funding and land is required from housing developers for new schools and school expansions.

‘It isn’t enough for developers simply to build houses; we need to build communities. Schools are at the centre of any community and that’s why it’s vital that developers contribute to the cost of the school places they create,’ said schools minister Lord Agnew.

Full Article

Corbyn launches attack on fair funding review

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has entered the debate over the fair funding review, claiming it ‘will make poorer areas even poorer’.

In a clash with prime minister Theresa May in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Corbyn said she had ‘pushed councils to the brink’.

Calling the fairer funding formula ‘a phrase that George Orwell would have been very proud of,’ he said removing deprivation as a factor in the review would hit councils in poorer areas of the country hardest.

Full Article

Minister: Response to high streets fund 'fantastic'

The union representing chief executives and senior mangers has criticised revived government plans to limit public sector exit payments to £95,000, branding it a “significant interference” by ministers.

A consultation on draft regulations to implement the cap was published today by the Treasury. The rules will affect staff in local government, the police, schools, the NHS and the civil service.

The regulations would implement powers created in the Enterprise Act 2016 which had not previously been acted on, prompting speculation the policy was being rethought. However, as LGC reported in March ministers have decided to revive the policy.

Full Article

IMF's Lagarde says further Brexit delay will 'hinder' UK growth

Further uncertainty over Brexit will hinder growth in the UK economy, the head of IMF has told the BBC.

Speaking ahead of the agreement of an extension to Article 50, Christine Lagarde warned that businesses and investors will remain hesitant in the coming months.

She said any prolonged uncertainty would have a "negative impact".

Full Article

Wales promotes council tax discounts for mentally impaired

The Welsh Government is making it easier for those living with severe mental impairments to get big discounts and rebates on their council tax bills.

The move follows a long campaign by consumer website MoneySavingExpert.

It's helped Sian Higginson and her 88-year-old mother, Pat Hughes, who suffers from dementia.

Full Article

Two-thirds of councils say they can’t afford to comply with homelessness law

The Homelessness Reduction Act, in operation for the past 12 months, is potentially the greatest piece of homelessness legislation for 40 years in England, according to Southwark council in south London. The Labour-run council pioneered the government’s new flagship act, and is upbeat about it. While homelessness went up in the borough last year, as it did across London, the rise was less steep than expected: 8.6% for families placed in temporary accommodation and a similarly small increase for rough sleepers. At the same time, there was also a 50% increase in the number of people the council helped to stay in their home. “It shows the act works,” says the council’s cabinet member for housing, Stephanie Cryan.

Full Article

Children who need help with mental health face postcode lottery – study

Children suffering anxiety, depression and other low-level mental health conditions face a postcode lottery when seeking treatment, research has shown.

There are wide disparities in spending per child in different parts of England with more than a third of areas seeing a real-terms fall in spending on these services. This is despite soaring demand and increased government funding for children’s mental health nationally, the study by the children’s commissioner for England found.

Experts said early intervention by school nurses, counsellors, drop-in centres or online support services to address low-level conditions can prevent them developing into more serious illnesses. And the report warned children may be losing out at this crucial point.

Full Article

Family's anger as government's social care plans delayed for fifth time

Care providers and families living with the impact of long-term conditions have urged the government to set out its plans for social care after a long-awaited green paper was delayed for a fifth time.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a parliamentary select committee that proposals for the long-term reform of care funding, first promised in 2017, would be published by the end of March.

That deadline has now passed and rules governing local elections mean the green paper cannot now be released until after polling day on 2 May at the earliest.

Full Article

PMQs erupts as Corbyn savages council cuts - 'George Orwell would've been proud'

Jeremy Corbyn launched a furious attack today on Tory council cuts declaring: "George Orwell would have been proud".

Labour's leader quoted the writer - who invented words like "doublespeak" to describe government spin - as he warned a new so-called "fairer" funding model could decimate town halls in poor areas.

The method for handing councils government cash is changing to make it "better and fairer", Tory ministers say.

But they have faced a backlash, including from 1,500 public sector chiefs, for proposing not to include "deprivation" in the new formula.

Full Article

Philip Hammond unveils tax cut

Phillip Hammond will give 32 million hard working Britons a tax cut today in a massive boost to help turbocharge the UK economy.

Writing exclusively in the Daily Express the Chancellor explains the move will put more money in the pockets of "families, strivers, grafters and carers" up and down the country. "They are the lifeblood of our economy – who keep the country going no matter what,” the Chancellor says. His blockbuster giveaway, which comes ahead of Britain’s exit from the European Union, has been made possible because of a tax windfall from our surging economy.

Full Article

The price of Brexit has been £66 billion so far, plus an impending recession — and it hasn't even started yet

The damage to the UK economy due to Brexit has cost £66 billion ($86 billion) so far, and left the United Kingdom teetering at the brink of a new recession, according to economic data published last week.

An analysis by S&P Global Ratings analyst Boris Glass found that the decline of the pound, increase in inflation, erosion of household spending power, decline in house prices, and weak exports led to a 3% reduction in GDP. "That translates into average forgone economic activity of £6.6 billion (in 2016 prices) in each of the 10 quarters since the referendum," Glass said in a research note.

Full Article

Local elections: 12 councils to watch [opinion]

Psephologists Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher on some of this year’s most interesting contests..

Full Article

Rob Whiteman: A wider response is needed to Northamptonshire [opinion]

Within local government there has been a gradual transition to a new financial reality.

A decade of austerity has seen local government funding nearly halved while demand has risen. This has brought with it a significant change to the way organisations make financial decisions and think about risk.

We have seen a rise in commercial activity, a cutting of core services and greater use of reserves. The innovative ways councils have shown they can reduce costs are leading edge, but balancing a budget is still difficult and fraught with challenge, whether that is personal, political or financial.

Full Article

LGA in finance director plea

Council finance directors have been urged to detail the pressures facing services and the savings they have been forced to make in a new survey.

The Local Government Association (LGA) survey comes as part of the organisation’s campaign to influence this year’s Spending Review.

Its survey, asks directors for the amount of additional income their council has generated since 2015, how confident they are that various service areas will be protected from further cuts in the next four years and for which services funding is the greatest concern.

Full Article

Councils spend millions on agency social workers amid recruiting crisis

Local authorities are having to spend millions of pounds on social work agencies as they struggle to recruit permanent staff, with some authorities employing nearly half of their children’s social workers through private companies, a Guardian investigation has found.

Data obtained through freedom of information requests shows that many English councils are routinely spending tens of millions of pounds – a total of at least £335m in 2017/18 – hiring agency social workers.

Experts said the difficulty experienced by councils in attracting permanent staff meant vulnerable children and families were often seeing multiple social workers in a single year, making it harder for them to engage with services.

Full Article

What do parish councils do?

The story begins during a freezing Derbyshire winter, with a simple request for a £360 grit bin at the top of the steep hill where Tony Beginn lives with his wife, Gwen. It has ended in a bitter stand-off between Tony and the seven undoubtedly committed and well-meaning members of Castle Gresley parish council. Tony, 68, a retired engineer, describes his experience as like “entering a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent”.

“I don’t doubt that local councillors take on the role with the best intention of serving their communities,” he says. “But my experience is that many are poorly qualified and ill equipped for the task. They are free to make arbitrary decisions and, when challenged, answer to no one.”

Full Article

Ofsted grades are misleading parents and are wrong in up to half of cases, ex-Government adviser says

Ofsted grades are misleading parents and are wrong in up to half of cases, a former Government adviser has said.

The lack of consistency is so severe that grades should be scrapped altogether, according to new report by Tom Richmond who is now director of EDSK, a think-tank specialising in education and skills.

He cited research which demonstrates that thousands of schools could have been given the wrong rating over the years.

Full Article

The England that Westminster forgot

Straddling the winding A697 into Scotland, the small border town of Wooler could easily have followed countless other places in a familiar spiral of decline: seemingly left behind, ignored by decisionmakers, starved of essential services, as big cities powered ahead leaving others struggling to survive.

It is a familiar story. Local industries contract. Banks close; two recently in Wooler. Shops shut. Libraries disappear. Bus services are axed, leaving many isolated. From the old mill towns of Lancashire to the once-thriving mining communities across the Pennines in the North East and Yorkshire, some towns seem to have disappeared from the political radar screen, out of sight and mind of government.

Full Article

Newham Council fined £145,000 over gangs list leak

A London council has been fined after a Met Police list containing names of suspected gang members ended up in the hands of rival gangs.

The unredacted list, which included addresses of 203 alleged gang members, was leaked after being emailed to others by a Newham Council worker.

Investigators said some on the list had been "victims of violence", but it was "not possible to say" if the attacks had been a result of the breach.

Full Article

Seaside town reinvention 'should start with Blackpool'

Seaside towns have been neglected for too long and are in desperate need of reinvention, a parliament report said.

Young people in coastal communities are being "let down and left behind" by issues like transport, housing and post-16 education, the document said.

The House of Lords' plan suggested solving problems in Blackpool could prove key in tackling issues at bucket and spade resorts across England.

"If you can solve it there you can solve it anywhere," the report said.

Full Article

Funding for pupils with special educational needs drops 17%

The government has been accused of failing children with special educational needs after a report found funding for pupils had been cut by 17% across England since 2015.

The report by the thinktank IPPR North also revealed the north had been worst affected, with cuts of 22% per pupil. Researchers found government spending on support for children and young people with the most complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) had failed to keep pace with rising demand, resulting in a reduction in funds available per pupil.

Full Article

‘North suffers most from special educational needs budget cuts’

Special educational needs budgets in England have been slashed by an average of 17% since 2015, think-tank analysis has shown. The north of England has been hit hardest with cuts of 22% per pupil, according to analysis by the Institute of Public Policy Research out today.

Children with special educational needs receive support through a ‘Education, Health and Care plan. IPPR found that average funding per EHC plan fell from £23,111 in 2015 to just £19,120 in 2018-19. In the north of England the average money put towards EHC plans dropped from £23,560 to £18,275 in over the same [period].

Full Article

Councils say homelessness act not adequately funded

Up to 67% of councils feel they lack the funding to meet new duties to tackle homelessness, analysis has found.

Urban councils in particular are feeling the strain with 86% suggesting the £72.7m handed down from government to fund extra responsibilities is not enough, according to a survey by the New Local Government Network think-tank.

Improved advice about homelessness, personalised housing plans and extending the timeframe that councils help people facing homelessness were just some of the duties implemented under the Homelessness Reduction Act this time last year.

Full Article

‘North suffers most from special educational needs budget cuts’

Special educational needs budgets in England have been slashed by an average of 17% since 2015, think-tank analysis has shown.

Special educational needs budgets in England have been slashed by an average of 17% since 2015, think-tank analysis has shown.

The north of England has been hit hardest with cuts of 22% per pupil, according to analysis by the Institute of Public Policy Research out today.

Full Article

Tories resign to fight former colleagues as Dorset tension continues

A group of anti-reorganisation Conservative councillors are set to stand against their former colleagues as independents in the forthcoming inaugural election of the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, as the fall-out from the reorganisation continues.

The five-strong group of former Christchurch BC councillors, who opposed the merger with Bournemouth BC and Borough of Poole, includes the former council leader David Flagg, a vocal critic of reorganisation. LGC understands Mr Flag was rejected by an internal Conservative party candidate approval process ahead of the election on May 2.

Nick Geary, another critic of reorganisation, is also said to have fallen foul of this process, which is required under Conservative rules as the candidates would be standing for a new council. Cllr Geary is also planning to stand as an independent.

Full Article

Brexit: Councils left in the dark, MPs say

The government needs to stop leaving councils "in the dark" over Brexit and urgently provide more support, MPs say.

The Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government committee said ministers should prioritise making sure that EU funding will be fully replaced after the UK leaves the EU.

Its report said plans for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund need to be fast-tracked to fill the gap.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU on 12 April.

Full Article

Mother sues over daughter's suicide attempt in school isolation booth

A woman whose daughter tried to kill herself while in an isolation booth at an academy school is to take legal action against the government.

The child, who cannot be named, has autistic spectrum disorder and mental health problems, but was put in an isolation booth by her school in Kent for more than a month.

Prior to the intervention of lawyers in mid-March, she had spent every day since mid-January in isolation, meaning she had to remain silent throughout the day and had no directed teaching.

Full Article

Northants closes £65m funding gap in under a year

Northamtonshire County Council has had its emergency section 114 notice lifted after wiping out a £65m funding gap in less than a year.

A report to its cabinet next week says it is now set to be £100,000 in the black in what council leader Matt Golby claimed as a 'remarkable achievement'.

However, he said the council's position was still 'fragile' and 'robust spending controls' would continue.

Full Article

Government homelessness funding 'not enough'

Two out of three councils do not think £73m Government funding to help them fulfil their statutory duty to prevent homelessness is enough, a NLGN survey has found.

Some 67% of council chief executives and leaders who responded to the survey, published one year after the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act, said the funding was not proving adequate in the face of high demand.

The survey by the NLGN think-tank also found four in 10 councils thought it unlikely or very unlikely they will eradicate rough sleeping by the Government’s target of 2027. Head of public affairs at charity Centrepoint, Paul Noblet, said: ‘This shows the huge challenges faced by cash-strapped councils across the country as they attempt to support increasing numbers of people.

Full Article

Council register of home-schooled children proposed

Parents will be required to register home-educated children with their local authority under government proposals intended to prevent young people from disappearing off the radar.

An estimated 60,000 children are thought to be educated at home – a figure that is rising by about a quarter each year. The register will for the first time enable authorities to see where children are if they are not in school and intervene more effectively if required.

The proposals, which will be outlined by the education secretary, Damian Hinds, on Tuesday, are intended to address concerns about soaring numbers of children out of school, particularly those who have been “off-rolled” or are attending illegal schools.

Full Article

Liddington: EU elections preparations will be funded

The government has approved plans for European elections as a contingency measure, and has confirmed that returning officers will be reimbursed for any costs incurred as a result of preparations.

Following the failure of Friday’s vote to break the Brexit deadlock, the government announced yesterday evening that it is no longer able to guarantee that the UK would not participate in EU elections on May 23.

As LGC reported yesterday, returning officers had expressed concerns at having to stump up election planning costs for which they did not expect to be reimbursed for, in the event that the European elections did not take place in the UK.

Full Article

Minimum wage rates rise, but bills go up too

Two million UK workers on minimum wages are now receiving a pay rise - but a string of household bills have also increased.

Workers aged 25 and over on the National Living Wage will receive £8.21 an hour from Monday, up from £7.83 - a 4.9% rise.

Pay rises also take effect for younger workers on minimum wages.

Full Article

Fund to fix our potholes gets an extra £200m in emergency government funding to help resurface more than 1,000 miles of highway

Town halls are being given £200million to fix their crumbling roads.

The emergency funding from the Department for Transport is enough to help resurface more than 1,000 miles of highway.

It includes £50million specifically for potholes and flood measures.

Full Article

'Massive challenge' due to EU election uncertainty

Councils are facing “massive administrative challenges” to be prepared for European parliamentary elections, without knowing if they will go ahead.

The possibility of elections having to be held on 23 May increased dramatically on Friday after MPs again rejected the prime minister’s Brexit deal.

Theresa May said this meant the UK would likely have to ask the EU for an extension beyond the 12 April deadline, which if granted made it “almost certain” European elections would need to be held.

Full Article

Clive Betts: My committee will try to solve the funding crisis

Earlier this month, as chair of the all-party House of Commons’ housing, communities and local government committee, I announced a new inquiry into local government finance. There’s no point in being unambitious!

Ahead of the autumn 2019 spending review, we want to look at how effective the existing local government financial framework is at providing resources to meet need and demand for local services, both now and in future. We want our work to directly inform government policy towards local government funding in the spending review and beyond.

Total government spending and revenues have hovered at around 40% of gross domestic product (GDP) for the last 50 years. Fluctuations have been determined in part by the performance of the economy and in part by discretionary policy.

Full Article

Suffolk now has 'largest district council in country'

The country's biggest non-metropolitan district council, by population, has come into being after a merger.

East Suffolk, made up of the former Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils, will serve 246,913 people.

A second new authority, West Suffolk, has taken over from St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils.

Full Article

Calais child refugees waiting 10 times longer to join family in UK

Children stuck in Calais as they wait on the Home Office to transfer them to the UK to join their families have seen delays in receiving an initial decision from the department increase 10-fold in two years, the Guardian can reveal.

The average wait for a positive response to a request by unaccompanied children in Calais to join families in the UK increased from 10.98 days in 2016 to 111.31 days, nearly four months, according to a Home Office document seen by the Guardian. The average wait for a negative response has nearly quadrupled from 16.5 days to 63.44 days.

Children who received a positive response saw the average wait time to be transferred to the UK increase from 26.11 days in 2016 to 198.44 days in 2018, the figures show.

Full Article

Fund to fix our potholes gets an extra £200m in emergency government funding to help resurface more than 1,000 miles of highway

own halls are being given £200m to fix their crumbling roads. The emergency funding from the Department for Transport is enough to help resurface more than 1,000 miles of highway. It includes £50million specifically for potholes and flood measures.

The money comes from the £6.6billion the Government is providing over the six years to 2021 to improve local roads. It will also continue to fund research into new surface materials and pothole repair techniques, including the use of 3D printing.

Full Article

New £201m road repair fund is ‘drop in the ocean’

The Government’s newly announced £201m road repair fund – and investment in technology – will help to address shortfalls in funding but is still a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed to bring England and Wales’ roads up to scratch.

That’s the response from local council and motoring-related organisations following yesterday’s Department for Transport news of new pothole funding, as they continue calls for funds from fuel duty to be ringfenced for road repairs.

Full Article

Northants commissioner: Council still has a long way to go

Northamptonshire County Council’s finances “remain fragile” due to a lack of robust reserves and require savings of £40m, its finance commissioner Brian Roberts has told PF.

Roberts, a former CIPFA president, was speaking to PF after news broke yesterday morning the commissioners had called for Northamptonshire’s section 114 notice to be lifted.

“The council is on a journey of recovery – not only for its finances but for the quality of services – and this is only part of the journey,” he told PF.

Full Article

Ministers must act to save tens of thousands of jobs on UK's struggling high streets, Tesco boss warns

The boss of Britain’s biggest supermarket warned yesterday that hundreds of thousands of jobs will go unless ministers do more to help high street shops.

Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis called for business rates to be overhauled because they were unfair to firms that trade out of shops rather than those doing business online.

He said online retailers should face higher taxes to ‘level the playing field’ and warned that retail was at a ‘tipping point’, with job losses between 2017 and 2022 expected to hit 380,000.

Full Article

Northamptonshire to lift spending ban

Commissioners overseeing the running of Northamptonshire CC have recommended the lifting of its Section 114 notice, telling staff: ‘There is no longer a need for the council to live under the shadow of this failure.’

The council twice imposed the spending ban last year, in February and then in July, when the Northamptonshire's budget was projected to be heading for a £30m overspend. It followed a budget in 2017/18 containing savings that were ‘unachievable’.

However, commissioners have made the recommendation after the council produced a ‘broadly balanced’ financial monitoring report covering the first 11 months of the year – for the first time since 2012.

Full Article

Council taxes to rise by 5% but service cuts ‘still needed’

The average council tax bill in England is to rise by almost 5 per cent, the second-largest increase in ten years.

Figures released yesterday by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showed the levy on a typical Band D property going up by £78 to £1,750 from next week — a rise of 4.7 per cent.

This is largely explained by councils struggling to cover social care because of austerity cuts, an ageing population and insufficient mental health provision.

Full Article

SURVEY RESULTS: Officers expect no extra cash from Fair Funding Review

An overwhelming majority of senior council finance officers believe that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Fair Funding Review will result in a reshuffle of existing resources rather than an increase in the level of funding available, according to research conducted by Room151.

The Room151 2019 Current Affairs Survey gauged the sentiment of more than 150 chief finance officers, their deputies and other senior officers with non-statutory roles at UK councils.

Ninety percent of respondents said they believed the outcome of the MHCLG’s review of relative needs, resourcing and baseline allocations for local authorities in England would be “mostly a redistribution” ahead of this year’s Spending Review.

Full Article

How Northamptonshire balanced the books

Northamptonshire CC’s commissioners have today recommended the council lift the section 114 notice after the council forecast a balanced position for the year end, the first time in seven years this had happened.

Speaking to LGC this morning, finance commissioner Brian Roberts said the flexibility to use £70m of capital receipts for revenue purposes had been helpful as it had been used to pay off the deficit from 2017-18 of £41.5m. However, he said the forecast £30m in-year overspend was reduced through efficiencies.

“We didn’t want to reduce services to deal with the on-off problem of the deficit,” he said.

Full Article

More than 1m childless people over 65 are 'dangerously unsupported'

More than 1 million people aged over 65 without children are “dangerously unsupported”, and at acute risk of isolation, loneliness, poor health, poverty and being unable to access formal care, according to a report.

The number of childless older people in the UK is expected to double by 2030, putting huge pressure on a health and social care system that is already struggling to support the vulnerable, warned Kirsty Woodard, founder of the organisation, Ageing Well Without Children (AWwoC).

Full Article

Government is ‘failing’ to combat child poverty, campaigners say

Campaigners have warned that the economy is not ‘working for everyone’ as the latest statistics show that child poverty in working families is on the rise.

According to the Government’s annual poverty statistics, the percentage of poor children in working families has increased from 67% to 70%.

They also show that 53% of poor children—or more than two million—are aged under five, and 200,000 more children are in absolute poverty.

Full Article

Councils make record £867m from parking charges as profits soar by two-thirds in a year fuelling concerns that authorities are exploiting motorists

Profits from council parking charges have soared by up to two-thirds in a year, according to a report.

Figures show how town halls outside of London have generated millions by increasing the costs of on-street parking, car parks and parking permits.

The biggest rise was seen in Medway, Kent, where parking profits jumped 65 per cent from £3.1million in 2016/17 to £5million last year.

Full Article

Whiteman: Local government finance needs to be more transparent

Local government audit is “in need of improvement”, CIPFA’s chief executive has told MPs.

There is a “big gap” between local audit and central government intervention in struggling councils, Rob Whiteman chief executive of CIPFA has told the Public Accounts Committee today.

Whiteman said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should have an “oversight brief” in order to create more transparency about finances in the local government sector.

Full Article

Whiteman: Local government finance needs to be more transparent

Local government audit is “in need of improvement”, CIPFA’s chief executive has told MPs.

There is a “big gap” between local audit and central government intervention in struggling councils, Rob Whiteman chief executive of CIPFA has told the Public Accounts Committee today.

Whiteman said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should have an “oversight brief” in order to create more transparency about finances in the local government sector.

Full Article

Schools funding shortfall of £5.4bn 'worse than estimated'

There has been a £5.4bn shortfall in school funding in England over the past three years, according to an analysis of official figures by unions which says the deficit is worse than previously estimated.

The School Cuts coalition of unions representing teachers and school support staff claims the latest analysis represents the most comprehensive examination of school funding to date.

It says the shortfall affects 91% of schools across England and the overall situation has become so bad that even low-paid support staff are regularly dipping into their own pockets so children can have food, stationery and sanitary products. As a result there are fewer support staff to help children with mental health problems, class sizes are rising and the range of subjects schools can offer is shrinking.

Full Article

Barry Lewis: Fair funding must recognise rural challenges

At the start of March, Stephen Houghton (Lab), leader of Barnsley LBC, argued the government’s proposed new funding formula is unfair because it would systematically disadvantage residents in urban areas.

As the leader of a largely rural county council, I fundamentally disagree.

It can be all too easy to characterise rural villages as bright, bucolic havens inhabited by the privileged middle classes, while big towns and cities are dark places of poverty and deprivation. But in Derbyshire, in common with many other largely rural counties, the reality is not black and white. Some of our most disadvantaged communities nestle in the rolling Peak District hills.

Full Article

Report finds disparities in highways maintenance funding

An increase in local authority highways maintenance budgets is helping to stem the decline in local roads, a new report has found.

The annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey found that budgets have increased by nearly 20% for the second consecutive year.

However, the survey - published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance - found that years of underfunding have led to a decline in the local roads network, which requires nearly £10bn to bring to it back to a reasonable condition.

It also identified disparities of funding, ranging from less than £9,000 per mile of local authority road network to more than £90,000 per mile.

Full Article

MHCLG appoints new director general

A senior Treasury official has been appointed as the new general director for local government at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

Catherine Frances, who has been director for public services at the Treasury since 2014, succeeds Jo Farrar after she became chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation Service.

Full Article

MHCLG appoints new director general

A senior Treasury official has been appointed as the new general director for local government at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

Catherine Frances, who has been director for public services at the Treasury since 2014, succeeds Jo Farrar after she became chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation Service.

Ms Frances was named the 24th most influential person whose work shapes local government in 2018’s LGC 100.

Full Article

MHCLG ‘concerned’ over councils’ investment code compliance

Some councils are failing to comply with revised investment code requirements on proportionality and minimum revenue provision (MRP), according to a senior government official.

Speaking to a session at Room151’s LATIF North last week, Gareth Caller, head of the local government finance unit at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said the government is currently undertaking a review of how councils are interpreting the revised code, released last year.

He said that although the review – covering treasury management strategies and capital strategies – is only a third of the way through, his team has raised concerns about the approach of a number of councils.

Full Article

Report finds disparities in highways maintenance funding

An increase in local authority highways maintenance budgets is helping to stem the decline in local roads, a new report has found.

The annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey found that budgets have increased by nearly 20% for the second consecutive year.

However, the survey - published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance - found that years of underfunding have led to a decline in the local roads network, which requires nearly £10bn to bring to it back to a reasonable condition.

It also identified disparities of funding, ranging from less than £9,000 per mile of local authority road network to more than £90,000 per mile.

Full Article

Unease as cash-strapped councils buy hotels

Public accounts experts have raised the alarm over councils ploughing taxpayers’ money into commercial property, after new research revealed a three-fold surge in hotel investments by local authorities. Councils spent £93m buying hotels in 2018, up from £33m the previous year, according to Knight Frank, as they sought alternative sources of income following years of budget cuts.

Local authorities can pay for property investments using low-interest debt from the Public Works Loan Board, a government agency set up to help fund capital projects.

Full Article

Automation could replace 1.5 million jobs, says ONS

Some 1.5 million people in England are at high risk of losing their jobs to automation, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It says those most likely to lose to automation are women, with a 70% chance of this happening. Part-timers and the young are the next most at risk.

The ONS analysed the jobs of 20 million people in 2017 and found 7.4% of these were at high risk of being replaced.

Full Article

Legislation linked to 60% rise in temporary accommodation

Six in ten councils across England have seen an increase in families being housed in temporary accommodation since the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act, a new survey has found.

The Local Government Association (LGA)’s new research, published ahead of the legislation’s anniversary next week, additionally found 80% of councils have seen an increase in the number of people presenting as homeless.

The Act came into force on April 3 last year and introduced new duties for councils to reduce homelessness, including doing all they can to secure accommodation for applicants.

Full Article

Whitehall announces £36m to develop coastal communities

Around 70 coastal projects have been awarded a total of £36m by the Government as part of an effort to attract tourists and create jobs.

The funding will go towards supporting businesses, protecting historic buildings, new museums and restoration of coastal heritage sites.

This investment represents 26 awards from the fifth round of the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund. These awards are forecast to create over 15,000 jobs, and attract up to £40m in additional investment from public and private sector sources.

The funding also comes from 44 awards from the third phase of the Coastal Revival Fund in 2018-19.

Full Article

Government backs down over 'myth-busting' guide on child protection

The government has withdrawn a controversial document that claims some statutory protections for vulnerable children are “myths”, after a charity launched an application for judicial review, the Guardian has learned.

The “myth-busting” guide, issued last July, advised local authorities that they are legally permitted to reduce or even remove support from children in long-term foster care, who run away or go missing from home or care, who are remanded in custody and those who have left care and are still living with their former foster carers.

Full Article

Lawyers wanted: Legal workforce on the rise

Councils are boosting capacity in their legal departments following previous cuts as they face challenges arising from new models of service delivery, commercialisation and pressures in adult and children’s social care, LGC research can reveal.

Figures gathered from 100 upper tier councils following a freedom of information request show a 6% rise overall in legal department staff, including lawyers and support workers, between 2015-16 and 2017-18. A total of 49 councils increased legal department capacity, with 31 boosting staff numbers by 10% or more.

Full Article

Local income tax best bet for fiscal devo - IFS

Local income tax would be the best option for fiscal devolution if the Government wanted to hand more powers to local authorities, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) argued today.

According to calculations from the institute, a 3% local income tax levy on all tax bands would raise around £19bn – around 40% of councils’ core budgets – would incentivise inclusive growth and give the sector a buoyant revenue stream that keeps up with inflation.

However, a devolved local income tax would require a system to redistribute revenue between councils to avoid large disparities.

Full Article

LGA and others issue a joint letter on adult social care

The letter states that "Adult social care is at breaking point.

Two years ago the Government rightly recognised the scale of the problem and the need to find a long-term, sustainable solution for adult social care. Two years later and its long-promised green paper on the future of adult social care still hasn’t been published.

High quality, properly funded social care and support enables people to live the lives they want to lead through access to the right care in the right place at the right time. But with more people needing care, increases in costs and decreases in funding, this is becoming more and more difficult. More than two million people in England have left their jobs to provide unpaid care for family or friends.

While one-off funding injections have helped to curb the severity of immediate pressures, they are only short-term and do not address the underlying structural problems facing the care and support system."

Full Article

Chronic Underfunding Will Force More Children's Centre To Close, LGA Warns

Funding for children’s centres has been slashed by nearly a quarter in four years, according to figures analysed by the Local Government Association (LGA). The chronic underfunding of children’s services means centres are facing a fight for survival and many more could face closure.

The loss of funding comes as councils face rising demand for support for children in care, meaning they are having to cut or end early years services in order to make ends meet. While spending on children’s centres has fallen, councils have had to increase how much money is spent on children in care by almost a fifth.

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said it was “inevitable” that without new investment from government in children’s services, councils will face the “difficult but unavoidable decision” of having to cut or close early help services such as children’s centres.

Full Article

Bin collections are weekly for just one in six councils

Just one in six councils in the UK still collect non-recyclable waste from the majority of homes in their area every week.

At least 10 authorities switched to fortnightly rounds or announced plans to do so in the past year, research by the BBC has found.

The government said councils had a responsibility to collect waste regularly.

Full Article

Councils told to seek no-deal Brexit legal advice

Local authorities will have to seek their own legal advice on how to handle personal data in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Government has said. If Britain leaves without a deal, the UK will no longer comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation requirements.

The Government has said it will allow personal data to be passed from the UK to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) but returning data flow will be affected, creating legal uncertainty. It has urged local authorities to take responsibility for assessing data protection risks to their organisations and suggests councils individually seek legal advice about the likelihood of disruption to transfers of personal data between the EEA and UK.

Full Article

MPs criticise children's social care progress

MPs have accused the Department for Education (DfE) of still not doing enough to make the quality or finances of children’s social care sustainable.

A Public Accounts Committee report published today said the financial position of local authority children’s social care was ‘unsustainable,’ with nine out of 10 councils exceeding their budgets in 2017/18 and a total national overspend of £872m.

And the report said the department had made ‘only limited progress’ in improving the quality of children’s social care services.

Full Article

Tax avoidance measures ‘a long way short of a solution’

Confronting “outrageous” tax abuse by tech giants could provide £700m for public services, a think-tank has claimed.

Measures to tackle tax abuse by large multinational corporations in the chancellor’s autumn Budget “fall a long way short of a solution”, according to TaxWatch UK.

The think-tank noted that large multinational companies – big tech companies, in particular – use countries like Ireland and the Netherlands to get out of paying their taxes.

Full Article

High praise for Liverpool health campaign

A public health campaign run by Liverpool City Council has been praised in a new national report. The "Save kids from sugar" campaign was part of a wider campaign to tackle issues like obesity, alcohol intake and sugar consumption.

The national report from the Local Government Association praises Public Health Liverpool for its "comprehensive approach to creating health campaigns based on insight work, co-development with local people and measuring impact".

Liverpool was the first local authority in 2015 to name and shame manufacturers of fizzy drinks, yogurts and cereals with high sugar content in its 'Save Kids from Sugar' campaign.

Full Article

Rubbish: Britain's Tipping Point?

Rubbish - it's a topic we all have an opinion on. From bin strikes & local authority budget cuts to harmful plastic waste and confusing recycling rules.

Plans for Birmingham City Council to restructure their bin collection service and save millions of pounds led to a series of strikes by bin collectors. This in turn impacted the streets with vast mountains of rubbish piling up attracting fly tippers who added even more waste to the heaps of rubbish.

Full Article

UK employment at highest since 1971

The number of employed people in the UK has risen again, to a new record number of 32.7 million people between November and January, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

That is the highest figure since records began in 1971.

Unemployment fell by 35,000 to 1.34 million in the period, putting the rate below 4% for the first time since 1975.

The figure is 112,000 lower than a year ago, giving a jobless rate of 3.9%, well below the EU average of 6.5%.

Full Article

Exasperation at rules for new high street cash

A ‘threatening’ letter has been sent to council chief executives demanding that they spend their slice of a £9.75m pot allocated for a high street community clean-up, and giving them little more than a week to do so.

The letter, seen by LGC, explains that the funding, announced yesterday, should be used to work with community groups to undertake existing community-led street and town centre cleans. Councils are to get between £2,000 and £195,000, depending on population size.

But the letter, from the Ministry for Housing Communities & Local Government, was only received by chief executives yesterday evening, and councils have only been given until the end of the current financial year to spend the money.

Full Article

Grimsey criticises speed of high streets bidding process

Retail expert Bill Grimsey has accused the Government of forcing the pace on bids to its £675m Future High Streets Fund.

Writing for The MJ this week, Mr Grimsey, a former chief executive of Wickes, Iceland and Focus DIY, said tomorrow’s deadline – barely three months after the call for proposals – left councils without the time to put together quality schemes.

His intervention comes after a turbulent year for the high street, during which several household names went into administration, announced major restructuring or closed stores, with 70,000 retail sector jobs lost.

Mr Grimsey wrote: ‘The £675m is a substantial amount of money and needs to be spent wisely and not quickly.'

Full Article

Frustration mounts on Brexit legislation list

Frustration is growing as the Government stalls on requests to provide a comprehensive list of secondary legislation affecting councils that needs to pass before Brexit.

Local government has repeatedly asked for a table of legislation that has been passed and statutory instruments that still need to be laid before Parliament. EU laws cover many council services and there is concern that local authorities will not have the legal certainty they need to ensure the continuity of public services.

One council chief executive said: ‘I don’t think there has been any concerted effort by departments or the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to draw attention to the ones that affect what councils do or even to give us a list.

Full Article

Waiting for Godot and the Social Care Green Paper

The Chancellor promised last week’s spring statement was not going to be a huge fiscal event – and he stayed true to his word.

Aside from a pledge to put free sanitary products in our schools and to review an increase in the minimum wage, the most notable announcement for local government in Philip Hammond’s speech was the promise that the three-year spending review would be launched before the summer and concluded in the Autumn Budget… assuming a Brexit deal is agreed.

As with the past major fiscal events, what is more telling is what has been left out of the chancellor’s speech. Speaking at a post-spring statement briefing, the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ (IFS) director Paul Johnson said: ‘Despite the obvious importance and urgency of the issue, waiting for the Social Care Green Paper has become rather like “Waiting for Godot”, perhaps appropriately subtitled “a tragicomedy in two acts”. It didn’t even merit a mention.’

Full Article

New £9.75m fund to clean high streets

Communities minister James Brokenshire has annnounced a £9.75m fund to back council’s efforts to clean up town centres.

Every local authority in England is guaranteed a share of the money to spend on equipment and training, ahead of ’National High Street Perfect Day’ in May, a community-led clean-up to get high streets looking their smartest which is planned for this summer.

Councils are allocated a minimum of £2,000 and a maximum of £195,000, weighted to population size .

Full Article

Squeezing local government finance will hit women hardest

Local government services most likely to suffer from reductions in central government funding are mainly used by women, the director of the Women’s Budget Group Mary-Ann Stephenson says.

From 2020 the government plans to remove all central government funding for local government, making councils dependent on the money they can raise locally from council tax and business rates. Councils will be allowed to retain 75% of business rates from that date.

However, local authorities with the lowest receipts from business rates are likely to have the poorest populations and the highest social care demands. This in turn may put pressure on the poorest areas to charge higher levels of council tax, even though their residents will be least able to afford this.

Full Article

Public sector ‘likely to suffer’ with collapse of Interserve

Interserve, one of Britain’s biggest government contractors, was due to file for administration this evening.

This was after just under 60% of the company’s shareholders voted against a rescue plan earlier today.

The business holds thousands of public sector contracts, including for local government, cleaning schools and hospitals. It also runs catering and probation services as well as managing construction projects.

Full Article

Right to Buy homes re-sold since 2000 made £6.4bn in profit

A former council tenant bought their home under Right to Buy for £8,000 and sold it on for £285,000 nine days later - a £277,000 profit, the BBC found. The Solihull buyer was among 140 in Great Britain who bought and resold within one month, making a £3m collective profit.

Opponents of the scheme said too many people had profited from a policy that had "much bigger social ambitions".

Full Article

Welsh households to face biggest council tax rise in 15 years

Council tax bills are set to increase by an average of 6.5% across Wales - the largest rise in 15 years - according to new figures.

The council tax survey by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) also found significant gaps between the increases in different parts of Wales. The average band D equivalent in South Wales has seen an increase of 5.7%, whereas mid and west Wales face a 8.1% increase in their council tax bills.

Full Article

Councils collaborate to address homelessness crisis

Over a dozen London boroughs have joined the collaborative programme Capital Letters, which aims to support homeless households across the capital.

London Councils, the local government association for Greater London, has announced that 13 boroughs have become founding members of Capital Letters.

The not-for-profit company, which is collectively owned by the boroughs, will procure accommodation for homeless Londoners and those at risk of homelessness.

Full Article

Nearly all councils to build new homes after scrapping of borrowing cap

Local government leaders have called on Whitehall to help them resume their ‘historic role’ as major house builders after decades of depleting council stock.

Nearly all (94%) of the 59 housing stock-owning councils have told the Local Government Association that last year’s scrapping of the housing borrowing cap will help them accelerate house building.

However, 92% said that more support from the Government is needed if councils are to reverse the decline in social housing.

Full Article

Spring Statement was ‘dead rubber’

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement has been branded a “dead rubber” that will not end austerity for the public sector.

Umbrella groups, think-tanks, charities and unions slammed Hammond’s failure to address issues including local government funding, school finances and the ongoing benefits freeze in his announcement to the Commons yesterday.

CIFPA chief executive Rob Whiteman called Hammond’s statement “an absolute dead rubber”.

Full Article

Local bodies poor at securing value for money, says PAC

An increasing number of local public bodies are demonstrating “significant weaknesses” in securing value for money, MPs have warned.

Auditors found more than 20% of local authorities, NHS bodies and police and fire authorities in England did not have proper arrangements in place to achieve value for money in 2017-18, the Public Accounts Committee has said. Central government’s measures to stop this were “limited”, the watchdog added.

NHS bodies, like Clinical Commissioning Groups and hospital trusts, were found to be the worst public bodies for assuring taxpayers’ money is spent effectively, according to the PAC report out today.

Full Article

End 'lazy language of austerity,' sector urged

In an exclusive interview with The MJ, Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy boss, Rob Whiteman, and finance spokesman for chief executives’ organisation Solace, Martin Reeves, called on local government to speak as one against the cuts.

Mr Whiteman said using the word ‘austerity’ was ‘lazy or sloppy language that lets decision makers off the hook’. He said: ‘It [the Government] has made choices to spend more money on retirement benefits while cutting benefits to working families and families in need and there are profound implications... If local government spoke with one voice and said we do need more resource … I think that would be quite authoritative.’

Full Article

Spring Statement: Hammond promises 'deal dividend'

The chancellor has pledged to spend a £26.6bn Brexit war chest to boost the economy, if MPs vote to leave the European Union with a deal.

Philip Hammond vowed to free up more money to cut taxes and spend on public services in a "deal dividend".

However, he said these spending plans were based on a smooth Brexit.

Full Article

Parking fees to more than double as council set to collect over £1 billion

UK drivers could be left out of pocket as parking fees are expected to soar by up to 230 per cent in the UK. Councils could rake in a record one billion in fees over the next year as a result of the increases.

New analysis from the RAC foundation fines that many councils are planning to raise the costs for town centre car parks and scrapping free parking areas.

The research found that councils are planning the price hikes due to budget cuts from Central Government as well as measures to reduce congestions and air pollution.

Full Article

8 Things Buried In Philip Hammond's Spring Statement

Brexit may be the focus of the UK’s politicians and media at the moment, but the world hasn’t stopped turning – and neither have the wheels of government.

Chancellor Philip Hammond took to the despatch box to update the country on the UK’s finances and deliver his Spring Statement on Wednesday.

Among his announcements were £100m for police forces to tackle the knifecrime crisis, a £3 billion affordable homes scheme and the end of fossil-fuel heating systems in all new houses from 2025.

Full Article

Funding cuts hamper knife crime prevention in England, say schools

Schools and colleges say funding cuts are hampering their efforts to prevent knife crime, according to a report commissioned by Ofsted that calls for “local community safety partnerships” to tackle the problem.

The Ofsted report, based on a survey of secondary schools, further education and pupil referral units in London, found huge variations in how the schools dealt with the problem of knives carried by pupils, as well as a lack of information-sharing between schools, local authorities and the police.

The report also concluded that schools need to follow more carefully Department for Education guidelines on the use of exclusions, and called for authorities to “challenge schools and multi-academy trusts when exclusions do not appear to be in line with statutory guidance”.

Full Article

Outgoing NAO chief questions ministerial accountability

The relationship between ministers, accounting officers and civil servants is currently not working, the outgoing auditor general of UK’s spending watchdog has said in his last speech in the role.

Some ministers “see themselves more or less as chief executive officers but without the qualifications”, National Audit Office head Amyas Morse told an event on accountability at the Institute for Government think-tank’s offices this morning.

The comptroller said this meant ministers sometimes made decisions prioritising a project “close to their hearts” – when they should be held accountable but are not – which “has led to the abandonment of good practice”, he said.

Full Article

Weaker pupils removed before exams

Pupils are most likely to be excluded during the autumn term of their GCSE year, the last chance that schools have to remove them before their results count towards league table rankings, The Times has learnt.

The data was drawn from admissions figures to Pupil Referral Units (PRU), schools designed for excluded pupils, and will fuel suspicions that schools are using the exclusion process to enhance their average exam results.

A survey of almost 80 local authorities found that 1,238 teenagers were admitted to PRUs in their first term of Year 11 in 2016-17 compared with 748 in the spring term of Year 11, and 676 in the summer term of year 10, the term before they start their GCSE year. This age group represents one in six of all admissions to PRUs

Full Article

Heads angry at minister's school funding 'snub'

Thousands of head teachers in England are warning about a "school funding crisis" and say they are angry that the education secretary has "snubbed" them.

More than 7,000 heads have written a joint letter to 3.5 million families, warning of worsening budget shortages.

They say requests to talk to Damian Hinds have been turned down because his time is too "pressurised" to meet.

Full Article

Northants apologises for underpaying childminders

Northamptonshire County Council has apologised ‘unreservedly’ for underpaying childminders and nurseries by thousands of pounds.

A special scrutiny meeting at the council heard how underpayment and late payment problems went on for two years after a new payment system was installed.

The service also breached personal data regulations by giving out dates of birth, addresses and national insurance numbers of families to strangers.

Full Article

Council to fine anti-social drivers

Bradford Council have decided to crack down on drivers who play loud music, rev their engines, or engage in other acts deemed to be anti-social.

The council will introduce a district wide Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to tackle ‘nuisance, anti social driving’.

The decision was taken after two-thirds of respondents to a survey of more than 1,200 people said nuisance drivers were a problem that made them feel ‘unsafe’.

Full Article

Women ‘bear the brunt’ of social care crisis, charity warns

Women are paying the highest price for the Government’s continued inaction on social care, an elderly persons charity has warned.

In a new report, published to coincide with International Women’s Day, Age UK has set out the enormous challenges facing many women who are carers.

Breaking Point: The social care burden on women found that there are 1.25 million ‘sandwich carers’ in the UK. These are people caring for an older relative as well as bringing up one or more children aged under 16.

Full Article

Rising number of councils issuing fines for rough sleeping

The number of councils that have obtained the power to issue £100 fines for rough sleeping, begging and “loitering” in England and Wales has increased despite Home Office guidance not to target the homeless.

Local authorities have been accused of trying to “airbrush their streets” and “ban homelessness” after analysis by the Guardian found at least 60 councils with public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) forbidding people from putting up tents, seeking charity and other behaviour associated with rough sleeping, up from 54 last year. Those who violate the orders are liable to a £100 fine which, if left unpaid, can result in a summary conviction and a £1,000 penalty.

Full Article

Parsons Green bomber's foster carers sue council

A couple who fostered the Parsons Green bomber are suing Surrey County Council for negligence, after not being told he had been "trained to kill" by the Islamic State group.

Ron and Penny Jones fostered Ahmed Hassan, whose homemade bomb injured 51 people on a London Tube train in 2017.

The couple, who have looked after nearly 270 children, have not been allowed to foster any more children and say their lives are "empty".

Full Article

Revealed: Nearly 80,000 Jobs Lost In Radical Council Upheavals

Council workers have spoken out over the “brutal revolving door” of redundancies at town halls that are stripping local government of workers and profoundly impacting on services.

Mass job cuts at councils have gone largely unnoticed by the public over the last decade. Yet as austerity has driven sweeping cuts, cash-strapped local authorities have massively downsized their workforces while trying to protect frontline services in the face of deep cuts to budgets.

New research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in partnership with HuffPost UK, has found councils in England have made 75,891 jobs redundant in the last five years. These thousands of permanent, often well-paid jobs have also been lost to the local economies.

Full Article

Southern cities provide more jobs for low-skilled workers than in the North

Employment opportunities are greater for people with few or no qualifications in southern English cities than those in the North or Midlands, a think tank has discovered.

Research by the Centre for Cities has found that, despite higher living costs in cities in southern England, their stronger economies create significantly more jobs for people with fewer qualifications.

For every 10 high-skilled jobs in a city, 17 further jobs for low-skilled people are created as a result, such as those in shops or restaurants.

Full Article

Department for Transport issues pothole warning

Firms that dig up the roads would have to guarantee they remained pothole-free for five years, under new Department for Transport (DfT) proposals.

At the moment, utility companies only guarantee roadworks for two years.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "Imposing higher standards on repairs will help keep roads pothole-free for longer."

Full Article

Apprenticeship take-up down by a quarter

The number of people starting a training programme has fallen "substantially" under the government's new apprenticeship scheme, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

The public spending watchdog said the government was "very unlikely" to hit a 2020 target of 3 million new starts.

The government had some way to go before it showed the scheme was value for money, the NAO added.

Full Article

Households facing one of the highest council tax hikes in a decade, survey reveals

Council taxpayers can expect their bill to go up by an average 4.5 per cent from next month, a survey has revealed.

Average Band D households in England can expect an increase of £75.60 (4.5 per cent) in their council tax bill for 2019/20, according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa).

Its survey found of 312 councils in England which responded to the research, 301 said they would be increasing their council tax.

Full Article

Libraries and parks face closure in bid to pay for social care services facing multi-billion pound funding gap, LGA warn

Libraries and parks will close in a bid to fund social care services facing a multi-billion-pound funding gap, local authorities warn.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has insisted that this year councils will have to further divert funding from local amenities - including bus services, parks, filling potholes, libraries and leisure centres - to try and protect vital adult social care services.

Despite council tax hikes to plug the funding black-hole and an attempt to avoid a the looming of threat of “a care home crisis”, millions of older and disabled people fear that their services and care provisions - such as helping them dress, be fed and leave the house - will still continue to be cut.

Full Article

Struggling towns to get £1.6bn post-Brexit boost

A £1.6bn fund is being launched by the government to boost less well-off towns after Brexit.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread... but we want it to work for all communities."

More than half of the money will go to the north of England and the Midlands to bring jobs and stimulate growth.

Full Article

Revealed: The thousands of public spaces lost to the council funding crisis

The local government funding crisis has become so dire that councils are being forced to sell thousands of public spaces, such as libraries, community centres and playgrounds.

In a double blow to communities, some local authorities are using the money raised from selling off buildings and land to pay for hundreds of redundancies, including in vital frontline services.

In a major collaborative investigation with HuffPost UK and regional journalists across the country, the Bureau has compiled data on more than 12,000 public spaces disposed of by councils since 2014/15. Our investigation found that councils raised a total of £9.1 billion from selling property.

Full Article

MPs to debate school funding crisis after 100,000 sign head teacher's petition

A head teacher has triggered a debate in Parliament today on the schools funding crisis after his online petition gained more than 100,000 signatures.

Andrew Ramanandi, who launched the petition in December, said, “Our children deserve better.”

He added he is one of “many head teachers” with concerns over funding.

Full Article

Lancs councils launch unitary call

Four Lancashire councils have launched a bid to form a new unitary that they say will put the area at “the centre of the Northern Powerhouse”.

The leaders of Blackburn with Darwen BC, which is already unitary, and Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale BCs wrote to communities secretary James Brokenshire on Wednesday to propose a new council for East Lancashire.

In the letter they say they need to be “in control of our own destiny” to create a council which is “dynamic, unceasingly ambitious but understanding of the challenges our areas face”.

Full Article

Teaming up at the top: the sharing of lead officer roles

Two heads are better than one, goes the saying. Currently around 14 councils are putting this theory into practice, having deleted their chief executive post and replaced it with two directors. Often councils take the step to save money. But twinned directors claim a duo also leads to greater capacity and resilience.

When Hart DC former chief executive Geoff Bonner retired in 2014, the council left his post vacant. Instead corporate directors Patricia Hughes and Daryl Phillips took on his duties, in addition to their own, and were given a year to prove the arrangement.

Having worked together at the council since 2012, and previously at East Hampshire DC, the pair divided responsibilities based on their individual strengths and knowledge. For example, Ms Hughes heads up paid services, while Mr Phillips’ role includes being monitoring officer. However, they are both full-time, and insist anyone at the council can speak to either on any matter. “You speak to one, and you’ve spoken to both,” says Ms Hughes. “It’s nobody else’s responsibility to understand how we split up our work.”

Full Article

Business rates appeals will cost councils over £1bn

Councils in England predict that business rates appeal will cost them £1.1bn in 2019/20, new figures have revealed.

The data from the Valuation Office Agency shows 150 properties a day appealed their business rates last year.

Since the revaluation came into effect on 1st April 2017, a total of 37,950 appeals were successful.

Full Article

Early intervention key to helping those at risk of falling into debt, says report

Councils in Wales are being urged by a think tank to do more to support those at risk of falling into debt given the large council tax increases on the horizon.

In a new report, the Wales Centre for Public Policy calls on councils to build personalised and proactive support for vulnerable citizens to stop them falling behind on their council tax or social housing rent payments.

This includes identify and acting on problems as early as possible and making it easier for people to access independent specialist help

Full Article

Spending review: Councils braced for further austerity

Britain's second city has a bright future ahead with the high-speed HS2 link on its way and the Commonwealth Games which it will host in 2022, bringing welcome stimulus for Birmingham's economy.

City council leader Ian Ward is ebullient, saying there are 'reasons for optimism' while announcing a budget for the next four years.

'The budget is not simply a response to our financial challenges,' he declared. 'It is a forward looking financial plan to transform the way we work, change the way services are delivered, and look towards new opportunities to improve quality of life for citizens in the long-term.'

Full Article

Diana Terris: ‘It’s much harder when things are being sliced’

Barnsley MBC chief executive Diana Terris tells Nick Golding how her authority has “always got one eye” on the next round of cuts.

“You can have loads of money and still be a pretty poor performing council; you can have very little money but be a good performing council.”

So says Diana Terris of the impact of austerity. When she was first appointed to local government’s top officer rank, at Warrington BC in 2006, she had no idea how the landscape would change during her tenure as a council chief. This is due to end at the end of May when she retires as Barnsley MBC’s chief executive after nearly seven years.

Full Article

Government urged to publish a rural strategy

Government has been urged to address its ‘inadequate’ rural policy ahead of Brexit.

A network of rural service providers and organisations have released a report calling for the government to properly confront challenges in rural England, citing concerns that EU funding for community development and business initiatives will end next year.

The Rural Services Network believes current government policy overlooks the needs of rural communities, and is ‘dominated by urban thinking’.

Full Article

Business rates appeals will cost councils over £1bn

Councils in England predict that business rates appeal will cost them £1.1bn in 2019/20, new figures have revealed.

The data from the Valuation Office Agency shows 150 properties a day appealed their business rates last year.

Since the revaluation came into effect on 1st April 2017, a total of 37,950 appeals were successful.

Full Article

Childcare funding ‘insufficient’, council chiefs warn

Government funding for nursery school places often fails to cover the costs for those providing the care, local authority leaders have warned.

Responding to the latest survey by the Coram Family and Childcare charity, Anntoinette Bramble of the Local Government Association said the funding for 30 hours of free care is insufficient.

She says support for children with special needs is also at risk as providers try to make ends meet.

Full Article

More than a million public sector workers paid below the voluntary living wage

Entry level NHS, council and university workers are amongst those still being paid less than the voluntary living wage, a study suggests.

The Living Wage Foundation (LFW) said more than one million people in the UK are currently being paid less than the recommended hourly rate for households battling inflation and rising costs.

The findings coincide with a childcare report today, that shows costs have risen 3% in the past 12 months - to £127 a week per child.

Full Article

Vulnerable pensioners with dementia facing crippling care bills following NHS attempts to restrict funding

Vulnerable pensioners with dementia and Parkinson’s are facing crippling care bills following attempts by health officials to restrict the numbers receiving NHS funding.

Under national rules, any patient with a significant health problem should have their care and nursing fees paid in full - if the condition is deemed to be the main reason they need such help.

But an investigation by The Telegraph reveals that authorities are increasingly refusing to fund care, claiming that devastating diseases are not severe, or not the primary reason help is needed - leaving families facing bills of up to £100,000 a year.

Full Article

Interserve rescue fees hit £90m

Interserve is to pay out more than three times its stock market valuation in fees to City advisers as part of a proposed emergency refinancing.

The contractor’s £90 million in fees will go to the Rothschild investment bank, Numis, the broker, Ashurst and Slaughter and May, the legal firms, Grant Thornton, the accountant, and Tulchan, a public relations firm. The amount is equivalent to the cash the company will be left with if its £895 million restructuring is successful.

Full Article

Parents pay as much as university tuition for part-time childcare – study

Some parents are paying more than the cost of a year’s university tuition for a part-time nursery place, new research has indicated.

The average cost for 25 hours a week at nursery for a child under-two is £175 a week in Inner London, or £9,100 a year, according to figures released by the Coram Family and Childcare Trust.

Full Article

UK hunger survey to measure food insecurity

The government is to introduce an official measure of how often low-income families across the UK skip meals or go hungry because they cannot afford to buy enough food, the Guardian can reveal.

A national index of food insecurity is to be incorporated into an established UK-wide annual survey run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that monitors household incomes and living standards.

Campaigners, who have been calling for the measure for three years, said the move was “a massive step forward” that would provide authoritative evidence of the extent and causes of hunger in the UK. They say food insecurity is strongly linked to poverty caused by austerity and welfare cuts and is driving widening health inequality.

Full Article

Public services are about empowerment – not a transaction

This year the UK will get its first Big Picture school in Doncaster, following the example of dozens of others across the world.

Two things make these schools fundamentally different from conventional ones. One is the extent to which students can shape their own curriculum and learning. The other is the central role of community.

Under this model, students are part of an ‘advisory group’ made up of fellow students who support each other, while also learning within the wider community, spending a good part of their time working with local employers. Evaluations have shown the approach has a striking impact on engagement and attainment.

Full Article

Firefighters tackle huge blaze on Saddleworth Moor

Firefighters have tackled a “ferocious” moorland blaze in West Yorkshire after the UK’s warmest winter day on record. Witnesses described an “apocalyptic” scene as flames of up to two metres raged across Saddleworth Moor on Tuesday night.

The fire, near Marsden, spread across an area of 1.5 sq miles and could be seen from miles away as crews from across the region battled through the night to contain it.

Adam Greenwood, a station manager at West Yorkshire fire and rescue service, said the blaze was “one of the highest flame fronts we have seen” and had spread rapidly due to the unseasonably warm and dry weather. Britain had its hottest winter day on record on Tuesday, with a temperature of 21.2C (69.4F) recorded in Kew Gardens, south-west London.

Full Article

Cuts to children’s services are pushing young people into violence and exploitation, experts warn

Funding for children’s services has been slashed by a third since 2010, research shows, as experts warn more young people are being pushed into violence and criminal exploitation as a result.

A new analysis of figures reveals that in some parts of England, the money available to local councils per child has dropped by as much as 52 per cent in real terms, leaving thousands more children at risk of neglect and abuse “slipping through the cracks and into crisis”.

Youth workers and social workers warned that the dramatic cuts were inextricably linked to a rise in youth knife crime and the criminal exploitation of children by county lines gangs.

Full Article

Council tax pushing thousands into poverty because of online applications process

Thousands of Britain's most vulnerable people are losing out on help to pay their council tax, a charity has warned.

Turn2us said many pensioners are no longer receiving help because of the council's ongoing shift to digital-only services.

It warned the new rules are locking out those who need financial aid the most - and as a result, pushing people into poverty.

There were 1,588,000 pensioners claiming council tax support in the three months to December 2018, a drop of 245,000, or 13%, compared to the same period in 2015, Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government figures show.

Full Article

Charities warn government that cuts to children's services 'leave thousands at risk'

Thousands of children across England could be at risk after deep cuts to the funding available for council children's services, according to official figures from a group of leading charities.

The study shows that the funding available per child has fallen by a third since 2010.

The statistics - compiled by a group including Action For Children, Barnardo's, the NSPCC and the Children's Society - identify "kids' cuts hotspots" across the country and reveal that councils in the capital have suffered the largest cuts.

Full Article

Independent Group gains first two councillors

The former leader of Brighton & Hove City Council has quit the Labour party and become the first known councillor to declare their support for the newly formed Independent Group of MPs.

Warren Morgan, who represents East Brighton, resigned from Labour after 27 years as a member, citing “Brexit, antisemitism and the toxic culture of aggression and bullying within the party and the broader Corbyn-supporting base”.

His reasons for quitting reflect those of the ‘gang of seven’ founding members of the Independent Group, MPs who simultaneously resigned from Labour on 18 February.

Full Article

English councils accused of hiding scale of homelessness crisis

Councils have been accused of deliberately hiding the scale of the rough sleeping crisis in England by changing the way they compiled figures for the 2018 official count, the Guardian can reveal.

Official government statistics reported a 2% fall in rough sleeping in England in 2018 after seven consecutive years of rises when the figures were released last month. But critics have suggested the percentage decreased after several councils changed their counting method and does not reflect the reality on the streets.

The government has described the claims as “an insult” to the volunteers and charities who help compile the official figures. But back in 2015 the figures were also criticised as low-quality, untrustworthy and vulnerable to political manipulation by the UK Statistics Authority who threatened to remove their official status.

Full Article

Council stings residents of Cranbrook for ‘new town tax’ of £370 a year

Residents of a new town in Devon are being charged an extra £370 a year in council tax in a practice — already being called “the new town tax” — that could spread across the country.

Cranbrook, a new town to the east of Exeter, is charging band F properties a £370 surcharge, rising to £512 for band H properties. Residents receive no more services than people elsewhere in Devon.

Mark Williams, chief executive of East Devon district council, said: “It is very likely that other towns not just in East Devon but elsewhere will have to adopt a similar approach if they wish to maintain their local assets or facilities.

Full Article

How much will my Council Tax rise in April 2019?

Families face an eye-watering average council tax hike of more than £70 in April, we can reveal.

Our interactive search tool shows hard-pressed homes will be slapped with inflation-busting hikes to stop services tipping over the brink.

Just two councils in England (Wigan and Thurrock) are planning to freeze council tax completely. And just one (Central Bedfordshire) is raising it by less than the 1.8% CPI inflation rate.

Full Article

Paul Johnson: The present model of funding for local government is unsustainable

As ever when it comes to local government, it’s news about what might happen to our council tax bills that grabs headlines. So it was last week when the Local Government Information Unit and the Municipal Journal reported that nearly all councils intended to raise their council tax rates next year, three quarters of them by more than 2.5 per cent. At the same time, nearly all are planning also to increase fees and charges. And more than half intend to dip into their reserves.

Given the steep cuts in central government support, which have resulted in cuts of a fifth in council spending since 2010, these pressures should hardly come as a surprise. Local councils have been squeezed harder than many of the other big public services — health, schools and defence, for example. So it was equally unsurprising to learn in the same survey that fully 80 per cent of councils say they are not confident in the sustainability of local government finance. Literally none said that they were “very confident”.

While their role has diminished in recent decades, local authorities continue to play a crucial part in our lives, in our democracy and in our public services provision. Even excluding school funding, over which they have little or no control, they spend more than £40 billion a year. They are responsible for funding and delivering social care for adults and children. They support communities by providing local amenities and overseeing local economic development. They deserve far more of our attention. When you get 80 per cent of councils worrying that the funding system is not sustainable, it’s time to sit up and listen.

Full Article

Paul Johnson: The present model of funding for local government is unsustainable

As ever when it comes to local government, it’s news about what might happen to our council tax bills that grabs headlines. So it was last week when the Local Government Information Unit and the Municipal Journal reported that nearly all councils intended to raise their council tax rates next year, three quarters of them by more than 2.5 per cent. At the same time, nearly all are planning also to increase fees and charges. And more than half intend to dip into their reserves.

Given the steep cuts in central government support, which have resulted in cuts of a fifth in council spending since 2010, these pressures should hardly come as a surprise. Local councils have been squeezed harder than many of the other big public services — health, schools and defence, for example. So it was equally unsurprising to learn in the same survey that fully 80 per cent of councils say they are not confident in the sustainability of local government finance. Literally none said that they were “very confident”.

While their role has diminished in recent decades, local authorities continue to play a crucial part in our lives, in our democracy and in our public services provision. Even excluding school funding, over which they have little or no control, they spend more than £40 billion a year. They are responsible for funding and delivering social care for adults and children. They support communities by providing local amenities and overseeing local economic development. They deserve far more of our attention. When you get 80 per cent of councils worrying that the funding system is not sustainable, it’s time to sit up and listen.

Full Article

Council tax: England's first £2,000 bill revealed

England will see its first standard £2,000 council tax bill this April as families shoulder the burden of years of Tory cuts.

Hard-pressed residents of Rutland, East Midlands, are poised to see the annual bill for a Band D home tip over the eye-watering threshold for the first time.

The Tory-run county hall is hiking bills by 4.99% to fund cash-starved social care - sending the total bill for all services soaring more than £100 from £1,936 to £2,043.

Full Article

Exclusive: Theresa May warned plans for £100,000 cap on care costs will require significant tax rises

Theresa May has been warned by her Health Secretary that plans for a £100,000 care cap will cost billions and lead to significant tax rises, The Telegraph can reveal.

Matt Hancock has told the Prime Minister he is "concerned" that the cap, which he says could cost up to £3.4billion, is being included in a forthcoming green paper.

The cap would see people pay a maximum of £100,000 for their care over their lifetime, excluding the cost of accommodation.

Full Article

Teachers being driven away by ‘impossible’ workloads

Impossible workloads and underfunded pay deals have created a “crisis” in teacher recruitment and retention in England, a union has warned.

A report out today by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NEFR), found that an increasing number of teachers are leaving the profession, with 20% saying they feel tense about their jobs.

Responding to the findings of the annual report on the teaching workforce, the National Education Union said the reasons for retention issues are “not a mystery”.

Full Article

Northamptonshire approves 4.99% council tax rise

Northamptonshire County Council has taken advantage of special freedom to increase council tax by 4.99% without needing to hold a referendum.

The council - which was given the extra flexibility to help improve its governance and services - has agreed to the council tax rise to help balance its budget.

The budget also includes investment into adults’ facilities and children’s homes.

Full Article

Tony Travers: Delay protects ministers from awkward reality

While short-term cash is repeatedly found, difficult decisions are put off again and again.

The year 2019 will be the year of a spending review, the ‘fair funding’ process and, just possibly, government proposals for the future of adult social care.

The spending review was announced by the chancellor last March, though it is still not known whether it will cover three years, four years, or possibly just one. Local government representatives make regular submissions to Whitehall about the plight of councils after eight years of austerity, but it is impossible to know if such concerns are being taken seriously by those undertaking the review.

Full Article

Analysis finds London could lose £0.5bn under fair funding reforms

The proposed new formula for funding services such as libraries, parks and waste collection will see more than £0.5bn diverted away from London councils, with shire areas the main beneficiaries, an academic analysis shared with LGC has found.

The analysis of the proposed new foundation formula by Ben Barr, a senior clinical lecturer in applied public health research at Liverpool University, also found not including an adjustment for deprivation, in favour of using population as the only cost driver, would see the 20% most deprived areas lose a total of £390m a year.

Full Article

Council spending on child asylum seekers almost doubles in four years

The amount councils are spending on unaccompanied child asylum seekers has almost doubled in four years, the Local Government Association has said.

Local authorities take on the responsibility for the accommodation, living allowance, education and social worker support for children granted asylum in the UK.

This support continues in various forms until they turn 25.

Full Article

City centres 'could become ghost towns'

City centres are in danger of becoming ghost towns as shopping habits change, a committee of MPs has warned.

To combat this, the government should "level the playing field" for High Street retailers by raising taxes on online giants such as Amazon, it said.

The MPs also called for lower business rates and more regeneration in town centres.

Full Article

Record UK government borrowing surplus in January

The chancellor's next Spring Statement has been given a lift after the government recorded its largest January borrowing surplus last month.

Government finances were in surplus by £14.9bn last month, the largest January surplus since records began in 1993, official figures showed.

The figure was £5.6bn greater than a year ago.

Full Article

Andrea Leadsom fails to guarantee MPs' Easter break

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom has failed to guarantee that Parliament's Easter break will go ahead as planned.

The House of Commons is not due to sit for two weeks in April - after the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March.

But Mrs Leadsom told MPs that the recess period remained subject to the process of agreeing new legislation.

Full Article

Counties and districts to clash over rates split

Counties and districts look set to clash over the future split of business rates growth after their responses to the government’s consultation on the issue set out diametrically opposed positions.

From April 2020, local government is set to retain 75% of the business rates collected nationally, up from the 50% that has been retained since 2013.

In two tier areas, districts retain four fifths of this and counties receive the remainder.

Full Article

British children living in poverty 'could hit record high' – report

The proportion of children in Britain living in poverty risks hitting a record high in the next few years as incomes stagnate and benefit cuts continue to bite, a report has warned.

A study by the Resolution Foundation thinktank said UK households had experienced flatlining living standards due to a lack of economic and pay growth in the past two years. Average incomes will not rise materially over the next two years either, it said.

The bleak forecast will hit lower-income families harder, according to the report, and child poverty could exceed previous highs reached in the early 1990s. Deprived families will bare the brunt of weak pay and benefit cuts, the report said.

Full Article

Local authorities with major ports to receive funding boost to help with Brexit preparations

Nineteen local authorities facing impacts from a local air, land or sea port will receive a share of £3.14 million to help them prepare for Brexit, the Communities Secretary confirmed today (20 February 2019).

Nineteen district and unitary councils across England will receive £136,362 to the end of April for each major port of entry into the UK in their area.

This will allow them to increase their resources to work through the immediate impacts from Brexit in their local areas such as ensuring their port’s resilience and potential impacts of greater traffic to surrounding communities.

Full Article

MPs ‘to scrutinise local authority finances’

A wide-reaching parliamentary inquiry is likely to be launched into local government finances, the chair of the housing, communities and local government select committee Clive Betts has revealed.

Betts said that the parliamentary inquiry would be a “major piece of work” into the current squeezed finances of local government, saying, “I think at some point we will go on and look at the whole issue of local government finance before the Spending Review – I think it will be right that we inform that."

He added: “It will be a major piece of work – we haven’t formally announced it yet – but I think our intention is clear.” He did not say when it would be launched.

Full Article

Have You Been Made Redundant From Your Council Job?

Thousands of council employees across the country have been made redundant in recent years as cash-strapped local authorities slash millions from budgets.

Data from the Local Government Association shows the size of local government staffing has shrunk significantly over the last 10 years.

The number of people directly employed by councils has fallen by 878,000 over that time, or 30%, whilst central government staffing has increased by 15%.

Full Article

Gove launches consultation on waste system overhaul

Companies would cover the full cost of recycling and disposing of the packaging they produce, under government proposals for reform of the waste system announced today.

Other measures out for consultation by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs include the introduction of a deposit return scheme, consistency in the materials that are collected and recycled across the country and a new tax on packaging which does not contain the minimum threshold of 30% recycled content.

The changes, which also includes mandatory weekly food waste collections, are set to be included in the government’s forthcoming Environment Bill, which is due to be introduced next year.

Full Article

Council chiefs insist waste reforms must be ‘fully funded’

Local authority leaders have welcomed plans to ‘overhaul’ the waste system, but cautioned Whitehall that any reforms need to be fully funded.

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs has launched a consultation on plans to reform the system by which waste is collected and sorted, cut plastic pollution, and move towards a more circular economy.

The consultation outlines plans to make businesses and manufacturers pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste. It also seeks to ensure there are a consistent set of recyclable materials.

Full Article

Crackdown on monthly bin collections after residents complain of rats, flies and stenches

Millions of homes will be spared monthly bin collections under a new Government pledge to reverse a trend towards them, following complaints of rats, flies and stenches.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will set out plans this week for a major overhaul of waste and recycling in England, which will ensure smelly food waste is collected on a weekly basis.

It comes after a number of cash-strapped councils have cut the frequency of their bin collections from every one or two weeks to every three or four weeks. This has caused outrage among many of the affected residents, who have faced dealing with smelly, overflowing bins which attract flies and rodents.

[Please see the Consultations page of the SCT website for more information.]

Full Article

Crackdown on monthly bin collections after residents complain of rats, flies and stenches

Millions of homes will be spared monthly bin collections under a new Government pledge to reverse a trend towards them, following complaints of rats, flies and stenches.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will set out plans this week for a major overhaul of waste and recycling in England, which will ensure smelly food waste is collected on a weekly basis.

It comes after a number of cash-strapped councils have cut the frequency of their bin collections from every one or two weeks to every three or four weeks. This has caused outrage among many of the affected residents, who have faced dealing with smelly, overflowing bins which attract flies and rodents.

The Government will provide extra funding to local authorities to ensure that people can have their food waste taken away weekly without having to pay extra council tax.

Full Article

New funding to get people more involved in local issues

Funding has been announced in 16 boroughs, town and cities across England to encourage more people to get involved in local issues.

The areas will share £3m to help people find it easier to invest time, skills and money to make their local areas better places to live.

Ten organisations will receive a share of £2.3m to devise programmes that enable people to take action on the issues they care about. A further £770,000 will be invested in six areas to establish giving schemes that make it easier for people and businesses to invest in their communities.

Full Article

Most English local authorities 'plan to raise council tax'

Almost all councils in England plan to increase council tax and many will be cutting services, research suggests.

Three-quarters of local authorities are set to increase tax by more than 2.5% from April, the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) said.

It comes as almost a third of councils surveyed said they were planning to cut spending on adult social care, and a quarter may reduce children's care.

Full Article

Brexit 'could cause migration to rise by 100,000,' report by Migration Watch UK claims

The Government's plans for the period after Brexit could actually cause net migration to the UK to rise by more than 100,000, a report claims.

The measure - the difference between the numbers arriving and departing- could reach 380,000 a year if the proposed new system is introduced, according to campaign group Migration Watch UK.

This would be higher than the record figure of 336,000, which has been registered three times, most recently in the 12 months to June 2016.

Full Article

UK inflation falls to two-year low in January

UK inflation fell to 1.8% in January, the lowest in two years, the Office for National Statistics said. It was 2.1% the previous month.

Mike Hardie, ONS head of inflation, said: "The fall in inflation is due mainly to cheaper gas, electricity and petrol, partly offset by rising ferry ticket prices and air fares falling more slowly than this time last year."

Full Article

Council rolls scooters out in bid to tackle pollution

Children in Leeds will soon be travelling to school on scooters instead of in cars as part of the council’s push to clean up the city’s air.

Leeds City Council is rolling out scooters, scooter storage and scooter training across primary schools in a move aimed at reducing the number of cars making the school run.

The scheme aims to improve air quality around the primary schools and help Leeds reach national air quality targets as soon as possible.

Full Article

MHCLG to make 'compelling case' for more funding

Local government minister Rishi Sunak has vowed that his department will ‘make a compelling case’ for more funding ahead of this year’s Spending Review.

In an interview with The MJ, self-declared localist Mr Sunak urged councils to submit evidence to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) that showed councils could deliver ‘cheaper and faster than other parts of the system’.

Mr Sunak also gave his strongest indication yet that MHCLG would be arguing for the continuation of the Troubled Families programme beyond 2020.

Full Article

Whitehall announces £9m boost for garden communities

The Government has today announced a £9m cash injection to help speed up the building of garden towns and villages across the country.

The Garden Communities project offers tailored Whitehall assistance to help councils deliver garden communities of at least 1,500 homes, with priority given to those of over 10,000 homes.

It is expected to deliver 200,000 properties on large sites by 2050, and the latest funding will help get 21 sites ready for development.

Full Article

Pothole compensation costs councils nearly £3m a year

Councils paid £2.8m to drivers for damage caused by potholes in 2017/18, new figures have revealed.

Data obtained by Confused.com reveals that Surrey County Council paid out the most in compensation at £446,812.

The figures also show that 905,000 potholes were reported to councils in one year, the equivalent of almost 2,500 per day.

Full Article

Whitehall cuts result in ‘lost generation’ of deaf children

England’s deaf children are falling a whole grade behind their hearing class mates despite deafness not being a learning disability, a charity has warned.

Research from the National Deaf Children’s Society has revealed that less than half (48%) of deaf children achieve a C or above in both Maths and English, compared to almost three quarters (71%) of other children.

Deaf children are also starting secondary school having already fallen behind. Less than half (43%) achieve the expected standard at reading, writing and maths at Key Stage 2 compared to 74% of other children.

Full Article

Standards of conduct in local government

There could be major changes ahead to the regime for monitoring the standard of conduct of members of local authorities in England if recommendations from the Committee on Standards in Public Life are implemented.

The Committee carried out a review of current arrangements and reported on its findings in January 2019. It found that the majority of councillors want to maintain high standards of conduct but that a minority engage in bullying, harassment or other disruptive behaviour. It also found that a disproportionate number of complaints relate to a small number of parish councils. The Committee thought that arrangements for local management of standards should continue but that these needed to be supported by robust safeguards.

Full Article

MJ and LGiU LGF Survey: Down to the core

Six out of 10 senior council figures admit their authority is now only delivering a basic core offer of service, The MJ and LGiU think-tank’s annual local government finance survey has revealed. The survey of chief executives, finance director and senior councillors from more than 150 councils found 61% confessed their authority was providing just ‘a little bit more than our statutory obligations’.

Three councils even conceded that they were delivering no extras on top of their statutory obligations. And one in 20 (6%) used the survey to warn there was a danger that their council will be unable to fulfil its statutory duties this year due to financial constraints.

Full Article

Young people told - become a care worker

Young people in England are being targeted by the government in a bid to recruit thousands of more care workers.

The Every Day is Different campaign will be promoted on social media and online platforms to get the under-40s to take up jobs such as care workers, therapists and activity co-ordinators.

There are currently more than 100,000 vacancies in the sector - a figure which some warn may rise after Brexit.

Full Article

Planning appeal wait ‘could be cut by months’

Contentious planning appeals could be resolved in half the time if the government modernised outdated technology systems and employed more planning inspectors, a government-commissioned review of the system has claimed.

Publication of the review commissioned by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government comes only four days after a damning report by the National Audit Office said: “The government’s planning system is underperforming and cannot demonstrate that it is meeting housing demand effectively.”

Full Article

Uncollected rubbish: 1.8 million missed bin complaints in UK

Councils in the UK received more than 1.8 million complaints last year about waste not being collected from homes, figures obtained by the BBC have shown.

A survey of councils found the number of complaints about missed collections has increased by a third since 2014.

On average, 4,500 complaints were made to UK councils every day last year.

Full Article

The price of freedom passes

How many times can you spend the same pot of money?

The question, particularly pertinent in a spending review year, arises out of an exchange between LGC and the Department for Transport last week over funding for the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme – so-called freedom passes for pensioners.

As LGC reported last Monday, provision of the scheme – a statutory responsibility – now comes with a hefty price tag for local government.

Full Article

A view from north of the border

Councils in Scotland have found themselves the unlikely beneficiaries of Holyrood parliamentary arithmetic as they emerged from Scottish budget negotiations with a clutch of worthwhile prizes.

As well as a £90m increase in the core local government settlement and an increase in next year’s council tax cap to 4.79%, local authorities are to be handed the power to levy new taxes on tourism and workplace parking.

The tourist tax, in particular, is a significant fiscal lever which is denied to authorities elsewhere in the UK, although visitor levies are commonplace in the rest of Europe.

Full Article

Updated: Yorkshire leaders ‘disappointed’ as devo bid rejected

The communities secretary has urged councils in Yorkshire to come forward with fresh devolution proposals after again dismissing calls for a deal covering the whole of the historic county.

In a letter to Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis (Lab) on Tuesday, Mr Brokenshire said government had considered the One Yorkshire proposals “carefully” but they did not meet the government’s criteria for a devolution deal.

LGC understands this is largely because the government views Yorkshire as a number of separate functional economic areas. In the letter Mr Brokenshire said ministers were “prepared to begin discussions about a different, localist approach” and suggested councils revive previous devolution proposals covering the Leeds City Region and the Humber Estuary.

Full Article

Hammond £5bn short of 'austerity is ending' target, says thinktank

Philip Hammond must find an extra £5bn in this year’s Whitehall spending review to reverse planned cuts and meet his claim of ending austerity, a leading thinktank has revealed.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies told the chancellor that funds pledged in last year’s budget to boost NHS spending, defence and international aid failed to safeguard local councils and some of the worst-hit government departments from further shortfalls.

The thinktank said a minimum of £2.2bn would be needed to freeze all budgets and protect them from inflation, but ministers would need to find an extra £5bn to allow departments to maintain services in line with the UK’s rising population.

Full Article

IFS: Public services need billions of extra pounds to end austerity

Public services face years more of austerity unless the chancellor hands out billions of extra pounds at the Spending Review, an economic think-tank has warned.

Government spending plans announced in the autumn Budget will mean real terms cuts for public services other than health, defence and overseas aid, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal studies.

The research, funded by the Economic and Social research Council and supported by the Institute for Government, said to avoid any cut to real-terms per capita spending, unprotected government departments would require an additional £5bn by 2023-24.

Full Article

Underfunding of bus scheme leaves elderly ‘isolated’

Elderly and vulnerable people could be left isolated because the concessionary bus fares scheme is underfunded, local government leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association says nearly half of all bus routes are at risk as the funding gap for free travel has reached £650m and this should be looked at in the forthcoming Spending Review.

It says uncontrollable costs and reductions in Government funding means the money available for the National Concessionary Travel Scheme, a statutory duty administered by councils, means they are increasingly having to fill the gap with their own limited resources.

Full Article

Brokenshire announces plans to improve integration

The Government has announced new measures to help immigrants integrate with their communities.

It says measures proposed in a green paper will 'create stronger, more confident and integrated communities, where people, whatever their background, can live, work, learn and socialise together, based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities.'

This includes 'creating opportunities for people to mix with those from other backgrounds, boosting English language skills, and supporting migrants to develop a good understanding of life in England.'

Full Article

Northern leaders approve £70bn transport plan

Leaders across the North of England have officially approved a £70bn transport plan for the region and will now take steps to submit a Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) to Government for rail investment.

Transport for the North (TfN) - the country's only statutory sub-national transport authority - agreed to submit proposals to invest up to £39bn in a modern rail network for the North.

This is a first step in the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme a combination of new and existing schemes, including upgrades and new lines.

Full Article

Labour would create local government commission

Labour would create a new commission that would allow councillors to influence every decision that affects local authorities if the party won a General Election.

Shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne detailed the plans for a local government commission - made up of leaders from all types of local authority - in a speech to a Local Government Association Labour conference in Warwick.

Full Article

Spending Review ‘make or break’ for cash-strapped councils

Local government leaders have warned the Chancellor that the upcoming Spending Review will ‘make or break’ over-stretched council services.

New research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has revealed that Philip Hammond will need to find an extra £5bn by 2023-24 to spare further cuts to public services.

Drawing on the Treasury’s provisional plans in the Autumn 2018 budget, the think tank estimated that departments, excluding health, defence and aid, face more cuts under the Government’s spending plans.

Full Article

Grammar schools to create 3,000 new places in the next three years to end middle class stranglehold with £50m fund focusing on poorer pupils

More children will be able to attend grammar schools in the next three years as almost 3,000 new places will be created.

However the £50million fund for new classrooms will focus on schools that prioritise poorer pupils – to stop them becoming too ‘socially exclusive’.

Announcing the extra cash today, schools minister Nick Gibb will say grammars are now ‘returning to their original social mobility agenda’ after decades of being colonised by the middle classes.

Full Article

The hidden housing crisis: Low-income workers are living in unsafe and unsanitary buildings

Private companies are housing teachers, NHS staff and low-income workers around the country in dangerous and dilapidated buildings, i can reveal.

“Property Guardians” sign up to live in empty buildings, with the promise of lower-than-market rents in abandoned police stations, schools, or office blocks. Occupants are classed as licence-holders, rather than tenants, which means they sign away many of the housing rights which apply to renters .

Full Article

The row over fair funding is just getting started

Battle lines have been very clearly and publicly drawn in the row over the government’s proposed new funding formula for councils over the past few weeks.

As LGC reported in January, the formula currently out to consultation proposes that in future around a third of funding for upper tier services will be determined on the basis of population. The remainder of services will be funded through one of seven service specific formulae, some of which will consider deprivation and all but one of which – legacy finance – will be subject to the adjustment for rurality.

Full Article

'Deprivation must be given due prominence in the fair funding formula'


Whatever decisions are made about the distribution of funding, what is essential is that the overall amount of funding for local government must be increased so that councils across the country are fully resourced to serve their communities.

However, decisions about how to share out available funding are crucial and must be rooted in solid evidence of the issues that genuinely increase pressure on council services. In the long run, nobody wins if the new formula is not responsive to drivers of demand.

Full Article

'Perfection will have to be sacrificed in favour of the practical on fair funding'

I believe it is accepted by all in local government, that the current funding formula is long out of date, opaque, unduly complex and profoundly unfair.

I am encouraged by the government’s fair funding review, currently out for consultation as it indicates an approach that is as simple as possible, transparent, needs-led, evidence based and potentially fair.

CCN has no intention of trying to skew the dice in favour of counties and at the expense of others.

Full Article

Brexit: Budget cuts threaten Ramsgate ferry plan

A decision is due on budget cuts that could prevent Ramsgate reopening as a ferry port to ease pressure on other routes in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

The government handed Seaborne Freight a £13.8m contract to run a service to Ostend, in Belgium, under contingency plans to alleviate any delays at Dover.

But the local council is considering cuts to port spending that would make roll-on, roll-off services impossible.

Thanet councillors in Kent will vote on the proposed £630,000 cuts later.

Full Article

Greater Manchester budget has £1m 'hole' due to moor fire funds delay

Greater Manchester's fire service budget has a £1m "big black hole in it" because the government has not decided if 2018's moorland fires spending can be reclaimed, the mayor has said.

Soldiers and extra firefighters were used to fight the Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill blazes in June and July.

Mayor Andy Burnham has asked to be allowed to recoup funds spent on the response under the Bellwin Scheme.

Full Article

Teaching units for deaf children keep closing, report finds

Ten dedicated teaching units for deaf children in schools are being closed every year, according to a new report.

The latest study by the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) and the National Deaf Children’s Society found that the number of facilities for deaf children in schools had fallen from 260 to 240 in the past two years, a drop of 8%.

The research found that the number of specialist teachers working in such units had fallen by 10% in the past two years and 21% since 2014. Remaining teachers have also seen their caseloads soar by more than a third (36%) to 60 children.

Full Article

More than 50,000 people have died waiting for social care since Tories vowed to fix system

More than 50,000 elderly people have died waiting for social care since the Tories vowed to fix their broken system nearly two years ago.

Frail pensioners are stranded at home without help as cash-strapped councils struggle to get carers out to them.

It is now 700 days since the Tories promised a Green Paper to reform social care funding.

Full Article

Who needs libraries anyway? How the Tories warped the purpose of local government [opinion]

What do you think of when you imagine your local council? Road repairs, bin collections, libraries? School places, keeping parks clean, and community art projects? Youth clubs, social workers, and care for the elderly?

All these things are the responsibility of local government. But not all of them are mandatory.

Councils provide what are known as “statutory services”, which they must deliver by law. These mainly include adult social care and protecting children.

But local authorities have lost 49 per cent of real-terms government funding since 2010. Some councils have suffered cuts to the point of collapse.

Full Article

Cutbacks at dozens of councils will see street lights turned off at night despite inquests linking switch-offs to deaths

Dozens more town halls are planning to switch off street lights at night – despite the risk to pedestrians and motorists.

An investigation has found that seven out of ten English councils either already dim or switch off lights at night – or are planning to.

Local authorities insist it is an environmental measure to reduce their carbon footprint – but it also creates a significant saving.

Last night the AA said the switch-offs could have safety implications, with 11 recent inquests blaming fatalities on lights being off at night.

Full Article

Council funding: MPs debate local government settlement

MPs are to debate how much England's councils will have to spend in the next financial year, after local authorities complained of a £3bn funding gap.

Ministers allocated £1.6bn more than planned, with one-off funds of £650m for social care and £420m for roads.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said the funding available amounted to a "real-terms increase" in resources.

Full Article

James Brokenshire confirms funding package for local authorities in 2019 to 2020

Government Press release:

Councils in England are to benefit from increased funding for core services including additional support for the most vulnerable in society, Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP confirmed today (5 February 2019).

Local authorities’ core spending power will rise in 2019 to 2020 by £1.3 billion, taking councils’ funding to £46.4 billion.

This year’s local government finance settlement includes extra funding for local services with a strong focus on greater support for adult and children’s social care. The settlement also supports and rewards economic growth and sets out reforms for a sustainable path for the future funding model for local government.

Full Article

Dick Sorabji: Funding review shows flaws in government machine

There is dark humour in listing the logical flaws buried in the government’s fair funding review.

Sadly these are symptoms of the ratcheting failure in the machinery of national government to address critical challenges facing the nation. They suggest we need more fundamental changes to the governance of Britain.

This year’s finance settlement included £1bn in emergency top-up funds, helping government avoid crisis without resolving policy dilemmas.

Full Article

Met and district face intervention over local plans failure

Wirral MBC is to face government intervention over its “lamentable” failure to draw up a local housing plan.

The council was one of two authorities to receive letters from secretary of state for housing, communities and local government James Brokenshire last week over its failure to draw up an appropriate local plan.

Mr Brokenshire conceded that Wirral was not an area of high housing pressure, but said its failure to plan for and deliver the necessary local housing was clear. Of the 15 authorities threatened with intervention over the issue at the end of 2017, Wirral had made least progress, he said.

Full Article

Cities call for post-Brexit powers to rebalance economy

New powers to promote social mobility and improved wellbeing should be part of a post-Brexit settlement, city councils outside London have told the government.

Proposals including the power to levy a local tourist tax, the acceleration of zero-carbon public transport and extra support for young people’s mental health services have been put forward by the Key Cities group of 24 councils across England and Wales.

The cities, which include many where a majority of voters supported the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, have also called for greater powers to implement tailored skills and employment programmes as part of a “more inclusive and rebalanced” economy after Brexit.

Full Article

Labour to vote against ‘unfair’ local government funding

Labour have pledged to vote against the Local Government Funding Settlement, arguing it fails to recognise the ‘dire situation’ facing councils.

Writing for The Mirror, shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne said the settlement helps out more affluent Tory areas rather than those most in need.

He wrote: ‘The Tories are planning changes to the way it gives funding to councils. Instead of targeting the most deprived areas, or those with the most need, they’ll instead introduce new plans that mostly help out more affluent Tory areas.

‘This settlement is inadequate and unfair.

Full Article

Ladbrokes staff told to sign gamblers to online accounts to avoid redundancy

Bookmaker Ladbrokes Coral is telling shop staff to sign up as many gamblers as possible to online accounts if they want to avoid being among 5,000 employees it plans to make redundant, the Guardian has learned.

According to letters circulated among employees – and seen by the Guardian – the bookmaker will close up to 1,000 of its 3,500 shops over the next 18 to 24 months, blaming imminent curbs on £100-per-spin fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Redundancies will be decided via a ranking system, with staff grouped by area and competing against each other on a range of criteria to escape the axe.

Full Article

Rebuild the faded towns of Britain to end our national malaise [opinion]

For the past nine years or so, I have been observing a regular journalistic ritual. In pursuit of enlightenment over where the country may be going, how people are going to vote, and their opinions about such massive issues as Brexit and Scottish independence, I have pitched up in scores of places and begun my inquiries with some version of a simple question: how is this place doing?

In most cases, I can still depend on the same answer quickly cropping up in at least 50% of conversations: a loud complaint about the number of closed-down shops and the dire state of the town centre. To some extent, such stories have now hardened into a grim cliche, summed up by those shots of boarded-up premises that are a staple of the TV news, and weekly reports about the fate of our high streets. But that does not make what people say any less true, or detract from how passionately they feel about something that has now been happening for over a decade.

Full Article

Consumer enforcement system on ‘verge of collapse’, report warns

The consumer enforcement system is too reliant on overstretched local authorities and is on ‘the verge of collapse’, watchdog says.

In a new report entitled Creating a successful enforcement system for UK consumers, the consumer watchdog Which? says the current system depends too much on councils’ Trading Standards Services.

It urges the Government to grant the Competition and Markets Authority the power to create a Consumer and Competition Authority, which could lead on the enforcement of consumer rights and fair trading law.

Full Article

Freedom passes costing councils £650m

Councils subsidised concessionary travel for pensioners to the tune of £652m in 2017-18, according to a new analysis which also raises concerns the government’s proposed new fair funding formula will exacerbate the problem for some councils.

In evidence presented to the Commons transport committee last week, North East Combined Authority chief finance officer Paul Woods said last year almost £1.2bn was being spent on the scheme which entitles English pensioners to free bus travel during off-peak hours anywhere in the country.

In 2010-11 there was almost £1.2bn available to fund the scheme, approved by parliament. However, since then the funding has been subject to repeated cuts and rolled into the upper tier baseline funding in 2014-15, making it difficult to see by how much. Mr Woods’ analysis estimates more than half of that funidng has been taken out, leaving councils to plug the gap.

Full Article

Freedom passes costing councils £650m

Councils subsidised concessionary travel for pensioners to the tune of £652m in 2017-18, according to a new analysis which also raises concerns the government’s proposed new fair funding formula will exacerbate the problem for some councils.

In evidence presented to the Commons transport committee last week, North East Combined Authority chief finance officer Paul Woods said last year almost £1.2bn was being spent on the scheme which entitles English pensioners to free bus travel during off-peak hours anywhere in the country.

In 2010-11 there was almost £1.2bn available to fund the scheme, approved by parliament. However, since then the funding has been subject to repeated cuts and rolled into the upper tier baseline funding in 2014-15, making it difficult to see by how much. Mr Woods’ analysis estimates more than half of that funidng has been taken out, leaving councils to plug the gap.

Full Article

‘Suicidal generation’: tragic toll of teens doubles in 8 years

The suicide rate among teenagers has nearly doubled in eight years, according to new figures that have prompted fears that Britain is raising “a suicidal generation”.

Amid growing alarm at the impact of social media on young people, The Sunday Times has learnt that provisional data for last year compiled by the Office for National Statistics show the rate among children aged 15 to 19 has climbed while that of nearly all older age groups is declining.

The figures, to be published in September, reveal that suicides are running at more than five in 100,000 among teenagers in England. In 2010 the rate was just over three in 100,000.

Full Article

Foster care is faced with a ‘looming crisis’

Foster care in Britain is facing a “looming crisis” because of lack of government funding and support, leaving carers feeling demoralised, overworked and struggling to cope with the complex needs of the vulnerable children they look after, experts have warned.

The Fostering Network, the charity representing foster carers, has accused the government of neglecting foster care, predicting that young people will not get the support they need if carers continue to be underpaid, ignored and undervalued.

Full Article

£8bn funding gap threatens discretionary services, LGA warns

An £8 billion funding gap by 2025 will force councils to cut services such as park maintenance, fly tipping enforcement and council tax support, the Local Government Association has warned.

Between 2010 and 2020 councils will have lost almost 60p out of every pound the government has provided for services, making this year’s spending review “make or break” the LGA said.

The spending review is expected later this year, once Britain has officially left the EU but doubt surrounds how far ahead it can look. The Institute for Government warned in September that only a one year spending programme - rather than the usual three - may be possible due to the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

Full Article

Brexit: Third of UK businesses considering move abroad - survey

Almost a third of UK companies could move operations abroad because of Brexit, a survey has suggested.

Research for the Institute of Directors revealed that 16% already had relocation plans while a further 13% were actively considering doing so.

The IoD said it took "no pleasure" in revealing "these worrying signs".

Full Article

Multi-million funding boost to prevent potholes

The Government has announced a £23m funding boost to develop new technology that can stop potholes from forming.

The money will help research and trial new surface materials or pothole repair techniques.

Eight local authorities will deliver the projects - including testing plastic roads in Cumbria and using kinetic energy from roads to power lighting in Buckinghamshire.

Full Article

£70bn plan to boost the North’s infrastructure published

Transport for the North has set out a multi-billion pound blueprint for transforming the North’s economy and creating an estimated 850,000 jobs.

The Strategic Transport Plan (STP) and the Investment Programme outlines how up to £70bn of infrastructure investment to 2050 could contribute towards an additional £100bn in economic growth in the North.

The plan, which includes flagship programmes such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and new major roads, looks to improve connectivity for people and businesses in the North.

Full Article

Council underestimates value of housing stock by £86m

Northampton Borough Council underestimated the value of its housing stock by more than £86m, according to a delayed audit report.

The council's auditors KPMG said the issue had 'significantly delayed' its report which ended up more than a year late.

However, the council said the error in its 2016-17 accounts had not affected its financial stability.

KPMG said the wrong social housing discount factor, which adjusts figures to take into account the lower commercial value of social properties, had been used by the accounting team.

Full Article

So the government choose Brexit debate day to quietly finalise its council cuts

In what’s becoming a bleak pattern, the government chose Tuesday – Theresa May’s second attempt to pass her Brexit deal – to finalise its next round of cuts to councils.

Ministers outlined the provisional local government finance settlement for 2019-20 last December. But they chose this week to announce its final plans for short-term local government funding – in a written statement, the subtlest form of government announcement, by the Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire.

After eight years of austerity, cash-strapped councils have been waiting for the government to use its final settlement this month to provide the resources they desperately need for funding public services in 2019-20. But the new settlement – sneaked out while Westminster is distracted by Brexit – doesn’t deliver what councils need.

Full Article

Teachers' pay should be capped at 2%, says government

The Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, has signalled teachers' pay in England should be capped at 2% next year.

In evidence to the independent School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), he said 2% would be in line with projected inflation and affordable within schools budgets, set to rise 2.5% next year.

The joint teaching unions have told the STRB they want 5% across the board.

Full Article

'Commercialisation is good. But only if the risks are appropriate'

Local government spending on commercial land and property continues to attract significant scrutiny, not just from the press and public, but from politicians too.

It is just a few weeks since housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire spoke of his concerns about “the risk that local authorities are exposing themselves and local taxpayers to” through high levels of borrowing. He warned there may be “further interventions” from the Treasury to restrict this activity.

In a separate development, a private members bill by Sir Christopher Chope MP aimed at curbing local authority borrowing for non-core activities is due to get its second reading on 25 January.

Full Article

Inadequate Brexit funding 'better spent on tinned food'

The government’s commitment to provide funding for councils to prepare for Brexit has drawn a mixed reaction from the local government sector, with one council leader telling LGC “no amount of money” could help deal with chaos expected from a disorderly exit from the EU.

Housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire announced this week that £56.5m would be made available to councils over two years.

In a written statement, Mr Brokenshire said district councils will receive £35,000 over the period, county councils have been allocated £175,000, and unitary councils will receive £210,000. Combined authorities will receive £182,000.

Full Article

LGA hit by unexpected £1m insurance bill

Smith Square faces an unexpected bill of up to £1m to cover the start-up costs of the insurance venture it has formed with 14 councils. The Local Government Association (LGA) had invested £1.7m in supporting the Local Government Mutual (LGM) project over the last two years, with the expectation that it would be self-financing from April.

But a confidential LGA paper, seen by The MJ, read: ‘No further costs were expected to be incurred by the LGA on behalf of LGM in 2019/20, as there should have been sufficient income to cover costs once the first business is written. However, given the latest view of the timings and quantum of the insurance premiums arising, further short term funding/support is required in 2019/20.’

Full Article

Charity hits out at Theresa May over Child Funeral Fund pledge

A charity today slammed Theresa May’s lack of progress over helping grieving parents fund children’s funerals.

The Prime Minister pledged last March to create a pot of cash so bereaved mums and dads would no longer have to fork out for the cruel costs of burials or cremations.

But 10 months later, the plans, which would cost an estimated £10million-a-year, have apparently stalled and thousands of grief-stricken families have had to pay since the announcement.

Full Article

Special needs overspend in eight out of 10 councils

English councils have overspent by at least £324m on their budgets for young adults and children with special needs this financial year, the BBC has found.

Of the 136 local authorities that provided information to the BBC under Freedom of Information laws, 123 have overspent on their high needs budget.

The government says it is providing an extra £250m to ease pressures, and £100m on new school places.

Full Article

Transport Secretary ploughs £22million into plastic roads to fix UK’s pothole crisis

The Transport Secretary yesterday set aside £22 million for research and trials on new surface materials across the UK – given the outcry over the state of the country’s road network.

One trial will include wider tests of using a plastic-based material – made from recycled waste – in standard asphalt for resurfacing in Cumbria.

The equivalent of 500,000 plastic bottles and 800,000 carrier bags were used in a recent project on the A7 in Carlisle.

Full Article

Bus journeys fall by 90 million in a year

The number of bus journeys taken in Great Britain fell by more than 90 million in one year, official figures show. In 2017-18 there were 4.8bn bus journeys made, down 2% on 2016-17.

Councils say they are "desperate" to protect services but funding cuts forced "difficult decisions".

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it helped subsidise buses with £250m a year in investment.

Full Article

Labour councils and activists are at war. But it won’t stop austerity [opinion]

Just because we stopped talking about austerity doesn’t mean it went away. The Centre for Cities published research this week on nearly a decade of Conservative fiscal tightening: councils have now lost 60p in every pound of funding they got from central government under Labour. Barnsley has suffered the greatest percentage cut in day-to-day spending on services, at 40%; Liverpool has had the deepest annual cuts per head, at £816. Three of the top five cities affected are in Yorkshire; there is a clear skew towards the north.

Full Article

Tory Cuts To Local Council Budgets Are Leaving A Wake Of Social Destruction

Over the last nine years this disastrous Tory government has targeted its austerity agenda at the most deprived areas of the country whilst the Conservative voting areas have – in relative terms – been spared the worst of the cuts. This has all be done through the guise of manipulating existing funding models, but due to Government proposed changes it’s about to get worse.

In late December, whilst attention was focused on Brexit, the government proposed to change the way it gives funding to councils. Instead of focusing on the most deprived areas or those with the most need they’ll introduce new funding streams predominantly aiding more affluent Tory areas. This at a time when the Government should be reinvesting in our most at need areas not cutting them ever more to the bone.

So severe and urgent is the crisis facing our councils, that the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights mentioned it in the opening paragraph of his recent report, saying that local authorities had been “gutted by a series of government policies”.

Full Article

Drivers more than twice as likely to suffer pothole damage than in 2006

Drivers are two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer a pothole-related breakdown than in 2006, according to new figures.

The RAC said its patrols received 1,714 call-outs between October and December for problems usually caused by road defects, such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels.

These issues represented 0.8% of all RAC breakdown reports in that period, which is the lowest amount for the final three months of any year since 2013.

Full Article

Council bans adverts for chocolate bars, ice creams and chips from billboards and bus stops to encourage residents to exercise more and eat healthier

Adverts for chocolate bars, ice creams and chips will be banned from billboards and bus stops across an entire borough.

The council’s initiative – the first of its kind – will also see advertising space used to encourage residents to walk more and eat less sugar.

The Department of Health has given Lewisham in south-east London £10,000 to draw up plans for the ban.

Full Article

A Government Memo Says A No-Deal "Brexodus" Could See 250,000 Expats Returning To The UK

Between 50,000 and 250,000 British expats currently living in the European Union may return to the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit, potentially putting significant pressure on already-stretched public services, according to government assessments..

An internal memo circulated around Whitehall departments revealed that officials are preparing for a sudden rush of citizens to return home if Britain crashes out of the EU without a negotiated settlement, including many pensioners who had retired to the continent.

Under the “worst case scenario” envisaged in the cross-Whitehall contingency planning document, about 150,000 people would return in the first year after the UK leaves the EU on March 29 – with around 30,000 coming back in the first three months.

Another 100,000 would follow in the next wave of the "Brexodus" the following year, according to the estimate.

Full Article

Austerity hits prevention funding

Councils face a spending gap of £8.7bn in their bid to provide services aimed at preventing social problems in areas as diverse as homelessness, debt and crime.

A survey of council chief executives and leaders highlights a significant gap between what they thought they should allocate to prevention and what they actually spend.

The New Local Government Network’s quarterly Leadership Index found that resources have been concentrated on acute statutory social care services at the expense of preventative measures.

Full Article

Northamptonshire gets green light to raise council tax

The final local government finance settlement has handed Northamptonshire County Council a lifeline by allowing the cash-strapped authority greater council tax flexibility.

Unveiling the settlement today, communities secretary James Brokenshire offered the council an additional 2% council tax flexibility to overcome the “serious issues” it has faced.

Brokenshire’s written statement on Tuesday means the council can increase its council tax by 5% in 2019–20 to mitigate its ongoing financial troubles.

Full Article

£400m cuts leave museums in crisis

Cash for public libraries, museums and art galleries has been slashed by nearly £400million in the past eight years, forcing hundreds to close, it has been revealed. Yesterday campaigners and council leaders warned services faced further dramatic cuts unless the Government gave local authorities more money. Alarming new figures show council spending on museums, galleries, libraries, and local arts has plunged by more than £390million since 2011.

In contrast to devastating losses in our communities, the Royal Opera House - which has been trying to shake off its elitist image - receives an annual subsidy of £24million through Arts Council funding.

Full Article

Drivers twice as likely to have a pothole accident now than in 2006

Drivers are two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer a pothole-related breakdown than in 2006, according to new figures.

The RAC said its patrols received 1,714 call-outs between October and December for problems usually caused by road defects, such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels.

These issues represented 0.8% of all RAC breakdown reports in that period, which is the lowest amount for the final three months of any year since 2013.

Full Article

Local authorities forced to cut council tax support sees surge in unpaid tax bills

Around 90% of English councils have been forced cut council tax support for working age claimants, meaning many low-income households have fallen behind with their council tax bills, according to new research.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has highlighted the impact of the government’s decision to abolish the centralised council tax support (CTS) for low-income households in 2013, which has seen an extra 1.3 million working-age households sent a council tax bill.

Nearly five million households received localised tax support in 2017-18, costing local authorities a total of £4.1bn – and 2.4 million working-age people received support, with an average benefit of £770 per year.

Full Article

‘Least equipped’ northern cities have taken brunt of funding cuts

Northern cities have been hit by the biggest budget cuts as a result of austerity, a think-tank has found.

People living in cities have faced £386 worth of cuts per head since 2009-10, compared with £172 per person elsewhere, according to a report out today by Centre for Cities.

Cities have borne nearly three quarters (74%) of all real-terms local government funding cuts in the past decade, despite being home to just 54% of the population, the report said.

Full Article

Kent looks to Whitehall to fund Brexit pressures

The council that is home to one of England’s key commercial ports is pinning its hopes on central government funding to ensure it can cope with Brexit pressures.

Kent County Council, which includes the port of Dover, is in the process of calculating the costs of Brexit contingency planning and will seek to have these costs covered by central government, it has told PF.

Full Article

Surrey interim staffing spend spirals

Surrey CC has seen its temporary staffing bill spiral after making a series of interim appointments aimed at tackling its worsening financial situation.

In the six months after chief executive Joanna Killian took over in March 2018, LGC anaysis of council records indicate the authority signed 30 interim and temporary officer contracts totalling almost £3m.

Most of the interim roles are directly related to an ongoing transformation programme which seeks to address a budget gap that is predicted to rise to £94m in the next three years. At least £1.2m is specifically related to efforts to improve the council’s children’s services after they were rated inadequate in February 2018.

Full Article

Sigoma: The ministry must revise fair funding approach

Stephen Houghton has responsed to the CCN's defence of plans to downgrade deprivation role saying:

We welcome the CCN's statement last week that it wants to ensure the FFR is evidence based, needs-led and fair. But the MHCLG’s current proposals risk replacing one unfair system with another, and we are keen to avoid this.

We also welcome the network’s emphasis on the importance of securing additional resources at the spending review to put the sector on a more sustainable footing. Sigoma has made the same arguments from the start, and will continue to do so.

The CCN is also right to argue deprivation should remain a factor in people-based services. People rely on services like homelessness support, libraries and public transport every day, especially in deprived areas. But the government is currently proposing to include these in an unweighted foundation formula...

Full Article

Brexit: Local councils to receive £56.5m fund

Local councils in England will receive £56.5m to help them deal with Brexit, James Brokenshire has said.

The Local Government Secretary said the money would be used for "appropriate contingency planning".

Every council will receive a share of the pot, but additional funds will be given to areas that face the immediate impact from local ports.

Full Article

Councils say more arts cuts inevitable amid rising social care need

A fresh wave of funding cuts to local museums, libraries and arts festivals is inevitable because of the need to focus scarce municipal resources on the rising demand for social care, councils have warned.

Almost £400m has been stripped out of annual local authority spending on culture and the arts since 2010, according to research by the County Councils Network, with more to come unless ministers inject more funds into local government.

The Tory-controlled body called for an “honest discussion” of the role of local authorities as spending cuts force councils to abandon nice-to-have services to enable them to fund their legal obligation to provide social care. Councils would have “little choice”, it said, but to continue to take an axe to culture spending and other so-called non-core services to maintain minimum statutory services for vulnerable adults and children.

Full Article

Care home residents face funding drop as councils refuse to meet fee increase

Elderly patients in care homes will face real-term funding cuts again this year, figures show.

One in five councils has been given no increase in fees they pay per resident to private care firms for 2018/19.

This is despite the firms claiming costs and wage bills have increased by up to 5%.

Councils say they cannot pay any more after years of Government cuts and claim the social care system is set to “buckle under the weight of demand”.

Full Article

Funding for libraries down 40 per cent as cities are hit hardest by austerity

Britain’s cities have shouldered the cost of austerity, a study has revealed – with investment in libraries, sport and heritage hit hardest.

Research by think tank Centre for Studies showed an average spending cut of £386 per person in urban areas compared to £172 per head elsewhere.

According to the report, areas in northern England with particularly high rates of poverty bore the brunt of cuts. Hardest-hit Barnsley. where 62 per cent of all 2017-18 council spending went to social care, suffered a 40 per cent decrease in local authority spending since 2009-10. The number of cities spending over half their budgets on social care sits at over 50 per cent, an eight-fold increase.

Full Article

Councils could dip into reserves to deal with Brexit aftermath

At a CIPFA-organised event in December last year, Julia Goldsworthy, chair of CIPFA’s Brexit advisory commission, told councils to begin preparations for “any kind” of Brexit.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has promised English councils they will share a £35m pot to help them “prepare and respond to Brexit”.

Melanie Dawes, permanent secretary at MHCLG, told the housing, communities and local government select committee last week that the announcement of where this will go will be made “soon”. Although, local authorities will not get the money until April at least, as the MHCLG has said the money is for the financial year 2019-20 – after the 29 March, the date the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.

Full Article

Kent looks to Whitehall to fund Brexit pressures

The council that is home to one of England’s key commercial ports is pinning its hopes on central government funding to ensure it can cope with Brexit pressures.

Kent County Council, which includes the port of Dover, is in the process of calculating the costs of Brexit contingency planning and will seek to have these costs covered by central government, it has told PF.

A council spokesperson said: “KCC is updating all business continuity plans across all services to reflect greatest impact scenarios. It is developing business impact analyses and costing all preparations.

Full Article

Local government could do far more if given the power

I read Jason O’Mahony’s column on the forthcoming council elections with interest (“Scrap local elections and we wouldn’t notice”, Jan 22). As a councillor since 1993, I believe the things that matter to people can be best dealt with through reformed local government, but this needs real change, real power and more resources. The housing, planning and local government department, though, is ill-disposed to the first two elements of its name and actively hostile to the third.

Full Article

Redundancy costs at Essex County Council reach £8.6m after 277 employees exit

Nearly £8.6m has been spent on redundancies at Essex County Council after nearly 300 staff left during a reorganisation of its senior management structure.

Statistics released by the council showed that 277 Essex County Council employees left with redundancy packages in 2017-18, with 13 separate staff members leaving the council with pay-outs between £100,000 and £200,000.

A council spokesperson said the redundancies were a legal requirement and were “necessary to streamline the organisation following staff feedback.”

Full Article

Home Office tracks debit card use to ‘spy’ on asylum seekers

The Home Office has been accused of “spying” on asylum seekers after it emerged that it secretly monitors their debit card use to track their whereabouts.

Officials use purchases made outside a person’s “authorised” city — the place where they are given temporary housing — to argue they are fraudulently living elsewhere, so are not destitute enough to qualify for emergency aid or shelter.

The surveillance takes place through Aspen cards, a government-issued debit card rolled out two years ago to make it easier for asylum seekers to buy food and basic supplies. More than 27,000 of these cards are now in use.

Full Article

Online sales tax to help save high street falls foul of EU

An online sales tax to help high street shops has in effect been ruled out by the Treasury because it would fall foul of EU rules.

Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, has written to Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the Treasury select committee, to say there was a “high risk” that any such tax would breach the bloc’s state aid rules.

The UK is due to leave the European Union on March 29 but under the draft withdrawal agreement Britain has accepted “dynamic alignment” with Brussels on state-aid rules.

Full Article

Hope for rough sleepers as pilot programme begins

Housing First is being piloted in Liverpool, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, with £28m of government funding being shared across the three areas.

Birmingham was the first city to house rough sleepers under the scheme and properties have been found for 41 people.

Birmingham City Council has been working with housing associations and charities and freeing up some council houses.

Full Article

Brexit funding for councils ‘only half of what MHCLG requested’

The £35m of funding councils will share to help them cope with Brexit is only half of what the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government asked for.

Clive Betts, chair of the MHCLG committee, has told PF the department originally asked the Treasury for £70m.

The MHCLG has said it is “currently identifying where this money can best be allocated to ensure that the department and local areas are prepared for and can respond to EU exit”.

Councils are expected to receive the cash for 2019-20 in April - after the proposed Brexit date of 29 March.

Full Article

Little time left for detail needed over funding

Time is running out for the government to enable an orderly transition to new funding arrangements for local authorities from next year, according to sector experts.

Voices across the local government spectrum have raised concerns over a lack of clarity in a government consultation on the Fair Funding Review, which will revamp the way in which central government funding is allocated from April 2020.

In its response to the consultation, the Local Government Association said it was worried by a lack of clarity over formulas used to work out funding for a number of services which “account for a significant part of local authority budgets”.

Full Article

Whitehall makes £50,000 available for high streets

Communities across the country can bid for up to £50,000 to help make local areas more attractive for business, the high streets minister has announced.

The latest round of the £500,000 British Improvement Districts (BIDs) Loan Fund will support business owners and local leaders to set-up a BID, which helps to deliver additional local services and upgrade commercial areas.

‘BIDs have a proven track record of upgrading commercial areas to enable business owners and entrepreneurs in our town centres and high streets to thrive,’ said the high streets minister Jake Berry.

Full Article

Rural housing crisis ‘forgotten’ by Whitehall

It would take 133 years to build enough new homes for people on waiting lists in rural areas at the current rate of housebuilding, campaigners have warned.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England says there are now 177,688 families on waiting lists for social housing in the countryside, but last year just 1,336 homes for social rent were built.

New government statistics show the number of households on local authority housing waiting lists in rural areas is increasing.

Full Article

Committee examine ‘county lines’ drug distribution networks

From parliament.uk.

As part of its inquiry into serious violence, the Home Affairs Committee hears evidence on the ‘county lines’ drug distribution methodology and its role in driving serious violent crime. Members will hear from policing authorities responding to the issue.

Purpose of the session

The session is likely to cover:

-The scale and nature of the county lines problem, and factors driving this form of drug distribution and exploitation

-The relationship between county lines and recent increases in serious violence

-The response of the police and other agencies to county lines, including disrupting networks and safeguarding trafficked and exploited children, and

-The role of Government funding reductions, including on the ability of police forces to respond effectively to county lines.

Full Article

Peer review praises 'inward looking' county's finances

Derbyshire CC is “financially well placed” compared with other counties, a peer challenge has found.

A report by the Local Government Association (LGA) found Derbyshire had “managed its finances well and has relatively higher reserves. This provides significant opportunities to deliver ambitions and improve service delivery”.

It praised the ‘enterprising council’ programme, which is intended to reduce the cost of public services through innovations and efficiency.

Full Article

John Sinnott: The fair funding review is a challenge to the sector

The mostly critical responses from local government to the government’s fair funding review reveal a great deal.

Once again, they show the weakness of local authorities in facing up to government in these challenging times. Understandably they are often governed by what the result might mean for one council or one group of councils. Yet the additional problem is that the sector has countenanced a broken system for too long.

Full Article

Brexit uncertainty threatens £400m regeneration scheme

A £400m property scheme hangs in the balance after the Brighton & Hove City Council and a developer clashed over Brexit uncertainty.

Developer Crest Nicholson submitted a letter to Brighton & Hove hours before councillors were due to vote on the final deal, insisting that “greater clarity on the form and timing of Brexit” was needed for the project to be feasible.

The council responded by giving the developer an ultimatum – to enter a development agreement by 30 March or risk losing the project.

Full Article

Teachers to be offered cash to stay in school

Cash incentives and a better work-life balance are part of a new attempt to solve England's teacher shortage.

Plans published on Monday by ministers will offer some young secondary teachers £5,000 in their third and fifth years in the classroom - on top of initial £20,000 training bursaries.

Full Article

Third council joins unitary legal action

South Buckinghamshire DC has added its weight to moves by neighbours Chiltern and Wycombe DCs to challenge ministerial decisions on how the unitary would work.

The county’s fourth district, Aylesbury Vale DC, has not yet joined the legal fight but all four have refused to consent to the regulations for the reorganisation.

This means communities secretary James Brokenshire must get the legislation through Parliament before the end of March, when a legal provision allowing reorganisation with the consent of only one affected council lapses. After that he would need unanimous agreement.

Full Article

Hinds: More schools should convert to academies

Education secretary Damian Hinds has urged more schools to convert to academy status as figures showed half of pupils are now educated in academies.

Hinds said academy status gave schools more freedom and opportunity, in a statement released on Wednesday.

“It is fantastic that 50% of the pupils in state-funded schools in the country are now benefitting from the freedom and autonomy that an academy trust enjoys.

Full Article

Shops lose 70,000 jobs in a year, says BRC

UK shops and retailers employ 70,000 fewer people than they did a year ago as the High Street continues to decline, a survey indicates.

In the final three months of 2018, the number of employees in the retail sector fell 2.2% year-on-year, while total hours worked fell by 2.8%, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

"Frontline staff" in shops will fall further in the next decade, it said.

Full Article

Top ratings from Ofsted lowered on return visit

Three in four schools rated “outstanding” have been downgraded after Ofsted inspectors returned.

The government decided in 2011 that once a school had been rated outstanding it was exempt from further inspections unless serious concerns were raised.

Ofsted is unhappy with this arrangement. More than 1,600 schools have not been inspected for at least six years, and for more than 200 schools it has been more than a decade. These schools are able to market themselves as outstanding even though standards may have declined. The watchdog asked that the exemption be removed and was allowed to inspect 10 per cent of them.

Full Article

Cycle lanes are the solution to congestion not the problem

“London has finite road space, so it’s vital we use it well,” Baroness Brady argued here the other day. On that she and I surely agree. But scrapping the successful Embankment cycle lane would be wrongheaded and retrograde, and the Mayor, Transport for London and I could never support it.

We can also agree Embankment is congested. It was before the cycle lane opened, it is now, and it still would be if it were again just a motorway. Drivers would fill the available space, when what we need are fewer vehicles and better alternatives — exactly what the cycle lane delivers. Far from causing congestion, cycle lanes are a solution, moving many more people in the same amount of space.

In 2014, before the lane was built, almost 7,500 cycle trips were made on Embankment each day. Those people are now safe from traffic and that’s a success in itself. But the lane has also enabled many more cycle journeys — up 38 per cent to more than 10,300 a day.

Full Article

LGA backs cities over deprivation funding

A cross-party deal has seen the Local Government Association (LGA) back retention of deprivation as a factor in the foundation formula.

But it has left unresolved how deprivation should be reflected in allocations to councils amid tensions between mainly Labour urban authorities and Conservative rural ones.

The deal was reached by the LGA’s leadership board and formally endorsed today by its executive.

Full Article

Minister says Whitehall lacks city-level Brexit data

The government has no sub-regional data on the impact of Brexit, a minister has admitted to the Local Government Association.

Junior minister for exiting the EU Kwasi Kwarteng told the LGA councillors’ forum this afternoon that no information existed at city level.

He was answering Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans (Lab) who said: “I asked MHCLG for data it had on the impact of Brexit on Plymouth and was told more or less that if they told me they’d have to kill me. How can we plan when the government is playing secret squirrel?”

Full Article

'Public-public partnerships offer a strong alternative to outsourcing'

The high-profile collapse of Carillion, and the widespread suspicion that the private sector is not paying its fair share to the public purse, has caused a seismic shift in opinion among local politicians and public alike.

There has been a significant drop in contracts being awarded externally in recent months, proving that many councils have fallen out of love with the big players in the outsourcing world.

This seems particularly true in waste services. At a district level this is a vitally important service which residents expect their council to get right first time at a fair price – and every time after that.

Full Article

After Carillion: The future of local service outsourcing

It was only in the second half of 2018 that Patricia Hughes started to receive complaints from residents about Hart DC’s revenues and benefits services being outsourced. Given that the contract has been in place for more than a decade, it was rather revealing. “It’s interesting that the public narrative is changing,” Ms Hughes, joint chief executive at the council, said.

It’s a shift for which the collapse of Carillion can take some credit. When it was liquidated in January 2018, the outsourcing firm had debts of £1.5bn and had been holding more than 400 UK public sector contracts. For taxpayers the cost of its failure is expected to run to £148m.

But could the cost of this high-profile collapse go further than that? Might it affect local authorities’ ability to see outsourcing as a viable option? And what might the future be for existing arrangements? To explore some of the answers to these challenging questions, LGC gathered local government experts for a roundtable debate, held in association with Norse Group.

Full Article

Department For Education 'Doesn't Understand Drivers Of Children's Social Care', Says Watchdog

The Department for Education “still does not fully understand what is driving demand for children’s social care”, the National Audit Office has said.

This comes after the National Audit Office (NAO) stated more than two years ago that the Department for Education (DfE) had made “poor progress” in improving children’s social care services.

It has prompted local councils to call on the Government to heed “consistent and increasingly urgent warnings that children’s services are now at a tipping point”, while Public Accounts Committee chairman Meg Hillier said the Government has “got to grasp the nettle” after an £872 million overspend last year on children’s social care and local government funding pressures.

Full Article

Academy School Failures And Misuse Of Funds Are Damaging Children's Education, Spending Watchdog Warns

Children’s education is being damaged by academy school failures and misuse of funds that includes paying “excessive salaries” to top bosses, a public spending watchdog has warned.

Academy trusts are now responsible for educating nearly half of all children in state-funded schools in England but are not sufficiently accountable to parents and local communities, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found.

A succession of high-profile collapses of schools and misuse of public money is harming both pupils’ learning and taxpayers’ pockets, a damning new report by the influential committee says.

Full Article

Growing demands on children's social services not understood by Government despite £872 million overspend, report claims

Soaring demands for children’s social services are not understood by the Government despite an £872 million overspend last year, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has warned.

Around 91% of local authorities strayed above budget for children’s social care in 2017-18, a trend the Department for Education has “not yet done the work” to unpick, according to the National Audit Office.

The lack of detailed analysis comes despite wild variations in spending from one council to the next in recent years, along with astronomical rises in certain care requirements.

Full Article

'Appalling' ignorance of child-protection pressures

The government has an "appalling" lack of understanding of the growing pressure on England's child-protection services, a spending watchdog says.

The National Audit Office pointed to a huge rise in demand since 2010.

Council budgets had been cut by nearly 30% over this period, it said, and 91% of local authorities were now overspending on children's services.

Full Article

Parents kept in the dark over wasted academy cash

Parents are being left in the dark by academies that have misused public money and paid excessive salaries, MPs have said as they accused the government of failing to oversee the schools.

Tougher governance is needed after a succession of academy failures, which have been costly to the taxpayer and damaged children’s education, the public accounts committee says in a damning report to be published today. Parents have to fight for basic information about their children’s school and trusts are opaque about their finances, failing to explain adequately how they are spending public money, it says.

The committee says academies should be forced to name a member of staff to whom parents can complain. The Department for Education (DfE) should also identify a person within government whom parents can contact to escalate concerns, it says.

Full Article

Rural areas defend plan to downgrade deprivation role

County councils have hit back at the suggestion that a government review of funding unfairly favours rural areas over inner cities.

Leaders of urban authorities had complained that the government’s proposed new formula for council funding from 2020 onwards will harm cities by focusing on population rather than deprivation.

But the County Councils Network (CCN) insists that the review will remove“disproportionate” weightings given to deprivation, while ensuring deprivation remains a “key factor” in the new settlement.

Full Article

Norfolk County Council rubber-stamps plans to close 38 children’s centres amid fierce protests

Norfolk County Council rubber-stamps plans to close 38 children’s centres amid fierce protests.

Controversial proposals to close 38 children centres in Norfolk have been voted through by councillors after a six-hour meeting at County Hall.

Protestors turned up outside the meeting, campaigning against the plans to close the majority of the existing 53 centres— but the council decisively backed the proposals.

Full Article

Council staff left ‘deeply shocked’ after new Dorset unitary sends out redundancy letters

Redundancy warning letters have been sent to council staff in Dorset who have been left “infuriated and deeply shocked” ahead of the planned local government reorganisation in the county.

The new Dorset Council said that it had formally notified staff of the loss of 117 mainly managerial posts as it “reduces duplication and management costs” when the county’s six local authorities merge in April.

But Unison and Labour have claimed that the process of job losses wasn’t expected to start until after the new authority was created, and the local party has criticised the move saying that promises have been broken.

Full Article

East Sussex council strips back budget cuts by £20m with help of government grants

A cash-strapped council has dramatically reduced its savings target by £20m after receiving concessions from the government, meaning a number of extreme budget cuts are no longer needed.

East Sussex County Council announced that a savings target of £45m over three years had been reduced to £26.3m after successfully lobbying the government has resulted in £8.3m in new grants for the council.

Cuts will still take place, and the council’s proposals will see its meals on wheels subsidy completely cut and council tax will rise by 2.99% in order to find £5.13m of savings in order to balance next year’s budget.

Full Article

UK employment total hits record high

The number of people in work in the UK has reached a record high of 32.54 million, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

Unemployment was flat, with a small increase of 8,000 between September and November for a total of 1.37 million.

Average earnings excluding bonuses increased by 3.3% in the year to November, as wage rises continued to outpace inflation.

The number of job vacancies rose by 10,000 to a record high of 853,000.

Full Article

Council investigates using ‘smart’ cars to detect potholes

Oxfordshire County Council could be rolling out ‘smart’ cars to help detect potholes quickly.

The county council’s Smart City initiative has been researching the information-gathering capabilities of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs).

The county council’s head of innovation, Llewellyn Morgan, said this technology could be used to help highway maintenance teams fix potholes.

Full Article

Dawes: No-deal Brexit could mean councils take on ports role

Councils could be expected to take on responsibility for inspections at ports in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s permanent secretary has told MPs.

Giving evidence to a Commons committee on Monday afternoon, Melanie Dawes said the housing and communities secretary would “soon” be making an announcement about the allocation of the £35m earmarked to support councils’ Brexit preparations.

However, Ms Dawes said councils may also receive additional funding via other government departments.

Full Article

Right to Buy scheme under pressure to be scrapped as councils spend millions renting homes they sold for below market rate

A GOVERNMENT scheme that gives council tenants the right to buy their home at a discount "should be scrapped" after it's been revealed that London councils spend £22million a year renting back homes they've sold.

The damning figures also show that more than 40 per cent of London council homes bought under the Government's Right to Buy programme are now rented out privately.

Full Article

Firm ‘uses aggressive tactics’ to collect millions in fines for councils

Councils are making millions of pounds from a private company accused of using aggressive and intimidating tactics to issue fines for minor offences such as littering and dog-fouling, an investigation has found.

In interviews, whistleblowers said staff working for Kingdom Services Group – one of the fastest growing private security and services firms in the country – had targeted elderly people for littering because they knew they would be more likely to pay the fines.

And they alleged that, with the company’s encouragement, some officers had deliberately targeted vulnerable people in deprived areas. One former officer said: “I believe this company is profiting from poverty.”

Full Article

Over 23,000 shops and 175,000 high street jobs predicted to go in 2019

A further 175,000 jobs will be shed from struggling UK high streets this year and the value of retail property will slump as the boom in online shopping and rise of giants such as Amazon continue to take their toll, research warns.

More than 23,000 shops are forecast to close in 2019, according to the findings published on Monday in an annual report from the real estate adviser Altus Group.

The figures suggest this year will be even worse than 2018, when a series of high-profile company failures and store-closure programmes claimed nearly 20,000 stores and 150,000 jobs. They include both multiples or chains as well as independent stores and – in the hospitality sector – restaurants and casual dining outlets.

Full Article

Districts threaten legal action over unitary plans

Two district councils in Buckinghamshire have threatened to take legal action in a bid to prevent the creation of a single unitary authority.

Buckinghamshire CC, together with Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Buckinghamshire and Wycombe DCs, are due to be merged into a new unitary in 2020. However, the plan has been rejected by all four district councils, meaning housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire must legislate for the merger by the end of March.

In a joint statement, Isobel Darby, leader of Chiltern DC and Katrina Wood, leader of Wycombe DC, said they had written to Mr Brokenshire as a “preliminary step” to legal proceedings. They said they had taken the move with “great reluctance” but felt that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had left them with no alternative.

Full Article

Crime prevention budgets ‘slashed’ under Tories

Crime prevention budgets have been cut by more than a half since 2010, an analysis from Labour has revealed.

Between 2009/10 and 2017/18, spending on crime reduction by councils has been cut by almost 60%, falling from £363m to £154m.

Over the same period, the number of council employees working on crime reduction has fallen by more than a third, from 120,334 to just 77,720.

Full Article

Fair funding review must not drive us apart

Leave/remain is not the only indication of just how divided this country is. LGC’s Council Control Map is a pretty useful indicator of the enormity of the gulf in the outlooks of different types of area.

LGC's map, produced after last year’s polls, shows 24 of the 27 county councils are Conservative controlled (and the blue party is the largest block in the three with no overall control). In contrast, 30 of the 36 metropolitan councils are controlled by Labour, with the Conservatives holding just Solihull MBC. In London, the Conservatives won just 511 seats – their lowest ever figure.

In short, urban areas have lately become more Labour while rural areas have become more Tory. This simple fact is of critical importance when it comes to this year’s fair funding review, which (sad to relate) will determine the distribution of the pie rather than the enlargement of the pie. Governments have a tendency to skew funding towards areas their party controls and the fact that there is such a clear split in political control between rural and urban areas gives Theresa May’s administration much leeway to seek to redistribute funding from urban to rural authorities.

Full Article

Lancashire school's '£1,000 holiday fine' warning denied

A school's warning to parents that they could be fined £1,000 for taking their child on holiday during term time has been dismissed by the council.

The headteacher of Balladen Community Primary School in Rawtenstall told parents the penalty could be introduced as part of a pilot scheme.

But Lancashire County Council said no such figure "has been discussed by the authority, or even suggested".

Full Article

Plan to redirect inner-city funds to Tory shires 'a stitch-up’

Ministers have been accused of a “stitch-up” over proposals to redraw the funding formula for councils in a way critics say will redirect scarce cash from deprived inner cities to affluent Conservative-voting shires.

The proposed changes – which include the recommendation that grant allocations should no longer be weighted to reflect the higher costs of poverty and deprivation – come amid increasing concern over the sustainability of local authority finances.

Leaders of urban councils have written to ministers to complain that under the “grossly unfair and illogical” proposals, potentially tens of millions of pounds would be switched to rural and suburban council areas.

Full Article

Mackay defends local government planned settlement

The Scottish finance secretary has defended his planned settlement for local government while stressing he is “open minded” to giving councils greater fiscal autonomy.

Derek Mackay has heard warnings from the Scottish Parliament’s finance and constitution committee that in the wake of last month’s draft budget, councils had been left with no option but to consider stripping services back to the statutory minimum.

Although the total allocation to local government under the proposals rose in real terms by 0.7%, non-ringfenced revenue funding fell by 3.4%, or almost £320m, in real terms, fuelling concern from the local government sector that essential services would no longer be sustainable.

Full Article

Wakefield, Grimsby, Plymouth win share of £20m culture fund

Wakefield, home to The Hepworth Wakefield gallery, is one of five areas in England that will benefit from a new £20 million Cultural Development Fund.

Grimsby, Kent Thames Estuary, Plymouth and Worcester will also receive a share of the money to invest in culture.

Wakefield, which also has the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, has been given £4.4 million to help turn it into an internationally renowned location.

Regions had to bid for up to £7 million for local projects.

Full Article

Coventry City Council is UK's slowest to fill potholes

Coventry City Council has the longest response time in Britain for filling in serious potholes, new research has revealed.

Figures released by motoring charity the RAC Foundation show the authority aims to make road repairs within five working days.

Cumbria, Flintshire and South Lanarkshire councils try to act "immediately" to sort out defects.

Full Article

Leading academies ordered to promote apprenticeships

Ten leading academy chains will be ordered by the government to give better access to colleges promoting vocational qualifications.

Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said yesterday that apprenticeship snobbery was depriving people of successful careers.

He is launching a campaign today to change the perception of apprenticeships among young people and parents, and to ensure that they are being promoted by schools alongside more traditional academic routes.

Full Article

Hundreds of UK care workers threaten walkout over wage cuts

More than 600 low-paid care workers are this week voting on strike action in response to moves by employers to start imposing wage cuts in the row over minimum rates for sleep-in shifts caused by protracted legal wrangling and indecision in government.

Unison members at Alternative Futures Group, a charity which employs 2,500 care staff, mainly in the north-west, are threatening an initial 48-hour walkout.

Some employers who had begun to pay the full national minimum wage for hours spent asleep by care workers – in response to tribunal rulings and official guidance – are going back to paying a lower flat rate following a contrary judgement in the court of appeal. Workers could be out of pocket by as much as £40 a night.

Full Article

MPs Debate Children's Social Care [LIVE]

MPs are currently debating Children's Social Care funding. The debate begun at 15:06 17 January 2019.

Full Article

Mental capacity changes give care homes too much power, critics say

Changes to mental capacity safeguards – intended to protect hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people – will hand care home managers and private hospitals far too much power, the government has been warned.

The Law Society, mental health charities and Labour have accused the Department of Health and Social Care (DoH) of rushing through legislation that would remove independent scrutiny of the monitoring process to ensure that residents were not subjected to excessive restrictions.

As many as 125,000 children and adults, mainly in care homes, are being unlawfully detained in England and Wales as a huge backlog of uncompleted applications for deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS) has built up.

Full Article

Schools pushing children into home schooling, say councils

Local authorities in England say some parents are being “coerced” by schools into home educating their children, often before GCSE exams, and that there has been a sharp increase in the number of pupils being removed, according to the government’s admissions watchdog.

The annual report of the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) says more than 52,000 children were registered as being home schooled in 2017-18, using figures supplied by the 152 local education authorities in England. But it notes that, because there is no requirement on parents to register, the figure is an underestimate of the real total.

The figure represents a steep increase from a similar survey in 2015-16 that estimated about 37,000 school-aged children were registered as home educated.

Full Article

Norfolk council rebuked over special needs provision

The local government ombudsman has reprimanded a local authority over its provision for children with special educational needs after upholding 11 complaints against the council over the last two years.

The ombudsman’s office said the number of complaints upheld against Norfolk county council was one of the highest in England, particularly given the relatively small population.

The picture is replicated in many areas of the country, however, with many parents saying they have to fight to secure the SEN provision to which their children are entitled as cash-strapped local authorities struggle to meet growing demand for support.

Full Article

Wales has 'highest imprisonment rate' in western Europe

Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe, new research has claimed.

The Wales Governance Centre's analysis of official figures also reveals average custody rates are higher than in England for a number of different groups and offences.

In particular, non-white Welsh prisoners are overrepresented in prison.

Full Article

Inflation falls to lowest level in nearly two years

The UK inflation rate fell to 2.1% in December, from 2.3% the previous month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) figure was the lowest in nearly two years, pushed down by petrol price falls.

The inflation reading was in line with analysts' expectations.

Full Article

Anger as NHS England accused of public health 'land grab'

NHS England has been accused of a “crude” attempt to engineer a “land grab” after its NHS long-term plan suggested a diminished role for local government in public health. Jim McManus, the vice president of the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), told LGC that reliable sources close to the process informed him that NHS England officials have been lobbying the Treasury for control of the public health grant paid to councils by questioning local government’s performance on prevention.

There has been widespread criticism from within local government of the long-term plan proposal, which said the government and the NHS will consider a “stronger role for the NHS” in commissioning public health services currently the responsibility of councils, such as sexual health, health visitors and school nurses. Mr McManus said: “I have it from reliable sources that NHS England have said that public health in local government is not delivering, which is not true.

Full Article

Town halls cut services but spend millions on CCTV

Councils are spending millions of pounds spying on residents despite cutting services in almost every other area.

Local authorities in England have spent more than three quarters of a billion pounds on CCTV over the past decade, an increase of 17 per cent a year since 2010. Over the same period councils have reduced spending on street cleaning by 12 per cent, food safety by 16 per cent, trading standards by 32 per cent and libraries by 35 per cent.

Critics said the increase in spending on CCTV while other departments had their budgets cut was “offensive”.

Full Article

Combined authority backs bus alliance

West Yorkshire Combined Authority has endorsed a proposed partnership deal with bus companies Arriva, First and Transdev.

Members of the authority’s transport committee voted last week to approve development of a delivery plan, with a view to signing a formal voluntary partnership agreement by June this year.

The West Yorkshire Bus Alliance will last until 2021 and see the combined authority work with bus operators towards adoption of a unified brand and a series of service improvements.

Full Article

MHCLG must have better oversight of local authority governance, says NAO

The government must improve its oversight of governance in local authorities as they struggle with increased financial and demand pressure, England’s spending watchdog has urged.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government must also be more transparent in its engagement with local authorities - both formal and informal – a National Audit Office report, released today, has said.

As the department does not collect data on governance “it lacks the evidence base to assess rigorously whether governance issues are system-wide and this reduces the level of confidence it can have in the operation of the system,” the NAO warned.

Full Article

Bristol council launches bid to save community hub

A last-ditch bid to prevent one of Britain’s biggest community hubs from being turned into apartments has been launched amid fears about the threat gentrification poses to the “different and edgy” culture of Bristol.

The council agreed on Tuesday to investigate whether it can afford to step in to buy Hamilton House, a community and arts centre whose owners have already evicted hundreds of tenants and community users to convert it to housing.

With 500 artists, social enterprises and businesses affected by the conversion plans, it is one of the biggest examples of a threat that is faced nationwide by community assets as property prices rise in many towns and cities.

Full Article

How Ashford in Kent became the poster town for the high street fightback

As the nation reels from store closures and plummeting profits, one town is a shining beacon of hope.

Ashford in Kent has create a thriving shopping centre that is pulling in the punters.

Figures show footfall soared 27% in December compared with 2017 and year-on-year rocketed by 52% in the Christmas week. But how has Ashford, with a population of just 127,500, beaten the odds to become the poster town for the high street fightback?

Cllr Graham Galpin, below, said: “It’s taken six years of hard work to become an overnight success. There is a long way to go, but local ­authorities are looking to replicate it in their towns.”

Full Article

Education spending falls by more than £7 billion since the Tories came to power

Education spending has fallen by more than £7 billion since the Tories came to power.

The Mirror has exposed how parents across the country are being sent begging letters to help cover the cost of paper, pens and even toilet roll.

Now analysis by the House of Commons Library, reveals how real terms spending on schools and colleges fell from £95.5 billion in 2011-12 to £87.8 billion in 2017-18 - a fall of £7.7 billion in annual spending.

Full Article

Universal credit: Rudd backs tax cut for workers

Amber Rudd is prepared to push the Treasury to introduce tax cuts for low paid workers, potentially costing more than a billion pounds.

In a major change to the troubled universal credit system, the work and pensions secretary said she favoured calls to cut the "earnings taper".

This is the rate at which benefits are reduced when claimants earn more money.

Ms Rudd indicated support for the taper to be reduced from 63% to 60%.

Full Article

Redistribute schools’ cash to help struggling secondaries, think-tank urges

The government should consider redistributing funds from schools with ‘excessive’ surpluses to bolster those with weaker finances, an education think-tank has suggested today.

Nearly a third of English local authority maintained secondary schools are now in deficit, analysis by the Education Policy Institute has highlighted.

Analysis by the institute of Department of Education figures showed that 30.3% of local authority maintained secondary schools were in deficit in 2017-18, almost four times that of 2014 (8.1%). The total value of deficit balances of local authority maintained secondary schools in England in 2017-18 were £233m, the EPI said.

Full Article

Spelthorne borough council splashes out £1bn on property

A Surrey council is close to buying two buildings in London that will bring its investment in commercial property to more than £1 billion.

Spelthorne borough council is finalising a deal to buy a City office block and a building in west London next to the new US embassy.

The purchase of 100 Cheapside in the City for about £140 million would be its first entry into one of the most competitive property markets in the world.

Full Article

250,000 children should be classed as victims of domestic abuse, says NSPCC

At least 250,000 children should be classed as victims of domestic abuse under government reforms due this month, says the NSPCC.

The charity says the Government’s current legal definition of domestic abuse fails to recognise the mental, emotional and social damage that children can suffer from domestic abuse in the family.

It says education department figures show domestic violence was a factor in the 246,720 cases last year where children were assessed to be in need of protection yet they had no legal guarantee that action would be taken because they were not classed as victims.

Full Article

Grammars ‘are vital for social mobility’

Grammar schools are making a “vital contribution” to social mobility because half their pupils are from lower-income households, according to a report.

It says that almost all other research into grammars has focused “narrowly” on eligibility for free school meals, usually representing the very poorest children, as the measure of disadvantage. That has “obscured” the benefits that a grammar school education has given those from households that are far from wealthy but do not qualify for any in-school benefits.

The report, written by a former Department for Education mandarin, challenges conventional wisdom that England’s 163 grammars have been colonised by the wealthy middle class who use their money to tutor their children to pass the entrance exam.

Full Article

NHS and councils full of financial problems, says watchdog

The number of NHS and local government bodies with significant financial weaknesses in their ability to give value for money is unacceptably high and increasing, according to Whitehall’s spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office has examined the financial statements from nearly 937 local health authorities, councils, police and local fire bodies which are responsible for about £154bn of net revenue spending every year.

Auditors conclude in a report published on Wednesday that the number of local bodies with significant weaknesses increased from 170 (18%) in 2015-16 to 208 (22%) in 2017-18.

Full Article

Care cuts failing older people in England, says human rights group

Vulnerable older people in England are at risk of being denied their human rights because of failures in the way the government allocates care resources since budget cuts, Human Rights Watch has said.

After a 13-month inquiry, the global campaign group has concluded that people are facing physical, financial and psychological hardship and are at risk of being denied adequate help to live independent, dignified lives.

It accuses the government of a lack of oversight of a system which is largely devolved to town halls and voices concern about a 140% increase in adult social care complaints since 2010 following a cut of almost 50% in central government funding for councils.

Full Article

Amazon business rates bill prompts calls for reform

Amazon could be required to pay higher business rates in a bid to tackle the online retail giant’s impact on the high street, a government minister has said.

Jake Berry, parliamentary under-secretary of state at MHCLG, appeared before the communities and local government select committee earlier this week to answer questions as part of an inquiry into the future of the high street.

Committee chair Clive Betts (Lab) cited correspondence from Amazon which revealed the amount of business rates paid by the online retailer in the UK.

Mr Betts asked: “Is it fair, minister, that Amazon pay only £63m in business rates on a total UK revenue of over £8bn?”

Full Article

Departing chief in line for £470,000 package

Bournemouth BC councillors will be asked on Tuesday to approve a package worth more than £470,000 for chief executive Jane Portman after she failed to secure the top post at the new Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch unitary council.

A report by leader John Beesley (Con) said Ms Portman should receive £117,299 for redundancy, contractual notice pay, compensation for loss of office and statutory rights.

Bournemouth must also pay £355,621 in ‘pension strain’ to the Dorset County Local Government Pension Fund, since Ms Portman will be below normal retirement age when she leaves at the end of March. This payment is required under LGPS rules to compensate the pension fund for the fact that where an individual aged over 55 is made redundant they are entitled to receive their accrued pension in full, without an ‘actuarial reduction’ that would be made if someone was taking early retirement. It will not be taken as a lump sum.

Full Article

Value for money concerns at one in five top tier councils

Local government bodies are failing to respond urgently enough to the increasing number of concerns being raised by auditors, the head of the National Audit Office has warned.

In a report published today, the NAO said auditors raised concerns about the financial arrangements at nearly one in five single tier and county councils last year.

In total, auditors offered a ‘qualified conclusion’ on arrangements to secure value for money at 8% of local government bodies during 2017-18, including local authorities and police and fire organisations, and at 18% of unitary or county councils.

Full Article

Government proposals offer pension security for outsourced council jobs

Local government workers whose jobs have been outsourced will remain in the Local Government Pension Scheme, under proposals announced today.

Employers of outsourced staff will no longer be able to offer local government staff comparable schemes under proposals, set out in a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government consultation yesterday.

Staff members will remain on the LGPS even if their role is sub-contracted or transferred again in the future, provided they remain in the role they were transferred out from, MHCLG said.

Full Article

Paupers' funerals cost UK councils nearly £5.4m in a year

Councils across the UK spent nearly £5.4m on "paupers' funerals" last year, it has been revealed.

A Freedom of Information request, by insurance company Royal London, found 275 local authorities spent £5,382,379 on public health funerals in the 12 months up to April 2018.

More than 3,800 of the funerals, for people who have died alone, in poverty or without relatives, were held.

Full Article

Councils enjoy a surge in parking charge profits while slashing their spending on crumbling roads

Town halls have enjoyed a surge in profits from parking charges while slashing the amount they spend repairing crumbling local roads, according to a damning report.

An audit of official figures shows parking profits soared by almost a quarter in five years, while the amount invested in the local road network dropped by 14 per cent.

Councils made a record parking ‘surplus’ of £847million in 2017/18 – up £165million or 24 per cent from £682million in 2013/14.

Full Article

Whitehall should pass more power to councils, says Truss

The government should relax its centralising tendencies and pass more powers down to local government, particularly counties, a Cabinet minister told the Local Government Association finance conference.

Chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss declared herself to be a “great supporter of devolution” at the conference today. She acknowledged that the result of the Brexit referendum was due in part to a resentment of Whitehall decision-making and stressed that the government must now look to give authorities the power to make decisions locally.

“More decision making has to be done at a local level. When decisions are made at a distance, they take longer and can be less effective... We are now seeing better representation of cities but we need more representation of counties," Truss said.

Full Article

Amber Rudd insists Universal Credit benefits will go ahead despite Commons vote delay

Over the weekend, Whitehall officials indicated that an imminent parliamentary vote on transferring three million claimants onto the single handout had been put off pending further trials. MPs will be instead asked to vote on moving just 10,000 people onto the new system. In the Commons yesterday, the Work and Pensions Secretary said that the Government was still committed to the target of extending the benefit nationwide by the end of 2020.

Ms Rudd, speaking at work and pensions questions, said: "I will want to consider carefully when I bring to the House the vote for the three million managed migration, which is scheduled for 2020. I'm still considering when to do that.

Full Article

Nine out of ten councils blow the budget on children's care

Nearly ninety percent of councils overspent on children’s social care last year, according to figures released by the Local Government Association.

Local authorities overspent by a total of £806m, with 133 out of 152 councils tipping over their budget.

According to the LGA, children’s services already faces a £3.1bn funding gap by 2025 to keep current levels of services as the numbers of looked after children continue to soar to the highest level since the 1980s.

Full Article

Hancock plans to publish social care green paper before April

The health secretary intends to publish the much-anticipated social care green paper before the end of the financial year, he told the Commons.

Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on Monday that he plans to publish the green paper “before April”.

The green paper has been delayed multiple times, the most recent of which came just before Christmas.

Full Article

Pete Moore to lead CIPFA’s pension panel

Pete Moore, executive director of finance and public protection at Lincolnshire County Council, has been appointed as chair of CIPFA’s pension panel.

Moore has 38 years of experience in local government finance, has been a CIPFA member since 1986 and Section 151 officer at Lincolnshire since 2000.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said the advice and guidance provided by the institute’s pensions panel was “essential to the future prosperity of millions of people in the UK”, especially now local government pension funds are pooled across eight mega-funds.

Full Article

Teachers’ leaders accuse Theresa May of breaking funding promise

Teachers leaders have accused the Prime Minister of breaking her promise to increase school funding after it was revealed nearly 5,000 schools will suffer cuts this year.

An analysis of the funding allocation for schools reveals one in four primary schools and one in six secondaries will see their budgets cut as a result of lower than expected funding from the Government. This is despite Theresa May telling MPs last year there would be a “cash increase for every school in every region”, while Education Secretary Damian Hinds said “each school will see at least a small cash increase” this year.

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/news/education/teachers-leaders-accuse-theresa-may-of-breaking-funding-promise/

Full Article

England 'needs millions of homes to solve housing crisis'

Three million new social homes must be built in England over 20 years to solve the "housing crisis", a report says.

Housing charity Shelter said 1.2 million homes are needed for younger families who cannot afford to buy and "face a lifetime in expensive and insecure private renting".

Existing schemes like Help to Buy are a less effective use of taxpayers' money, the report claims.

Full Article

Families waiting too long for special needs support in England

Thousands of children in England with special educational needs are waiting too long for an education, health and care plan (EHC).

The EHC plans set out a child's needs and the support to which they are entitled.

Once a plan is requested, the law says councils should normally finalise them within 20 weeks.

But through Freedom of Information requests, it has been learned that around four in 10 plans have taken longer.

Full Article

Volunteers left to stack bookshelves as hundreds of libraries are closed

More than £300 million has been wiped from library budgets since the turn of the decade.

Councils have shut 700 libraries and book-lending services since 2010, with the pace of closures accelerating last year when budgets were slashed by £30 million, forcing 127 to close.

The figures, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, show that cuts have been most severely felt by librarians, with more than 1,500 losing their jobs over the past two years. The wage bill for libraries has shrunk almost in half since 2010.

Full Article

Cost of bringing road bridges up to scratch rose by a third last year – study

The maintenance backlog for council-owned road bridges in Britain has increased by a third in 12 months, new figures show.

An estimated £6.7 billion is needed to ensure all the structures are up to scratch, according to analysis of 2017/18 data by motoring research charity the RAC Foundation. This is up from £5 billion a year earlier.

Some 3,177 bridges in the worst condition have been categorised as “substandard”, meaning they are unable to carry the heaviest vehicles.

Full Article

NHS plan ‘missed opportunity’ to fix social care

Council chiefs have welcomed the NHS’s long-term plan to focus more on prevention, but have criticised the Government for not taking action on adult social care.

The NHS Long Term Plan, which was published today, emphasises the importance of early detection and prevention. It says this will stop an estimated 85,000 premature deaths each year.

New measures in the plan, argue NHS leaders, such as genetic testing for a quarter of people with high inherited cholesterol, will help prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases.

Full Article

Full steam ahead for hydrogen trains

Hydrogen trains will be introduced in as little as two years under ambitious plans to phase out dirty diesel engines.

A deal has been struck to convert more than 100 trains into the first fleet powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The trains, which are almost silent and have zero emissions, will operate at speeds of up to 90mph and release steam only as a by-product. The new trains, which will be called “Breeze”, will be employed on commuter and suburban lines by early 2021.

Full Article

Town hall chiefs fear a spike in A&E admissions from elderly people slipping on untreated icy pavements this winter amid £48m budget cuts

Town hall chiefs fear a spike in A&E admissions from elderly people slipping on untreated icy pavements this winter.

They say £48 million of budget cuts in the past 12 months mean they are unable to grit so many pavements.

Council leaders from 47 local authorities called on Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire to intervene to avert a crisis.

Full Article

Greater Manchester: New homes plan to tackle 'housing crisis'

More than 50,000 affordable homes will be built in Greater Manchester by 2038 under new plans to tackle the region's "housing crisis".

The revised plans come after huge protests over a previous proposal for 225,000 new properties.

Mayor Andy Burnham said 30,000 of the 50,000 new homes would be social housing.

Full Article

Elderly are being treated like 'Amazon parcels' with only 15 minutes handling time by care staff, former pensions minister warns

The elderly are being treated like “Amazon parcels” with only 15 minutes handling time by care staff, according to a former pensions minister.

Declaring Britain’s social care system “broken”, Baroness Ros Altmann likened council-funded care in the home to treating vulnerable pensioners like deliveries by the internet giant.

“They talk about care packages, 15 minute visits and it’s like the elderly are being treated like Amazon parcels,” she said.

Full Article

Theresa May poised to play for time by further postponing final vote on her Brexit deal

Theresa May is poised to play for time by further postponing a final vote on her Brexit deal next week.

The Prime Minister's aides are believed to be drawing up a plan to make MPs' approval of the deal conditional on the European Union providing further concessions.

The move is intended to help limit the scale of opposition to the vote, while buying time amid ongoing negotiations with European Union leaders.

A Whitehall source said that while the "tone" of conversations between Downing Street and Brussels had improved since mid-December, the two sides remained "far apart" on what each were prepared to accept.

Full Article

Social housing report calls for massive overhaul of tenants’ rights

Sweeping new powers must be given to social tenants as part of an overhaul needed to ensure a Grenfell-style disaster never happens again, a powerful cross-party commission will warn this week.

It found that social tenants are being failed by a system that leaves them waiting an average of eight months before their complaints are investigated, even when their safety could be at risk.

Full Article

NICE: New roads should prioritise cyclists and pedestrians

Pedestrians, cyclists and public transport should be given priority over cars when roads are built or upgraded, to encourage more physical activity, the UK's health watchdog has said.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says roads should be "safe, attractive and designed" to help people use their cars less.

It has issued a set of draft guidelines for planners and local authorities.

The Department for Transport said it supported such policies.

Full Article

Number 10 denies government is planning to merge Departments for Business, Transport, and Culture

The Sun reports suggest proposal for new 'super-ministry' is under consideration, prompting fears climate change would slip down government priority list

Proposals for a major Whitehall revamp that would merge the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with the Department for Transport (DfT), and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are being drawn-up by several cabinet ministers, according to reports.

The Sun newspaper claimed yesterday that plans for a major departmental reorganisation are being championed by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss.

Full Article

Brokenshire to announce funding for manufacturing zones

Four pilot projects aimed at boosting manufacturing in the East Midlands will be announced today by housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire.

Plans for sites in Melton Mowbray, Leicester, Lincolnshire and North Derbyshire will be supported by a share of £500,000 announced by the chancellor Philip Hammond in 2017 for ‘East Midlands Manufacturing Zones’, which will aim to reduce planning restrictions to free-up land and encourage investment.

During a visit to the East Midlands today Mr Brokenshire will say the manufacturing zones show the government’s industrial strategy is backing local businesses and building on local strengths.

Full Article

Mental health budget worth £1.9bn 'to be devolved'

Mental health specialised commissioning will be fully devolved to providers within the next three years, according to the chief executive of a major mental health trust.

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust chief executive John Short told Health Service Journal he expected NHS England’s £1.9bn specialised commissioning budget would be devolved to provider collaboratives.

“I think within two-and-a-half to three years all the £1.9bn of NHS England mental health spec comm will be run by collaboratives. That ambition is Simon Stevens’ ambition”, he said.

Full Article

CCG accused of using 'flawed' test to cut spending on elderly

A clinical commissioning group has been accused of blocking potentially eligible patients from receiving continuing healthcare funding under a programme supported by NHS England.

West Norfolk CCG has been using a locally-devised screening process, called the “5Qs test”, which effectively means a higher proportion of patients do not receive an official assessment for NHS funded continuing healthcare.

By law, patients with complex long term conditions are entitled to free social care funded by the NHS, so long as they are assessed as having a primary medical care need under the official CHC process.

Full Article

Mental health: target to boost staff numbers by 21,000 set to be missed

Ministers are on course to miss their target of increasing the number of mental health staff by 21,000 by 2020, according to NHS workforce figures obtained by Labour.

A year after the government made the pledge, NHS mental health trusts in England had employed just 1,524 extra personnel, according to statistics collected by NHS Digital.

The very small rise is a setback for Theresa May’s plans to dramatically improve mental health care in order to reduce treatment delays, introduce new waiting times and reduce unmet need. Mental health chiefs and staff groups are worried that staffing problems will undermine those ambitions.

Full Article

Government hands out £38m to help [London boroughs] accommodate homeless families

London boroughs will receive a £38m boost to provide accommodation for families facing homelessness, the government has announced.

A scheme launched by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on Monday will aim to help more than 35,000 households within the Greater London area.

Full Article

Taxis should be used as public transport in rural areas, say campaigners

Minicabs should be used to provide public transport in rural communities that have lost bus services, it has been claimed.

The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) believes new technology offers the opportunity for private hire vehicles to offer shared transport.

Utilising these vehicles should be a “key principle” for the future development of rural transport strategies in certain areas, the lobby group said in a report.

Full Article

CIPFA index finds up to 15% of councils ‘at risk of financial instability’

CIPFA has identified up to 15% of councils in England are at risk of financial instability, through refining its resilience index.

Counties performed the worst with regard to ‘level of reserves’. The briefing note said: “County councils have a lower level of reserves than other types of council. District councils, which do not have a social care responsibility, typically have much higher levels with the majority holding reserves that exceed their net annual expenditure.”

CIPFA’s briefing note said that there can be “good reasons” for depleting reserves but “continued depletion of reserves may be a sign of financial stress and being unable to deliver a balanced budget”.

Full Article

More scrutiny in local government? [opinion]

Every day, 5.4 million public sector workers in public, private or third sector organisations deliver services ranging from healthcare to waste collection to the British public. They are held to account by more than 21,000 elected officials, including councillors and MPs.

Yet, high profile failures inevitably happen, be it the Grenfell fire or the Mid Staffs scandal. The Institute for Government has found that weak accountability increases the risk that such failures occur, from financial mismanagement to public harm. In response, we recommend greater scrutiny in local government to deal with the reality of modern public service delivery.

Full Article

One in six councils face financial stability risk

Four councils are spending more than 90% of their net revenue expenditure on social care and interest payments, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has revealed.

Two of the four are London boroughs, one is a unitary and one is a metropolitan district, but CIPFA will not name the councils after an outcry from parts of the sector that feared its proposed financial resilience index would lead to the creation of league tables and local authorities being named and shamed.

The number of councils in this category is significant partly because local authorities find it harder to control or reduce spending on social care and interest rates than other areas.

CIPFA said the data overall showed that up to 15% of councils displayed ‘some signs of potential risk to their financial stability’.

If recent patterns persisted at 12 upper-tier councils their reserves would be fully exhausted within a short time while only two district councils had a depletion rate below four years.

Full Article

Government: Start preparing for no-deal Brexit

Ministers are ‘ramping up’ planning for a no-deal Brexit as the prospect becomes more likely.

Downing Street said businesses and citizens should immediately prepare for leaving without a deal.

Brexit secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘The Government’s priority remains to secure a deal, but we need to recognise, with 14 weeks to go, that a responsible Government is preparing for the eventuality that we leave without a deal.’

The MJ revealed in October that local authorities were being warned to prepare for up to three months of disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with resilience forums asked to prepare for ‘reasonable, worst case scenarios’ - which could include runs on banks, petrol and food.

One council chief executive said: ‘I am more worried about civil unrest than I was during the original referendum.

Full Article

Hancock refutes reports of 'shelved' social care green paper

Health secretary Matt Hancock has rejected reports that the social care green paper has been shelved due to government preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

The Times reported this morning an unnamed minister as saying adult social care reform was a “likely casualty” of the cabinet’s decision yesterday to speed up preparations across Whitehall for the possibility that the government would fail to reach an agreement on Brexit with the European Union.

Responding to a tweet highlighting the story this morning from Chris Ham, chief executive of the The King’s Fund, Mr Hancock said: “Don’t recognise this at all. Putting finishing touches on the Social Care Green Paper ready for publication in the New Year”.

Full Article

Theresa May ditches key pledges to prepare for no-deal Brexit

Theresa May is to start culling Tory manifesto commitments after her cabinet decided yesterday to accelerate planning for a no-deal Brexit.

David Lidington, who is in effect the prime minister’s deputy, will start in “short order” to identify policies to be shelved to free resources for the no-deal, a senior figure said.

Reforms to social care have been identified by one minister as a likely casualty of yesterday’s decision, which escalated preparations across Whitehall. A Department of Health aide confirmed that some staff had already been diverted from social care to prepare.

Full Article

Binmen refuse to get their hands dirty as council tells residents: clean up your own mess

Binmen are refusing to get their hands dirty by removing bin bags wedged at the bottom of wheelie bins, prompting anger from local residents.

Locals in Canterbury, Kent, have been left fuming in recent weeks after finding their wheelie bins still half full after a visit from binmen.

A spokesman for Canterbury City Council said it was the responsibility of residents to make sure that rubbish was not wedged in the bins.

Full Article

Stephen Houghton: Negative RSG plans are a gift to rich authorities

The elimination of negative revenue support grant (RSG), should it be brought forward next year, will undermine the confidence of deprived urban areas in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s ability to deliver a genuinely ‘fair’ funding review.

With it, the secretary of state James Brokenshire has gifted £153m to some of the richest authorities in the country, taking no account of local needs.

He has also chosen to divert an extra £16m to rural areas, despite an independent study by LG Futures, commissioned by the ministry and referenced in a consultation on the fair funding review, that showed rurality does not increase overall funding need.

Full Article

Social care green paper delayed again

The adult social care green paper has been delayed again and will now be published next year, the government has confirmed.

A spokesperson for Department of Health & Social Care told LGC proposals will be published at the first opportunity in 2019.

The green paper including options for future funding was announced by chancellor Philip Hammond in the 2017 March Budget and planned for the following autumn.

Full Article

Reading ‘disappointed’ after Wokingham rejects £20m scheme

Wokingham councillors have rejected plans for a £20m riverside travel route connecting two boroughs due to its ‘sensitive location’.

A proposal for the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) between Reading and Wokingham was rejected by Wokingham's planning committee on Wednesday.

The application was refused, according to committee chairman Cllr Tim Holton, because of the ‘height and scale’ of the scheme, as well as its ‘prominent and sensitive location’ near the River Thames and River Kennet.

Full Article

Child homelessness in England rises to highest level in 12 years, new figures show

Child homelessness in England has hit a 12-year high, according to new data showing that the number of families in temporary accommodation has surged since the Conservatives came into power.

Government figures reveal a total of 123,630 minors were housed in temporary accommodation in England between April and June, marking a 70 per cent increase on 2010 and a rise of nearly a quarter in the past three years.

Campaigners said the rise was a result of cuts to housing benefit and reduced funding for homelessness services, as well as a lack of affordable homes and regulation in the private rented sector.

Full Article

Residents will see 'inflation-busting' council tax rises under new government plan, Labour warns

Local councils will be allowed to introduce “inflation-busting” council tax hikes under new plans announced by ministers today, Labour has warned.

James Brokenshire, the housing and communities secretary, said the new local government funding plan will see councils given permission to raise council tax by up to 3 per cent next year.

Overall, the plan will see council budgets rise by £1.3bn – from £45.1bn to £46.4bn.

Labour said the proposals will see local residents asked to foot the bill for cuts in central government funding.

Full Article

Stoke-on-Tent City Council announce tax hike on empty homes

Stoke-on-Tent City Council plans to increase council tax on owners of empty homes by up to 300%.

It's part of a drive to get empty properties back on the market and people in them paying council tax.

Full Article

England's primary school league tables are published

New primary school league table data for England have just been published by the Department for Education.

The tables are based on how 11-year-olds in each school performed in their end-of-school national curriculum tests, known as Sats.

They provide a snapshot of how well each school is performing and tracking pupils' progress.

Full Article

Councils urgently need financial certainty, and Brexit is holding that up

The local government finance settlement sets out councils’ funding allocations from central government for the next financial year, and has been published by the Government a week before Christmas in each of the past five years.

It is of huge significance to our local services and the communities we live in, and late settlements in recent years have caused considerable problems for councils in finalising their budgets.

The government recognised the Local Government Association’s call for an earlier settlement by agreeing to bring the settlement forward this year to 6 December. It’s therefore a real shame that the Brexit debate in parliament meant it had to be delayed.

Full Article

Wages rises accelerate to fastest pace since 2008

Wages are continuing to rise at their highest level for nearly a decade, the latest official Office for National Statistics figures show.

Compared with a year earlier, wages excluding bonuses, were up by 3.3% for the three months to October, the biggest rise since November 2008.

Average weekly wages are £495 - the highest since 2011, when adjusted for inflation.

Full Article

Grammar schools given £50m diversity cash have only 2% poor pupils

The 16 grammar schools that have won a share of the government’s £50 million expansion fund have some of the worst records of admitting disadvantaged pupils, according to an analysis by the House of Commons Library.

The names of the successful schools, which will welcome thousands of extra pupils, were revealed last week. To qualify for the cash to expand they had to submit plans on how they would try to increase the proportion of poorer pupils.

Labour said that figures on the schools’ admission of poor children cast doubt on whether they were really committed to diversifying their intake. They show that, on average, only 2 per cent of pupils at the 16 schools were eligible for free school meals, which is considered a benchmark for underprivilege. In their local areas 10 per cent of children on average were eligible for free school meals.

Full Article

Plan to raise rent for high earners after MP scandal

High earners who live in social housing, such as the Labour MP Kate Osamor, could have to pay more rent under “pay to stay” proposals being considered in Whitehall.

In 2016 ministers abandoned plans to make wealthier tenants pay more after opposition from the housing sector. Last night a government source said that “options around this remain under consideration”.

The issue has returned to the table after it emerged that Ms Osamor, 50, who earns more than £77,000 a year as an MP, lived in a housing association property in north London.

Full Article

Turning off lights saves councils £15m ‘but costs lives’

Towns and cities are being plunged into darkness as councils turn off street lights to save money.

They have spent £15 million less in the past two years despite the wholesale cost of electricity rising by more than 50 per cent, official figures show.

Devon county council has advised residents to use torches to get around in the small hours after a decision to switch off lights in residential areas from 12.30am.

Full Article

Mayor Sadiq Khan to look at imposing rent controls in London

The mayor of London has hinted that he is considering introducing rent controls across the capital in a radical overhaul of private rental laws.

Sadiq Khan told an MP that London needed to adopt a “strategic approach to rent stabilisation and control”, since the arguments in favour of capping rent inflation are becoming “overwhelming”.

Although national legislation governs private sector renters’ rights, tenancies and rents themselves, it is understood that Khan will begin to advocate for fundamental change in order to tackle overinflated rents, in a move which could lead to councils assuming greater powers.

Full Article

Ministers and NHS England chief at loggerheads over targets

The head of the NHS and the government are at loggerheads over how much the health service can be improved for the £20.5bn extra Theresa May has pledged to give it, the Guardian can reveal.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has been having major disagreements behind the scenes in recent weeks with Downing Street, the Treasury and Department of Health and Social Care about how much the forthcoming NHS long-term plan can promise to boost care.

“Tension” and “difficulties” have emerged during detailed horsetrading between the two sides amid sharp differences of opinion over the extent of the document’s ambitions, well-placed NHS and Whitehall sources have said.

Full Article

Homeless at Christmas: 'How will Santa find us?'

More than 130,000 children across Great Britain will spend Christmas in temporary accommodation, official figures suggest.

One in every 103 under-18s is officially homeless, a 59% rise in five years, housing charity Shelter said.

One mother-of-three said her children were preparing for Christmas in a one-room bed and breakfast for the second year running.

Full Article

Reality Check: Are these councils defying the cuts?

Councils are in trouble - this much we know. They are cutting services, spending more than they planned and dipping into their rainy-day funds.

Perhaps the more pertinent question is not which councils are facing financial problems but are any managing to buck the trend.

Pretty much no local authority in Britain has escaped the cuts. The only councils not to have made any since 2010 are the City of London and the Isles of Scilly, which have very small populations.

Full Article

How cuts changed council spending, in seven charts

It's widely known that since 2010, English councils have had less money to spend. But that's just half the story.

When you account for inflation - or how much more expensive everything else is getting - some councils have had to cut some areas of their spending by half.

Housing and planning budgets have been particularly hit, with only children's social care seeing rising spending.

Full Article

Northern Powerhouse needs ‘clear break’ with original vision, report says

The Government should commit to a ‘whole North’ approach to development rather than just focusing on the Manchester region, think tank says.

A report into the Northern Powerhouse has called on northern leaders to move the agenda to a new phase, which, it argues, should involve a ‘clear break’ with former chancellor George Osborne’s original vision.

Full Article

Supported housing system ‘isn’t working’, charity warns

People living in supported housing are being discouraged from finding work because of fears they will not be able to afford their rent, report reveals.

The charity Mayday Trust has spoken with more than 80 people who are housed in temporary or supported accommodation, as well as those who are sleeping rough and sofa-surfing, to uncover the impact of unaffordable accommodation.

Full Article

Whitehall announces £1m ‘pocket park’ fund

Community groups can bid for a share of a £1m fund to help them develop ‘pocket parks’.

Pocket parks are small plots of land, mostly seen in urban spaces, which can help improve the physical and mental health of the communities using them.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government today announced there is up to £15,000 available to community groups wishing to build new pocket parks.

Full Article

Brexit debate delays English councils' funding announcement

The government has postponed announcing next year's plans for funding English councils because of the marathon Brexit debate currently going in the Commons.

James Brokenshire said the statement - originally planned for Thursday - will not now happen before MPs vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal on Tuesday.

But the local government secretary said it would not affect the amount of time for councils to comment on the figures.

Full Article

The Government Thinks No-one Will Notice Their Devastation Of Local Government – We Won’t Let That Happen

Despite unprecedented pressure and growing warnings, Councils are bracing themselves for the biggest cuts they’ve had to face since 2010. That is the prospect of the Tories’ local government settlement set to be announced.

The past eight years have seen councils forced to make cuts – but they’ve reached the end of the line, with so-called “non-essential services” being cut to the bone, leading to even deeper reductions to the services that we all rely on like street cleaning, libraries, and children’s centres, and to many of the preventative services that previously reduced the pressure on the NHS and police.

So severe and urgent is the crisis facing our councils, that the UN’s special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights mentioned it in the opening paragraph of his recent report, saying that local authorities had been “gutted by a series of government policies”.

Full Article

Private firms are making big money out of children's social services

Children’s social services have been bitten hard by government-imposed financial cuts since 2010. Politically-chosen austerity has led to poor children and families moving from deprivation to destitution, and the help they might have received has been stripped away. The consequence is more concerns about the safety and welfare of children, leading to a 159% increase in child protection investigations since 2008 and the number of children in council care rising from 60,000 to more than 75,000.

Full Article

Resilience index response prompts major rethink

The Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accountancy has postponed controversial plans to publish a “league table” of councils’ financial sustainability following uproar within the sector at the plans, LGC has learned.

The decision is one of a number of planned changes to the institute’s proposed local authority financial resilience index which was slammed by many senior local government figures when it was put out for consultation earlier this year.

Originally it was proposed the index would combine data from six indicators to produce a composite score that would then be made publicly available with a “traffic-light grading system”.

Full Article

MHCLG’s needs-based view of local government won’t endure

Melanie Dawes caused quite a stir this week. Speaking before the Public Accounts Committee the permanent secretary of MHCLG claimed the department believed “the sector as a whole is sustainable if the amount of resources that are available to it can deliver the statutory services which it is required to do”.

This provoked a furious reaction from across the sector. Jo Miller, president of SOLACE, seemed to speak for many when she described it as “an utterly depressing, negative & deficit based view that fails to take account of the brilliant work public servants do in #localgov day in day out to ensure our places and people thrive”.

Taken in their narrowest sense Ms Dawes’ comments might simply mean the department believes councils have sufficient resource to meet their minimum legal duties between now and the next spending review and that they do not expect any councils to fail in this period. To be fair I think that is what she meant (though I also think she may be wrong), rather than offering a broader definition of what constitutes sustainability for local government (or what local government is for).

Full Article

Northants can use £70m in capital receipts to plug finance gap

Northamptonshire CC will be allowed to use £70m in capital receipts to plug its financial black hole, local government secretary James Brokenshire has ruled.

Described by Government as ‘a significant step,’ the move – called capitalisation dispensation – will help the council to reduce its deficit and put it on a more sustainable financial footing.

The action is in response to the first Commissioners’ Report on the county, which was handed to Mr Brokenshire in early September and which was published today.

Full Article

Northamptonshire County Council: Libraries to be community managed

A crisis-hit council that is millions of pounds overspent on its budget is to offload libraries on to the community to try to keep them open.

Northamptonshire County Council will continue to manage 14 of them and support a further five - with the remaining 17 to be community-managed.

The scheme was revealed as part of the council's budget for 2019-20.

Full Article

Northants’ budget sets out savings plans and council tax rise

Northamptonshire County Council today set out draft budget proposals for 2019-20, which it said would deliver savings totalling £42.9m.

Council leader Matt Golby said the impact on services would be fairly modest. “There’s no big effect on front line services” he said and suggested: “If this approach had been taken three or four years ago we would not be in this place.”

Budget papers published by the council set out spending plans by the directorate and showed savings are expected to come through a wide range of often small measures.

These include improved contract management and contract rationalisation, better use of office space, and reorganisation and realignment of staff teams. A second round of voluntary redundancy will also get under way this month.

Full Article

Greater Manchester proposes radical integration of services

Greater Manchester CA has announced it is to drive a “seismic change” in the way services are delivered across the city region through a greater emphasis on integration.

The new “Greater Manchester model” aims to increase collaboration between council departments by managing services according to locations, as opposed to policy area.

Wigan MBC chief executive Donna Hall, who is also Greater Manchester’s lead for public service reform, said: “The traditional model of public service delivery is based on age-old assumptions and processes from the turn of the century, when society was less complex, less diverse, and a lot less connected.

Full Article

Northamptonshire ‘will have to set unprecedented unbalanced budget’

Northamptonshire County Council must take the “unprecedented” step of setting an unbalanced budget this year, according to government commissioners.

The troubled council has an estimated £35m unfunded deficit, which “must be carried forward” into the next financial year, the government-commissioned report, published today, revealed.

The findings of commissioners, who have been in place since May, said: “The requirement to find further savings to the extent necessary in order to neutralise this historic deficit represents an extraordinary challenge."

Full Article

A no-deal Brexit would shrink the UK economy ‘by 9.3%’

Analysis from both the government and Bank of England have warned the UK economy could “suffer a severe economic shock” in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Theresa May’s draft Brexit proposal will also leave the UK economy worse off, according to government figures released yesterday.

Leaving the EU with no deal would shrink the economy by 9.3% over the next 15 years, calculations by the Department for Exiting the European Union showed.

Full Article

Tory-run Northamptonshire county council bailed out by government

The government has in effect bailed out Tory-run Northamptonshire county council after giving it unprecedented permission to spend up to £60m of cash received from the sale of its HQ on funding day-to-day services.

The highly unusual move – accounting rules normally prevent councils using capital receipts in this way – means the crisis-hit authority is likely to escape falling into insolvency for the third time in less than a year.

Ministers gave the go-ahead for the bailout after commissioners sent in to run the council issued a stark warning that without a cash injection, Northamptonshire would be unable to meet its legal duties to run core services such as social care.

Full Article

Northamptonshire elections postponed during consultation

All next May's elections in cash-strapped Northamptonshire have been postponed during a consultation on a new local government structure.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire made the announcement as he issued the first report by commissioners appointed this year to run the county council.

It confirmed a budget deficit of up to £70m and a projected overspend of £30m in 2018/19.

Full Article

Domestic abuse: 'Children are the hidden victims'

"Whenever I go back to the area I grew up, I still feel nervous," says Daisy.

"When I see someone that looks like him, it makes me anxious. And seeing someone driving the red car that he used to drive makes my heart race."

Daisy, now 19, grew up in an environment of domestic violence, with her father abusing her mother. She says her experiences as a child has left her suffering from anxiety attacks and nightmares.

But Daisy's story is not unique, with the charity Women's Aid estimating that 160,000 children in England are living in homes where they witness domestic abuse.

Full Article

Philip Hammond and Bank of England to set out analysis of Brexit economic impact

Chancellor Philip Hammond is due to set out the government's analysis of the economic impact of Brexit.

The Bank of England (BoE) will also deliver its assessments on Wednesday as Theresa May heads to Scotland to press the case for her agreement with Brussels.

Downing Street has said the Treasury's papers will cover a "range of scenarios".

Full Article

Philip Hammond: UK will be ‘a bit’ poorer after Brexit

Theresa May’s Brexit deal will leave the UK worse off than staying in the EU “but not by much”, the chancellor admitted today.

Philip Hammond said that the economic impact was only part of the consideration as he urged MPs to back the prime minister’s plan in two weeks’ time.

A new Treasury forecast published later is expected to say that GDP will be between 1 and 2 per cent lower in 15 years, making the UK £40 billion poorer if Mrs May’s deal is adopted, says The Daily Telegraph. Under a no deal it estimated that the UK would be £150 billion worse off

Full Article

Complaints over social care in England nearly trebled since 2010

Complaints and inquiries about adult social care have nearly trebled since 2010, a damning report reveals, prompting warnings that the industry is struggling to cope with funding pressures.

The local government and social care ombudsman said there were 3,106 complaints or inquiries about private or council-run adult social care in 2017/18, compared with 1,156 in 2010/11.

The proportion of complaints being upheld by the ombudsman – which deals with the final stage of grievances about adult social care in England – also increased, from 43% in 2010/11 to 62% in 2017/18. There were 1,274 recommendations for improvements in the last year.

Full Article

Why this local council has taken matters into its own hands to rejuvenate its ailing high street

With Britain's high streets in turmoil, active local councils are taking it upon themselves to think of new ways they can stave off further decline.

Ashford Borough Council, with Gerry Clarkson at its helm, is spearheading this fightback, with various projects underway, including a £90m expansion of a shopping centre, the construction of a third motorway junction on the M20, and a pledge to build 16,000 new properties by 2030 to house the increasing number of local residents.

Full Article

Local government ‘is sustainable’, says top civil servant

Local government is on a “sustainable footing”, at least until next year’s Spending Review, a top civil servant has told a group of MPs.

The sustainability of the sector for the next five “will depend on the Spending Review [in 2019]”, Melanie Dawes, permanent secretary at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, also told a Public Accounts Committee hearing on Monday.

She said: “Overall my judgment remains that the sector, for the remainder of this Spending Review, is on a sustainable footing.

“Of course the Spending Review will determine what happens thereafter.”

Full Article

Brexit deal 'could cut UK growth by 5.5%' by 2030

The PM's Brexit deal could leave the economy as much as 5.5% smaller in a decade's time than it would be if the UK stayed in the EU, a study has said.

And the cost to the public finances could be as much as 1.8% of GDP, said the research by the London School of Economics, King's College and the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

It blamed the imposition of new trade barriers and a fall in immigration.

Full Article

Melanie Dawes: Sustainability is defined as 'statutory services' only

The government’s definition of financial sustainability among councils is whether statutory services can be delivered locally, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s permanent secretary has said.

Melanie Dawes also said the government does not consider any other councils will issue a section 114 notice in the near future.

Appearing before the Commons’ public accounts committee yesterday Ms Dawes said her department’s “primary focus” is to ensure there are enough resources to enable councils to deliver statutory services.

Full Article

County chief leaves just six months after appointment

Lincolnshire CC chief executive Keith Ireland is to leave the council six months after being appointed due to differences of opinion with leader Martin Hill (Con).

In a joint statement to staff today, Mr Ireland and Cllr Hill said: “Over the last few months, it has become clear that we do not share the same approach to a number of important issues that are facing the council, and, in these circumstances, we are agreed that a parting of the ways is the best way forward for both of us.

“Whilst unfortunately things have not worked out, we are united in wishing each other the very best for the future.”

Full Article

One in four pubs in UK have closed since financial crisis

Birmingham has had the biggest number of pub closures since the turn of the millennium, according to official figures showing the nationwide scale of the decline of the local.

The Office for National Statistics said almost one in four UK pubs have closed in the decade since the financial crisis. Over a longer period, the number of pubs calling time has increased by more than 10,000 since 2001, with the total still in operation falling from 52,500 to 38,815 this year.

Full Article

McDonnell calls for check on council loans that will 'waste £16bn'

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has called for a government investigation into the use of high-cost bank loans after a report found local councils stand to waste up to £16bn on interest payments over the next 40 years.

Figures compiled by the investigative cooperative Research for Action show that local governments that were saddled with complex borrowing schemes in the early 2000s could halve their annual interest payments if those debts were paid off with cash borrowed from the government’s Public Works Loan Board (PWLB).

Full Article

The recycling system is out of date and needs to be overhauled, says Environment Agency chair

The recycling system is a throwback to last century that badly needs to be modernised, according to the head of the Environment Agency.

The system is much too complicated and inconsistent, meaning that far too little plastic and other waste is being recycled, warns Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd.

“There is a real inconsistency in terms of what is suitable for recycling. We are working with producers of waste, to simplify the materials used, so there are less types of plastic going into the waste chain and to make sure they are better labelled,” said Mr Boyd.

Full Article

Selling off student loans ‘could have damaged public finances’

An attempt to improve public finances by selling off student loans could have in fact damaged them, according to a group of MPs.

The Treasury received “too little in return” when it sold off student loans, the Public Accounts Committee concluded, in a report released yesterday.

In December 2017, the goverment sold student loans with a face value of £3.5bn for £1.7bn.

Full Article

Cycling awareness plan could lead to cheaper insurance for drivers

Motorists should be offered cheaper insurance if they take a course to make them more aware of cyclists on the roads, the government says.

The Department for Transport also wants to give councils more powers to tackle parking in cycling lanes.

It is proposing a series of 50 measures in a bid to reduce the number of cyclists and pedestrians killed.

Full Article

More than 1,000 people become homeless every month, figures reveal

The number of homeless people in the UK is soaring by a rate of more than 1,000 a month, according to new analysis which says that one in 200 Britons are now without a permanent place to live.

The figures, which show that 320,000 people are currently known to be sleeping on the streets or stuck in temporary accommodation, highlight the depths of the country’s housing crisis, despite repeated government pledges to get to grips with the problem.

Opposition politicians and campaigners said it was “unforgivable” that so many people had been swept up by the housing crisis and attributed the rise to spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a lack of social housing.

Full Article

Commission for Countering Extremism launches call for evidence on extremism in England and Wales

The independent Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE) has today (Thursday 22 November) called on the public to share their views, experience and evidence on extremism and its impact for a first-of-a-kind study.

The Commission, announced by the Prime Minister after the terror attacks of 2017, has launched a 10-week Call for Evidence, inviting firsthand accounts of the harms extremists inflict on individuals, communities and our society.

The evidence, which will be treated sensitively and in the strictest of confidence, will feed into a wide-ranging study of extremism to be published in spring 2019.

Full Article

Labour plea over £133m Northamptonshire council debt

A £133m hole in a cash-strapped county council's budget will need government help to clear, a group of Labour politicians has claimed.

Ten party members in Northamptonshire have written to Communities Secretary James Brokenshire demanding money to transform the failed county council.

Northamptonshire should also be allowed to use capital receipts to help fund the deficit, the group said.

Full Article

DfE must ensure ‘academies can be trusted’

The government must ensure academies “can be trusted to manage large amounts of public money”, the spending watchdog has urged.

Since 2010-11 nearly 7,000 maintained schools had been converted to academies at a cost of £745m since 2010-11, the National Audit Office highlighted in its overview of the Department for Education.

Full Article

It took decades for Children in Need to raise £1bn – wouldn’t it be more efficient to raise taxes?

The 150 councils that provide children’s social care burn through £1bn in just six weeks. Thirty-eight years of off-key newsreaders, straight-to-camera appeals and baked bean baths to match just 11 per cent of the annual spending on troubled children. The money raised this year – almost £51 million – is less than the average spent by a single council in a year on children’s services.

Full Article

Northants moves to bolster confidence over council loans

Northamptonshire County Council has tried to reassure other councils of its ability to repay loans from them.

A second quarter update to its Treasury Management Strategy 2018-19 says: “This concern is unfounded because whilst the council may have a budget difficulty, it does not have a cash shortage”.

It goes on to note the benefit its cash position has received from the sale of its headquarters at One Angel Square.

Full Article

Sector faces £12m apprenticeship hit - every month

Local government could lose up to £12m per month from June after struggling to spend funds from the Apprenticeship Levy, initial estimates have suggested.

Councils have spent just 10% of its levy funds so far and local government is on course to meet 36% of its share of the public sector target in the first year, with no solid indications yet this will increase significantly in year two, according to a Smith Square report.

Unspent funds expire after two years and have to be returned to the Government.

Full Article

Brexit ‘stretching government to breaking point’

The process of extracting the UK from the European Union will stretch the system of government “beyond breaking point”, a leading academic has warned.

Jim Gallagher, visiting professor at the University of Glasgow and a research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, told the Scottish Affairs Committee that Brexit was “one of the least ordered pieces of public policy” he had witnessed.

“Brexit was always going to be an almost impossible challenge for any government and for any set of intergovernmental relations,” he said yesterday.

Full Article

Ten of the best [councils]

Which councils are the best? It is the question that has never been answered since the demise of the Audit Commission when the then new secretary of state Eric Pickles scrapped it with a flick of his pen on entering office in 2010.

But now consultancy iMPOWER has asked just that in its latest report, which ranks local authorities by their productivity...

Full Article

Councils spent £160m on school transport for children with special needs – survey

Councils spent more than £160m last year on taxis and private hire vehicles to transport children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to and from school, according to a survey seen exclusively by the Guardian.

England’s county councils are warning that rising demand for SEND services is “creating budget risks” for local authorities, with school transport costs for children with special needs up by as much as 45% in some areas in the last four years.

The survey by the County Councils Network (CCN) shows that total spending on transport for pupils with SEND in 2017-18 was more than £323m across 36 county authorities in England, up from just under £250m four years ago.

Full Article

Council reserves in shock rise

Councils’ revenue account reserves rose for the first time in four years during 2017/18, according to outturn data.

Despite well-publicised struggles at a number of authorities which have dipped into their contingency funding to keep services running, the figures paint a surprising picture of a sector in relatively healthy condition, overall.

According to the 2017/18 revenue expenditure and financing final outturn, revenue reserves held by English local authorities rose by £612m to £24.3bn at 31 March 2017.

Full Article

Why it costs £73,000 to educate a child

The amount spent on schools is a source of frequent controversy. So, where does all the money for educating the country's children go?

School spending is watched closely - as Chancellor Philip Hammond recently discovered when his announcement of £400m for teachers to spend on "little extras" was met with anger.

It is a fact that the amount spent on education is much higher than it was 20 years ago. But that's not the full picture in a country which has seen a population boom coincide with a squeeze on public finances.

Full Article

Universal credit: Amber Rudd to 'signal shift in approach'

The new Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd is poised to signal a shift in approach on the government's controversial universal credit benefits reform, the BBC understands.

The BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg said sources suggested there will not be a pause in the rollout of the single benefit due next summer.

But she said there will be a change in tone and a commitment to fix problems.

Full Article

Special needs pupils 'spend years out of school'

Julie becomes tearful when she starts talking about her autistic son's struggle to stay in school. "He has been taught that he's not worth anything," she says.

Sam, 14 - who loves animals and rebuilding computers - was temporarily excluded from secondary school in December 2015.

Julie expected her son would be back in a matter of days. But he didn't go back to school for almost two and a half years.

Full Article

Number of children being adopted from care falls

The number of children in care who are adopted has fallen by almost 30 per cent in the past three years as social workers increasingly seek to place vulnerable children with other family members.

There were 3,820 children adopted in England last year after being in care, down from 4,370 a year earlier and from 5,360 in 2015, latest figures show.

The number has slumped since a court ruled that social workers must put greater emphasis on trying to place children with other family members, known as kinship care.

Full Article

Many home educated children ‘hidden from sight’

It is likely that many children receiving a home education are at risk because they are ‘hidden from sight’, children’s services directors have warned.

A survey of local authorities by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has revealed that somewhere in the region of 57,800 children and young people were home schooled in 2018 - up from 45,500 in 2017 and 37,500 in 2016.

The responses to the survey, which came from 106 councils, suggest that nearly a third of home schooled children had some contact with children’s services. An average of 11% of these were known to children’s social care.

Full Article

Number of looked after children rises to over 75,000

The number of children looked after by local authorities has increased since last year, prompting council chiefs to warn of the ‘huge demand’ this is placing on children’s services.

New statistics from the Department for Education show that, as of 31 March 2018, there were 75,420 looked after children in England - up 4% on the previous year’s figure.

Full Article

Cumbria council mulls over plans for major ‘one-stop-shop’ local government reshuffle

Council members at Cumbria County Council debated yesterday the possibility of abolishing their current local government structure in favour of a much larger, single unitary council in its place.

At the council meeting in Kendal yesterday, council leader Stewart Young said then-communities secretary Sajid Javid’s approval of a similar reorganisation to Buckinghamshire County Council signalled a “sea change” in the government’s approach towards unitary proposals, despite the merger being opposed by both local MPs and councillors themselves.

Full Article

Councils face £536m shortfall in Send budgets, says LGA

The scale of the crisis gripping services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) has been laid bare by research that indicates council budgets are facing a potential funding shortfall of more than £500m.

A survey by the Local Government Association (LGA) of the councils it represents in England projects a £536m funding gap this year as a result of growing demand for Send services – more than double last year’s shortfall.

The interim findings, announced on Thursday at the National Children and Adult Services conference in Manchester, come as local authorities face legal challenges over planned cuts to services.

Full Article

Councils ‘unsustainably’ spend millions of pounds more on social care

Social care was the largest area of increased expenditure for local authorities in the last financial year, government figures have revealed.

Children’s social care spending shot up by 4.2% in 2017-18 compared to the year before – by £358m to £8.8bn

Adult social care expenditure also went up 2.8% in the last financial year compared to 2016-17 – by £416m to £15.3bn.

Full Article

Councils face £500m bill after ATM business rates ruling

Councils face an estimated combined bill of up to £500m to refund supermarkets after the Court of Appeal ruled that cash machines should not be assessed separately for business rates.

Retailers Tesco, Sainsbury’s and The Cooperative Group, along with ATM operator Cardtronics Europe have won their challenge to a 2010 decision by the Valuation Office Agency to create separate entries for the sites of supermarket cash machines.

Property consultancy firm Altus estimates that the backdated bill which businesses will be due via rebates at £382m, while property consultancy Colliers put the figure at £496m.

Full Article

£536m funding shortfall for SEND children, says LGA

Increased demand from children and young people with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) means that councils face a funding shortfall of £536m this year in providing services for the group.

The estimate is included in a new report produced by the Local Government Association, based on a survey of 73 authorities – half of those with SEND duties.

The association said that results mean councils are at risk of failing to meet their statutory duties, and that children with SEND could miss out on mainstream education.

Full Article

Government must raise taxes to plug £3.6bn social care funding shortfall, councils say

Tax rises are urgently needed to plug a yawning hole in funding the care of the elderly and adults with disabilities and must be put forward by government in its delayed social care green paper, councils have said.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has drawn up its own blueprint for reforming the sector and says that income tax or national insurance increases should be urgently considered.

Successive governments have kicked the issue of funding the rising cost of care in the UK “into the long grass”, but after eight years of austerity and cuts to council budgets, the LGA says the issues is at crisis point.

Full Article

Cipfa past president to lose job as county seeks £35m savings

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy’s past president Andy Burns is set to lose his job at Staffordshire CC as the county seeks to close a £35m budget shortfall next year.

Mr Burns’ director of finance and resources role is to be eliminated as part of a reduction to the senior management team.

The role of director of strategy, governance and change, held by John Tradewell, will also be eliminated.

Full Article

Children’s services commissioner set to be sent into Northants

An additional commissioner is likely to be sent into troubled Northamptonshire County Council after Ofsted found children’s services have “significantly declined”.

A written statement from communities secretary James Brokenshire said he and education secretary Damian Hinds had agreed to “act swiftly to strengthen the focus on children in the current intervention, by appointing a new commissioner,” after a damning Ofsted letter.

Hinds said he was “minded to appoint” a children’s services commissioner for the county using powers contained in the 1996 Education Act,

Full Article

LGA survey suggests support for national adult social care levy

Significantly more members of the public would support a national tax increase over council tax rises to bridge the adult social care funding gap, according to a new poll.

The survey was carried out by the Local Government Association (LGA) as part of its submission to the government’s consultation on its green paper, which was launched after the government delayed its own proposals.

It found that 56% of people would support a 1% increase on National Insurance payments, 51% favour a social insurance payment and 49% are behind a 1% increase in income tax.

Full Article

Back to basics: What’s the point of accounting for depreciation?

Local authorities, just like private businesses, have to account for the depreciation of their assets. Conrad Hall asks whether the current rules dictate inappropriate financial reporting.

What (with apologies to Monty Python) has accounting for depreciation ever done for local government?

Not much, one might argue.

Full Article

Fare freezes ‘adding to Transport for London finance woes’

Transport for London fare freezes risk sending the authority further into the “financial doldrums”, a committee has warned.

TfL estimates that Mayor Sadiq Khan’s fares freeze policy will cost around £640m over the four-year mayoral term, adding to the current deficit of £1bn for 2018-19, according to a report by the London Assembly budget and performance committee.

The report found that five modes of transport in London – buses, street maintenance, the Elizabeth line [Crossrail], TfL rail and other services like river services – run at a loss.

Full Article

Shares in outsourcing giant Interserve hit 30-year low

Fresh concerns have been raised over the future of outsourcing giant Interserve following a huge drop in its share price.

Shares in the UK-based global construction and support services company, which has several contracts with local authorities, hit a 30-year low on Monday amid speculation it may not be able to raise the cash it needs to continue operating.

They have rallied slightly since but continue to be volatile and far below their historical value.

Full Article

Gambling rebellion looks set to pay off

Philip Hammond is facing almost certain defeat over his budget plan to delay a crackdown on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Amendments designed to force ministers to bring forward a cut in the maximum stake from £100 to £2 have been signed by 21 Conservative MPs, including 12 former ministers, and four Democratic Unionist Party MPs. Boris Johnson, David Davis, Priti Patel and Justine Greening all support the cross-party push.

Labour also said that it would support both amendments, meaning that without a climbdown the government faces almost certain defeat.

Full Article

Northamptonshire County Council slashes deficit by £10m, but services in ‘significant decline’

Savings made by the financially-challenged Northamptonshire County Council have reduced the local authority’s overall deficit by more than £10m since a section 114 notice was issued to the council in July this year.

Council board papers due to be discussed today found that £1.3m of proposals introduced in Northamptonshire CC’s stabilisation plan in October have already been delivered, and a remaining £10.7m will bring down the council’s overall deficit to £53.4m on the year.

In July, a potential budget deficit of between £60m-£70m pushed the director of the council’s finances to issue an unprecedented second section 114 notice, banning all spending until further notice. In May government-appointed commissioners were sent in to run Northamptonshire’s finances to create further savings.

Full Article

Councils forced to close nearly 350 playgrounds in past four years

Councils have been forced to close 347 playgrounds across England since 2014, new research has revealed.

A freedom of information request by the Association of Play Industries (API) found 70 playgrounds have been closed in 2017/18 alone.

Local authorities are also spending £13m less each year on playgrounds on average.

Full Article

City council to cut 100 jobs to balance budget

Newcastle City Council has announced the job loses as part of a series of measures to save £60m over the next three years.

The authority has calculated that it has been forced to find £327m in savings since 2010 as a result of the Government’s austerity programme.

On Friday the city council published proposals for saving £20m next year as well as broad plans covering the following two years.

Full Article

Whitehall confirms £22m for domestic abuse survivors

Over 60 projects are set to receive a multi-million pound injection of cash in order to help survivors of domestic abuse, the Government has confirmed.

The £22m in funding, announced on Saturday, will go to 63 projects across England which will be delivered by councils working alongside other organisations.

The money will provide over 2,200 new beds in refuges and other safe accommodation, access to education, and tailored employment and life skills guidance to help abuse survivors.

Full Article

'Are councils sitting on a goldmine of untapped data?'

The last favourable digital experience a citizen has had will become the benchmark for every future one, including those with the public sector. Local authorities face a growing expectation to modernise public administration, only achievable through true transformation. Coupled with this is the reality that the future will see limited additional financial resources.

Authorities have traditionally looked to the back office to create efficiencies and savings. The public is now becoming the best tool to drive transformation. The key is ensuring services can be provided in a simple, accessible, cost-efficient way.

Gathering data and analytics from multiple sources across customer service operations can help create organisation-wide change. Sharing information with parts of the business that do not interact directly with customers allows them to visualise the impact their daily decisions have on customer experience.

Full Article

'Tax on age' to pay for social care being considered for the over-40s

A new levy targeted at the over-40s is being considered by ministers to help solve the social care funding crisis.

Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary, told the Telegraph he was “attracted to” a cross-party plan for a compulsory premium deducted from the earnings of the ­middle-aged and over-65s to fund the cost of their care in later life.

The proposals, set out by two Commons committees, are based on the system in Germany under which all workers over 40 pay 2.5 per cent of their wages into a pot formally earmarked for social care.

Full Article

Vulnerable children are being auctioned online by councils inviting private firms to bid for up to £7,000-a-week for their care

Children in care are being 'treated like cattle', as councils have invited companies to compete in online bidding wars for contracts worth up to £7,000-a-week.

A new report found some councils in England and Wales are putting personal details of vulnerable children in adverts online - including if they were sexually abused or involved in gangs - while inviting bids from private firms for their care.

Children's care homes are under pressure as private companies are taking over and charging councils more than £7,000 a week - more than £360,000-a-year per child - for residential placements.

Full Article

‘Devastating’ cuts hit special educational needs

A crisis in funding for children with special educational needs is plunging councils across the country deeper into the red and forcing parents into lengthy legal battles to secure support, according to an Observer investigation that reveals a system at breaking point.

Council overspending on children’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has trebled in just three years and is continuing to increase, with councils having to raid hundreds of millions from their overall schools budget to cope. 40 councils that have either cut special needs funding this year, are considering making cuts or are raiding other education budgets to cope next year.

Full Article

Councils warn of £3bn child services black hole as thousands more children require protection

Social workers drew up 29 more child protection plans every day last year than they did five years ago, figures reveal, as council leaders warned stretched children’s services are facing a £3bn funding black hole.

Some 10,000 more children were subject to protection plans - arrangements drawn up by local authorities setting out how keep vulnerable minors safe and assist their families - by the end of 2017-18 as compared to five years prior.

Government figures showed that, overall, 404,710 children referred to authorities across England were deemed to require the support of social services at the end of March this year.

Full Article

Retailers shut 2,700 shops in first half of the year

About 14 shops are closing every day as UK High Streets face their toughest trading climate in five years, a report has found.

A net 1,123 stores disappeared from Britain's top 500 high streets in the first six months of the year, according to the accountancy firm PwC.

It said fashion and electrical stores had suffered most as customers did more shopping online.

Full Article

Let’s celebrate a win for councils

Ministers are finally listening to local government and last week’s Budget represented a series of strategic victories for the sector, says James Maker of the County Councils Network.

At the start of October, the County Councils Network chair Paul Carter remarked that the local government sector was feeling ‘unloved’.

His comment is important context for any post-Budget analysis on the impact of the announcements on the sector.

Full Article

Ministers pledge £2m to help English councils tackle rogue landlords

The government is to create a £2m fund to help English councils tackle rogue landlords, after a Guardian and ITV News investigation revealed how convicted property owners are continuing to collect rents – often funded by the taxpayer – despite being ruled unfit to let out property.

Full Article

Owners of holiday homes could soon pay council tax

Second homeowners who declare their properties as ‘holiday lets’ may be required to pay council tax following a government consultation.

Properties available to let as ‘holiday accommodation’ for 140 days or more a year are liable for business rates rather than council tax. Around 47,000 properties are in England are currently liable for business rates.

But the vast majority of these (96%) qualify for 100% Small Business Rates Relief as they have a rateable value of less than £12,000 a year. Consequently, they pay no property tax at all, while owners are not obliged to demonstrate that the property is actually being commercially let.

Full Article

Council tax "loophole" that saves wealthy homeowners thousands to be closed

A business rates "loophole" in England surrounding second home owners who claim their properties are predominantly being used as holiday lets is to be reviewed by Government ministers.

The Government said it is aware of concerns that current arrangements do not provide strong enough protections against some second home owners abusing the system.

It said the loophole could be costing councils across England millions of pounds in lost council tax.

Full Article

Can the government deliver on radical care reform?

Another week, another sign that the care system in England is in dire trouble.

News that Allied Healthcare - one of the biggest providers of home care in the country - is at risk of going under, sent shockwaves around the sector.

The 13,000 vulnerable people who rely on its staff for washing, dressing and help with eating now face an anxious wait to see if bosses can get the finances together to keep services going.

But Allied is not alone. The UK Homecare Association, the body which represents the firms providing care, warned only last month that providers were refusing to sign up to council contracts because of the low fees being offered.

Full Article

Children's services: What do we know about the children most in need?

More families struggling, more children needing protection, difficulties recruiting enough social workers and tighter budgets are all factors in what councils in England say is a crisis facing children's services.

The latest figures show demand for support rising steeply and this summer council leaders warned they would have to overspend next year to meet demand.

So why are services designed to protect the most vulnerable children in society under so much pressure?

Full Article

Inquiry into the funding of children’s services launched

An inquiry into the funding and provision of children’s services has been launched as local authorities struggle to cope with the impact of rising demand combined with funding cuts.

The real-terms spending on local children’s services fell by 7% between 2010/11 and 2016/17 due to cuts for discretionary services. This was despite a 3.2% increase in spending on statutory children’s services during the same period.

On top of this, local authorities have had to cope with significant increases in demand. The National Audit Office calculated that the number of looked-after children grew by 10.9% during this six year period.

Full Article

Older people could become ‘victim of a broken system’ as one of England’s largest care home providers faces closure

Concerns have been raised that one of the biggest care providers in the UK might not be able to continue to operate in a matter of days.

Allied Homes, which looks after care services across 84 councils for around 9,300 people could cease to operate as of 30 November. ‘

The authority that looks after care homes, the quality care commission, said it has written to 84 English local authorities who commission some sort of care services through Allied Healthcare to notify them of its concerns.

Full Article

Child protection services near crisis as demand rises

A steep rise in vulnerable children needing protection over the past 10 years is pushing council children's services in England into crisis, suggests research to be published tomorrow.

There has been a substantial increase in calls from the public and professionals worried about a child, according to a study for the Association of Directors of Children's Services.

Over the past year, almost 2.4 million people contacted children's services because they were worried about a child - a 78% increase on 10 years ago, while serious investigations over concerns of significant harm are up from just under 77,000 in 2008 to almost 200,000 last year - a rise of 159%.

Full Article

Firms cash in on psychiatric care crisis


Companies and charities are making millions of pounds by treating NHS patients in psychiatric hospitals that are sometimes substandard and fail to provide adequate or safe care, an investigation has found.

Thousands of patients are detained, sometimes against their will and in other cases for many years, in wards and units that inspectors say do not meet required standards of care.

Full Article

Education Secretary Damian Hinds calls for billions more investment after Chancellor promised more cash for potholes than schools in his Budget

The Education Secretary is demanding billions more for schools following a Budget in which the Chancellor lavished more money on potholes than classrooms.

Damian Hinds said education spending was a ‘special case’ that deserved more than the real-terms freeze currently on offer to all departments outside the NHS in next year’s spending review.

Philip Hammond warned last week that a huge increase in health spending meant other departments would be left with an average zero per cent real-terms settlement in the three-year review.

Full Article

'Audit culture' causing staff burnout in schools, report finds

The Department for Education has pledged to ease pressures on teachers in England, after it accepted the recommendations of a new report that said an “audit culture” in schools was causing anxiety and staff burnout without improving results.

The report by the DfE’s teacher workload advisory group says teachers have to waste time producing data on their pupils, with the recording, monitoring and analysing of data being demanded by multiple sources, including local and central government, Ofsted school inspectors and multiple tiers of school management.

In some cases teachers are expected to report on up to 30 different elements of data for 30 children in a class, which the report described as an attempt to provide “spurious precision” in tracking pupil attainment.

Full Article

People must take responsibility for own health, says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has triggered a row after urging people to take greater responsibility for their own health to tackle the rising toll of illness from diseases such as cancer and obesity.

In a speech on Monday the health and social care secretary will call for a big increase in people making healthier lifestyle choices, such as reducing the amount of alcohol and junk food they consume.

Speaking ahead of the speech Hancock said “We need to do far more to personally take responsibility for our own health.”

Full Article

Theresa May's flagship policy to solve housing crisis will deliver no new homes in half of England

Theresa May’s flagship policy for sparking a revival in council housebuilding will not deliver a single new home in more than half of the local authorities in England.

Some of the most deprived towns and cities with the greatest need for new homes, including Liverpool, Bolton and Wakefield, are among areas that will miss out as a result of changes that will only benefit some councils.

The prime minister used her speech to the Conservatives’ annual conference last month to announce a major change that will see the government scrap restrictions on how much councils can borrow to fund housing.

Full Article

Bus firms pay fat cats £1.5 billion - while prices go up 55% and routes are axed

Bus firms have paid shareholders £1.5billion in dividends in the past 10 years, while fares have soared and services have been axed.

Fares have gone up 55% on average since 2008, far outstripping pay growth. Some passengers have even been hit by increases of 100% and bus use is at a 12-year low.

Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach carry 70% of all bus passengers and have paid an average £149million a year in dividends in the past 10 years.

Full Article

East Sussex council's basic services 'not sustainable'

A cash-strapped council has warned it will not be able to afford to provide basic services unless it receives more government money.

Conservative-led East Sussex County Council (ESCC) said it needed to save more than £45m by 2021-22.

In its Core Offer document the council sets out a list of services it could provide as a "bare minimum".

However, the chief executive said it was "unlikely" that even this reduced level of services could be sustained.

Full Article

Littering out of your car could now land you up to £450 fine

Drivers caught littering could in certain circumstances land up to £450 fines and costs in the UK.

In the UK, anyone caught littering from their vehicle could be handed an on-the-spot fine of £80.

However, a recent case involving a driver from Ipswich revealed how these fees could soar.

Full Article

Education spending now 'skewed' to poor following 'remarkable shift'

There has been a "remarkable shift" in poorer children now receiving a bigger share of education spending in England, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The independent financial researchers say in previous generations children from richer families were the main beneficiaries, as they were likely to stay longer in education.

But this pattern has been reversed by policies deliberately "skewed" to give more funding towards the deprived and with more poorer youngsters going to sixth form and university, it says.

Full Article

Rural areas 'least socially mobile'

People living in England's rural and coastal counties are having their life chances held back by a "false perception of affluence", MPs say.

Their report said vital services like public transport, youth centres and childcare were being "hampered" by an "inequitable" council funding model that benefits urban areas.

They said rural areas were among the country's least "socially mobile".

Full Article

Millions underestimating cost of care - Which?

Millions of people are underestimating the cost of paying for a care home by an average of £12,000 a year, a survey suggests.

Which? found that 55% of people estimated a figure for the cost of a private nursing home place in their area that fell short of the average cost.

On average, people underestimated the true cost of a care home place in England by £237 per week – the equivalent of £12,000 a year.

Full Article

Lord Porter: We need a big, bold move to put social care on a firm financial footing

I am sure that many House readers have heard plenty about the Local Government Association’s (LGA) adult social care green paper which we launched in the summer. Sadly, this issue has not been resolved by successive governments and, with people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, the system is at breaking point.

Over recent years, councils have protected adult social care relative to other services to try and stave off the most challenging consequences of the crisis. But the scale of the overall funding picture for local government as a whole means adult social care services still face a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care.

The likely consequences of this are more and more people being unable to get good quality, reliable care and support which enables them to live more fulfilling lives; more providers exiting the market, and greater strain on the care workforce and unpaid family carers.

Full Article

Hammond v McDonnell on Budget 'end of austerity' claim

Labour have dismissed the government's Budget claim to be ending austerity.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said welfare cuts were continuing and public services could face a further squeeze.

But Chancellor Philip Hammond, who announced tax cuts as well as more money for the NHS and universal credit, said more spending was on its way.

Full Article

Anger over chancellor's £400m 'little extras' for schools

eachers and parents have reacted with anger to an announcement in the Budget that schools are to receive a one-off payment of £400m for "little extras".

Schools in England will receive the sum to "buy the little extras they need", Chancellor Philip Hammond said.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said Mr Hammond's choice of language was "utterly insulting to parents and teachers".

Full Article

Why did the council 'house' me in a tent?

Theo had just turned 17 when he became homeless. He turned to the council for help - but was given only a one-man tent, writes the BBC's Emma Forde.

Full Article

Budget 2018: Philip Hammond hails better borrowing figures

Chancellor Philip Hammond has used the Budget to ease the government spending squeeze as he declared that austerity was "finally coming to an end".

Against a backdrop of stronger tax receipts, Mr Hammond said borrowing this year would be £11.6bn lower than projected in March, at £25.5bn.

Borrowing is expected to fall over the next five years.

Full Article

Budget income tax cuts 'to overwhelmingly benefit the rich'

Income tax cuts for millions of workers announced in Philip Hammond’s budget will “overwhelmingly benefit richer households”, analysis has found, with almost half set to go to the top 10% of households.

The analysis by the Resolution Foundation thinktank found that welfare cuts would continue to affect the poorest households, despite Hammond’s announcement that austerity was coming to an end.

Three-quarters of the £12bn in welfare cuts announced after the 2015 election remain government policy.

Full Article

Hammond no longer on track to balance budget, says OBR

Philip Hammond will allow the government’s spending deficit to rise next year as he seeks to pay for the first round of extra NHS spending and a series of measures that will “bring an end to the era of austerity”.

The chancellor sanctioned a rise from 1.2% to 1.4% in the annual deficit between this year and 2019/20 as he sought to honour promises made by the prime minister to boost spending on health, local authority housing and a freeze on fuel duty.

Over the next five years, Hammond has authorised £30bn of extra spending and tax cuts that he might have kept aside for a rainy day, according to the Treasury’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Full Article

Budget 2018: A bit of a gamble, says IFS

The Budget has been branded "a bit of a gamble" by a respected economic research group.

The chancellor was able to promise more spending in his budget after forecasts for tax collection were raised, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said.

But those forecasts could easily change for the worse, leaving the chancellor in a tight spot, the IFS said.

The think tank also warned that many public services will continue to feel squeezed for some time to come.

Full Article

School places crisis is worse than ever with half of children in some areas expected to miss out on their chosen secondary

Parents are today scrambling to get their child into a top secondary school in the most competitive year ever.

Applications must be submitted by midnight tonight but even those making the deadline may well miss out on their favourite school.

A baby boom fuelled by migration a decade ago has caused a surge in applications – with a predicted record high of 607,000 pupils vying to find a place.

Full Article

Philip Hammond prepares last Budget before Brexit

Philip Hammond is preparing to present the last Budget before Brexit.

The chancellor is expected to announce a rise in spending on mental health in England and has also hinted at cash for universal credit welfare reforms.

He has admitted a change of approach, including an entirely new economic plan, will be needed if the UK and the EU cannot agree a deal by 29 March.

Labour is calling for more investment in public services to put an end to years of "failed austerity".

Full Article

2018 Budget Preview

The BBC's live coverage of the budget

Full Article

Budget 2018: £2billion annual boost for mental health services to be announced

An additional £2billion each year is expected to be allocated for mental health crisis services in the upcoming budget announcement.

Philip Hammond will use the Budget, to be outlined on Monday, to set out the start of a long-term plan to achieve "parity of care" between physical and mental health.

This extra money is set to pay for the provision of "comprehensive" mental health support in every major NHS A&E department.

Full Article

Budget 2018: Mental health ambulances promised in drive for more dedicated treatment

Mental health services will get a cash injection of £2bn a year, as Philip Hammond promises more dedicated support in Monday's budget.

Special ambulances to treat people with conditions like depression, anxiety and PTSD are part of the new measures to ensure mental illnesses are treated as seriously as physical ones.

The vehicles look like normal cars and are designed to reduce stigma.

Full Article

Philip Hammond: No-deal Brexit would require new Budget

The government will set a new Budget if it is unable to reach a Brexit deal with the EU, the chancellor has said.

Philip Hammond said a no-deal Brexit would require a "different response", with "fiscal buffers" being maintained to provide support for the economy.

Mr Hammond was speaking on the eve of his Budget, which he will present to the Commons on Monday.

Full Article

More children in England at risk of abuse or neglect

An average of 188 children a day in England are being put on protection plans because they are at risk of abuse or neglect, official figures reveal.

Councils started 68,770 child protection plans during 2017-18, a rise of 2,360 in a year.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils were "pushed to the brink by unprecedented demand".

Full Article

MPs demand policing is a Budget priority

Policing “urgently” needs more funding in the Budget to avoid “dire consequences” for public safety, MPs have warned.

Neighbourhood policing has been cut by more than 20% since 2010 and some forces have lost more than two-thirds of neighbourhood officers, the home affairs select committee has noted in a report out yesterday.

On average forces in England and Wales have experienced a 35% reduction in the number of neighbourhood officers between 2009-10 and 2017-18 with the biggest cuts coming in Northamptonshire (71%), West Yorkshire (69%) and the City of London (69%).

Full Article

Budget to offer business rates relief for small shops

The chancellor will cut business rates bills by a third for almost half a million small high street shops in a £1.5bn spending pledge to fight the threat posed by Amazon and other online retailers.

In next week’s budget, Philip Hammond will order £900m of immediate business rates relief for small retailers in an effort to combat shuttered shops on the high street, where small businesses have been threatened by high rates and the rapid rise of online shopping.

Small retailers will be the focus of the business rates relief. A Sheffield pub with an estimated rental value of £37,750 would be likely to save £6,178 on business rates next year. A Birmingham newsagent would save £1,749 with a rental rate of £14,250.

Full Article

Budget 2018: Labour urges Hammond to 'stump up cash'

Labour is calling for concrete action by the chancellor in Monday's Budget to end austerity not just "financial conjuring tricks" and "vague promises".

Philip Hammond must "stump up the cash" for schools, councils and social care, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said.

Theresa May has pledged that almost a decade of budget cuts, pay restraint and benefit freezes are nearing an end.

Labour has calculated that £30bn in extra spending would be required by 2023 to make this a reality.

Full Article

Councils buying care 'on the cheap'

Councils across the UK are buying vital home help for elderly people on the cheap, the firms providing care say.

Thousands of vulnerable older people rely on councils to organise support for them for daily tasks such as washing, dressing and feeding.

But research by the UK Homecare Association found only one in seven was paying a fair price for care.

It said this meant visits were being cut short, but councils said they had insufficient money to pay more.

Full Article

Lancs appoints combined CEO/151 amid harsh criticism of council’s governance

Lancashire County Council has voted to appoint Angie Ridgwell to its controversial permanent role of chief executive and section 151 officer.

In a bitter meeting of the full council last week, Conservative councillors voted through the appointment, after opposition councillors abstained.

Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors complained that combining the role of chief executive and section 151 officer was contrary to good governance practice.

Full Article

Arlingclose launches system for rating local authority creditworthiness

Treasury adviser Arlingclose will next month launch a new rating system to rank the financial strength of local authorities, which it says will complement a similar initiative launched by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

The firm will award gold, silver and bronze rankings to authorities, based on a series of indicators, namely level of indebtedness, interest cost burden, income flexibility, the level and rate of use of revenue reserves, and budgetary control.

However, unlike CIPFA’s “traffic light” financial resilience rankings, plans for which were revealed earlier this year, Arlingclose’s will only be available to councils lending to other authorities through its online platform.

Full Article

'Grave concerns' about future of council-run nurseries and support for special needs pupils as Tories refuse to guarantee vital funding

Thousands of children with special needs could miss out on vital support if the government doesn't extend nursery funding.

Some facilities could even be forced to close their doors without the extra money.

Labour have said the schools are “crying out for more funding” as they pile pressure on the Tories ahead of the budget.

Council-run nurseries will lose almost £60m a year from 2020.

Full Article

Councils sitting on £431m of infrastructure funds

Local authorities in England and Wales are sitting on £431m that should be invested in local infrastructure, a freedom of information request has revealed.

FOIs sent out by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) show that nearly two fifths (39%) of the receipts from a levy on property developers meant for local infrastructure improvements remains unspent by councils.

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) was introduced in 2010 to help local authorities meet the impact of property developments in their areas. The revenue raised enables them to, for example, build transport links or new schools.

Full Article

Local government finance settlement date confirmed in government response to Hudson review

Local authorities will have more certainty to plan their budgets as government confirms it will aim for set dates each year for the provisional and final local government finance settlements, the Minister for Local Government Rishi Sunak MP confirmed today (24 October 2018).

The minister outlined the move in a response to an independent review into the department’s oversight of the business rates system.

Full Article

The money messages may be getting back to the centre

Local government often opines it is seldom listened to by central government – an accusation with some merit. However the last few weeks have seen several key announcements that do suggest perhaps some of the messages from our member councils are cutting through after all.

The County Councils’ Network (CCN) has received coverage across the national news highlighting the state of local government funding, and illustrating that our member authorities will need to outline £1bn more in new savings and cuts next year to balance their budgets, on top of eight years of austerity.

Local government often opines it is seldom listened to by central government – an accusation with some merit. However the last few weeks have seen several key announcements that do suggest perhaps some of the messages from our member councils are cutting through after all.

Full Article

Children's services are at breaking point, experts say

Children’s services from Sure Start to schools and NHS mental health are at breaking point, according to a coalition of 120 organisations that have called on the chancellor to invest in young people in the budget next week.

An open letter to Philip Hammond and Theresa May from a group of charities, teaching unions and medical colleges accuses the government of ignoring children and young people in its spending plans.

Local authorities backed the call, saying council-run children’s services were fast approaching a tipping point as they struggled to maintain services in the face of a funding gap estimated to reach £3bn by 2025.

Full Article

LGA responds to children's organisations call for Government to fund children's services

Responding to a call by a group of children’s organisations for the Government to improve funding for children’s services, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“This is a compelling demonstration of the grave concerns shared across the sector as funding cuts increasingly leave services struggling to provide the care and support that thousands of children and families rely on.

“Councils have long-called for the Government to recognise the urgency of the funding crisis facing children’s services, which are fast approaching a tipping point and face a funding gap of £3 billion by 2025 just to keep services running at current levels.

“The Autumn Budget presents the perfect opportunity for the Government to take action and give councils the funding they need to keep children safe from harm and enable them to live the happy and fulfilling lives they deserve.”

Full Article

Social care crisis: Councils receive 5,100 new requests for adult care every day amid soaring demand

Councils in England are being swamped with 5,100 new requests for adult social care every day, figures have revealed.

Local authorities last year spent £17.9billion on caring for adults – £402million (2.3 per cent) more than the year before.

While the total number of people relying on long-term care is going down, 1.3million people contacted their local council for help in 2017-18.

Experts say the system is at 'breaking point' and the number of people receiving care is only going down because councils are rationing it.

Full Article

Councils affected by China's waste ban

A fifth of councils have been directly affected by China’s ban on imported waste over the past year, according to a new survey.

The poll, conducted by the Local Government Association, found China’s restrictions on imports of mixed paper and certain types of plastic have increased recycling costs for some councils by as much as £500,000.

The fee charged to councils to process materials collected from kerbside collection at a materials recovery facility (MRF) is said to have increased from £15 to £22 per tonne over the last year.

Full Article

Whitehall announces £5m fund to fight knife crime

Local authorities are being given the opportunity to bid for funding to tackle youth and gang crime in high-risk areas.

The Supporting Families Against Youth Crime fund will support frontline professionals working with children and young people to intervene earlier to help keep them away from gangs.

It will also support more in-depth work with parents and carers to help them fully understand the risk factors and dangers of their children becoming drawn into gang crime.

Full Article

We need to stop local services becoming dependent on property prices [opinion]

Cash-strapped councils increasingly borrowing to invest in commercial properties risk local services - which are often for vulnerable people - being at the mercy of the property market, says CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman...

Full Article

PAC calls for costed 10-year social care plan

The integration of health and care will not progress while local authority finances are squeezed, MPs have warned today.

[The] adult social care sector is in a “precarious state because of long-term underfunding” and needs a long-term funding plan, a Public Accounts Committee report has urged.

“With local authorities squeezed there is no realistic prospect of progress” on health and care integration, the report said. [It said that] the Department of Health and Social Care should provide a costed 10-year plan for social care to run alongside that for the NHS.

Full Article

SOLACE Summit: Councils are at back of austerity queue

Councils are at the ‘end of the queue’ when it comes to receiving funding from the Treasury, the chief executive of Brighton & Hove Council has said.

Speaking weeks after prime minister Theresa May declared the age of austerity over with a message to voters that there are ‘better days ahead,’ Geoff Raw was sceptical that it would mean a cash bonanza for local authorities.

Welcoming delegates to the Society of Local Authority Chief Executive’s annual summit in Brighton today, Mr Raw, said the sector would have to wait to discover the impact of Mrs May’s announcement.

Full Article

Somerset County Council: Protesters gather to challenge £14m cuts

Protesters gathered outside a council to challenge councillors about £14m of extra cuts agreed last month.

Opposition councillors called the meeting to ask Somerset County Council's Conservative leadership to explain what would happen if the savings cannot be achieved.

Liberal Democrat Liz Leyshon said February's budget would not have been approved if they had the full picture. The Conservatives say they will update councillors about finances more often.

Full Article

Gloucestershire council 'in crisis' as fourth director quits

Leadership at Gloucestershire County Council has been described as being in "crisis" after the resignation of its fourth director in a year.

Strategic director for finance, Jo Walker has quit to become chief executive at North Somerset Council.

Lib-Dem opposition leader Paul Hodgkinson said her departure reflected a "crisis of leadership". But the ruling Conservatives said Ms Walker's move endorsed "the high calibre of staff at the council".

Full Article

PAC chair seeking ways to beef up local government spending scrutiny

The Public Accounts Committee chair has been speaking “behind the scenes to persuade various players” to enhance the scrutiny of local government spending.

Meg Hillier [has said that] how local government is spending money needs to be more “transparent” for an increasingly “savvy” British public.

“I think the British public are much more savvy about things - they don’t trust the authority to spend things well,” she said.

Full Article

Chiefs warning to May if austerity not lifted

More councils face scaling back services to a minimum statutory offer if prime minister Theresa May reneges on her promise of ‘better times ahead,’ local authority chief executives have warned.

Pressure on the Government to boost public sector spending in chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget later this month is growing after eight years of austerity, which has led to a number of councils rapidly moving to a core statutory offer.

One in three council bosses have now used a survey by The MJ and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) to warn their organisation will have to reduce to a minimum statutory offer if the cuts fail to come to an end.

Full Article

LGA improvement cash could be slashed

Smith Square’s top-slice funding could be slashed under plans being considered by Whitehall over fears the sector-led improvement regime is not delivering good value.

The Local Government Association (LGA) was given £20m to fund a range of training and improvement services in 2019/20.

However, The MJ understands that only £10m has been agreed for next year, with further funding hanging in the balance.

A Ministry of Housing, Local Government and Communities (MHCLG) source told The MJ there were fears over the efficiency and transparency of the peer review process, and questions over whether it was delivering good value.

Full Article

East Sussex council leader plays down service cuts report

A report laying out how county council services in East Sussex could be severely reduced was not intended as a "budget-setting paper", the authority's leader has said.

Councillor Keith Glazier made the comments at a meeting on Tuesday, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

The East Sussex County Council leader told councillors the aim of the report had been to "prompt discussion".

Full Article

Local government fraud cases rise, says CIPFA survey

The number of cases of fraud committed against local authorities went up in 2017-18 and the value prevented is a little lower, CIPFA has revealed.

In its annual fraud tracker, out today, the institute showed this type of crime remains a “major financial threat” to councils with housing fraud being the most common type.

The total value of fraud prevented is down from last year’s CIPFA estimates - from £336m to £302m – while the prevalence of fraud has increased from 75,000 cases to 80,000 this year.

Full Article

Durham County Council adds £49k security after threats

A council has spent £49,000 on new security after a spate of cases of staff being threatened and intimidated.

One incident saw a member of the public climb over a helpdesk to confront workers, Durham County Council said.

The new security doors have been fitted at County Hall in Durham despite the council progressing with plans to demolish the building and move to new offices.

Full Article

Council hit by cyber attack reveals £2m cost

A Cumbrian council has said it will "never know" whether it was the target of a cyber attack because it is host to the Sellafield nuclear waste plant.

Copeland Borough Council has revealed that an attack on its systems in August 2017 has cost it about £2m.

The hack locked staff out of a number of council services, including payroll, planning and environmental health.

Full Article

Public faces 'care injustice' as NHS struggles

The public is facing a growing "care injustice" as people are finding it more difficult to get help in England, the regulator is warning.

The Care Quality Commission highlighted growing hospital waiting lists, delays at A&E and record dissatisfaction levels with GPs in its annual report.

Mental health and old-age care were also becoming harder to access.

Full Article

Warrington doubles down on solar farm investments

Warrington Borough Council has bought two more solar farms to raise an estimated £150m in revenue over the next 30 years.

The council, which has previously bought another solar farm and launched a solar bond, this week approved £58.7m of Public Works Loan Board borrowing to build the two farms – near York and Hull – through separate special purchase vehicles.

The business plan for the developments predicts rates of return of 8.21% and 11% respectively from selling energy to the National Grid.

Full Article

UK economy grows faster than expected in three months to August

UK GDP growth was stronger than expected in the three months to August thanks to the summer heatwave, official data on Wednesday showed.

The economy expanded by 0.7 per cent over the three months, according to the latest estimate from the Office for National Statistics.

That was higher than the 0.6 per cent consensus among City analysts.

Full Article

UK public finances are among weakest in the world, IMF says

Britain’s public finances are among the weakest in the world following the 2008 financial crash, according to a fresh assessment of government assets and liabilities by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Washington-based lender said a health check on the wealth of 31 nations found almost £1tn had been wiped off the wealth of the UK’s public sector – equivalent to 50% of GDP – putting it in the second weakest position, with only Portugal in a worse state.

Full Article

Councils turning against outsourcing, survey reveals

Local authorities are losing their appetite for outsourcing and rethinking their relationship with the private sector, a new survey has revealed.

The survey of local government leaders, chief executives and mayors, published by the New Local Government Network (NLGN), found that 39% say they will outsource less over the next two years.

It also showed that only 15% say they intend to outsource more over the next two years, while 46% indicate no change from current levels.

Full Article

Councils turning against outsourcing, survey reveals

Local authorities are losing their appetite for outsourcing and rethinking their relationship with the private sector, a new survey has revealed.

The survey of local government leaders, chief executives and mayors, published by the New Local Government Network (NLGN), found that 39% say they will outsource less over the next two years.

It also showed that only 15% say they intend to outsource more over the next two years, while 46% indicate no change from current levels.

Full Article

DUP 'could vote against the Budget' over Brexit deal

The Democratic Unionist Party's 10 Westminster MPs are planning to vote down the Budget later this month if they are unhappy about the government's Brexit plans, the BBC understands.

Theresa May relies on DUP support in key votes because she does not have a majority in the House of Commons.

But the DUP could abandon this deal if Brexit means new barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, Newsnight's Nick Watt said.

Full Article

'Territorial injustice' may rise in England due to council cuts – study

Disproportionately harsh spending cuts to local public services in England’s poorest areas are likely to intensify perceived “territorial injustice” between deprived and wealthy parts of the country, a study has shown.

Post-industrial cities in the north of England, together with some inner-city London boroughs, have been hit by the deepest cuts to local government spending since the start of austerity in 2010, says the research by the University of Cambridge.

Full Article

Councils' concern over Universal Support withdrawal

Councils have reacted with dismay after the Government handed support for the Universal Credit (UC) rollout to the charity sector.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced last week that Citizens’ Advice had been awarded a £39m contract to deliver Universal Support, which helps claimants adapt to the new system.

Director general of UC, Neil Couling, explained to chief executives in a letter that the ‘service as currently configured is not providing consistent support nationwide’.

Full Article

English councils undergoing harshest spending cuts

English councils have been hit twice as hard by spending cuts compared to their Scottish and Welsh counterparts, according to a study published today.

A separate survey also released today has found almost two-thirds of the public want more spending - even if it means tax hikes.

The University of Cambridge, using council-level spending figures compiled by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, found that councils in England had suffered an average service spending fall of almost 24% since 2010 - compared to 12% in Wales and 11.5% in Scotland.

Full Article

Northamptonshire County Council: £65m of cuts agreed

A cash-strapped county council which had commissioners appointed after it faced a financial crisis has agreed a £65m package of cuts.

Northamptonshire County Council's cabinet backed a so-called "stabilisation plan".

Planned spending cuts on agency staff and highways services are among the main proposed savings.

Full Article

Warrington Council to invest £59m in solar farms in Yorkshire

Warrington Borough Council has agreed to invest £58.7m in two solar energy farms more than 90 miles away in a bid to reduce its electricity bill.

The local authority has approved plans to purchase the plants in Hull and York.

The solar farms will supply electricity to the council in a move forecast to save £1m per year.

Full Article

Schools will be asked to track children's happiness amid fears about growing mental health epidemic

Schools will be asked to monitor children's happiness and mental health in a bid to tackle growing levels of anxiety among young people, the Prime Minister will announce today.

The new measures are part of a wider mental health strategy which will see thousands of therapists sent into classrooms, and annual publication of a ‘happiness index’ tracking the state of the nation’s youth.

Theresa May will also appoint the UK’s first minister for suicide prevention and £1.8m funding for the Samaritans, as she pledges to “end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence”.

Full Article

Fears for the future of music lessons in schools

Music lessons in England schools could be under threat unless central government covers the cost of a pay rise for teachers, councils claim.

In July, the government agreed to fund a 3.5% rise for lower-paid teachers and 1.5% and 2% for higher-paid teachers, senior staff and head teachers.

But councils say this does not cover centrally employed teachers, most of whom offer music lessons in schools.

The government says it is putting £400m into arts and music over four years.

Full Article

Number of children referred to mental health services in England rises by a quarter

The number of children referred to mental health services in England has risen by more than a quarter in the last five years – but one in four are being denied support, according to new report.

At least 55,800 children were denied access to child and adolescent mental health services in England despite being referred last year amid cuts to services, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) says.

Full Article

Local government funding to be slashed by a further £1.3bn

Council budgets will be cut by a third next year, causing 'dramatic' reductions in services, local government leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says a further £1.3bn will be cut in 2019/20 under current plans. This amounts to 36% of their budgets.

Full Article

Should we be forced to pay £30,000 for old-age care?

It was hardly mentioned at the Conservative Party conference, but behind the scenes it is an issue which is causing much angst in Westminster: what to do about paying for care in later life in England.

The Tories have already had their fingers burnt by the problem - last year's election campaign was nearly derailed by the so-called "dementia tax", forcing the prime minister into a U-turn only days after announcing the policy.

Ministers took the sting out of the issue by promising to publish new plans by the summer.

Full Article

Metro mayors call for post-Brexit fiscal devolution

Four of England’s metro mayors are demanding control over the cash set to replace Brussels funding in the wake of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Labour’s Andy Burnham of Greater Manchester, Steve Rotheram of Liverpool city region, and Dan Jarvis of Sheffield city region have written to the Financial Times, with the Conservative mayor of Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, calling for more fiscal devolution after Brexit.

Full Article

Whitehall announces £24m scheme to ‘boost’ social mobility in North East

The education secretary will today launch a multi-million pound programme to boost social mobility and raise aspirations for children in the North East.

Secondary school performance in the area is significantly below other regions, and fewer 18-year-olds attend the country’s top universities than those from other parts of the country.

The North East also has one of the highest proportions of young people not in education, employment or training after year 11.

Full Article

North's elected mayors call for post-EU spending powers

Elected mayors in the North of England want devolved powers to spend a share of the money which will replace £2.4bn per year of EU funding from 2020.

The mayors said controlling funds to tackle regional inequality from London amounted to a "Whitehall power grab".

The Conservative Party pledged last year to replace economic aid which the EU has paid since 2000 with a new fund.

Full Article

Stamp it out. Council tax and stamp duty should be scrapped and replaced by a new tax on homeowners, says Left-wing think-tank

It argued the move would help reduce wealth inequality between those who own a home and those who don’t.

The think tank claimed housing is currently “undertaxed” relative to other assets, distorting investment behaviour and contributing to inequality between homeowners and renters.

A property tax rate of 0.5 per cent would mean an annual tax bill of £1,243 for the owner of an averagely priced UK home valued at £248,611, the IPPR said.

Full Article

Teacher crisis hits London as nearly half quit within five years

London schools are in the throes of a growing crisis in teacher retention, with figures revealing that more than four out of 10 quit the profession within five years of qualifying.

Schools across England say they are struggling to recruit and retain staff, but the problem is most acute in inner London where just 57% of teachers who qualified in 2012 were still working in the classroom by 2017.

According to new analysis of government figures by Labour MP Matthew Pennycook, of the 35,000 newly qualified teachers (NQTs) who started teaching in the capital since the Conservatives took power in 2010, more than 11,000 have already left.

Full Article


Theresa May's claim that austerity is coming to an end is as likely as her winning Strictly Come Dancing, Labour has said.

The prime minister told the Conservative Party conference that, after a decade of economic sacrifices, the end was in sight.

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the words "lacked credibility".

He said children's services faced a £2bn budget shortfall while councils had a £4bn hole in their finances.

Full Article

The social care system is collapsing. So why the government inaction? [opinion]

Future history students will enjoy speculating about the Brexit deal (or no deal) and what might have happened if this historic agreement had concluded differently. However, these studies are unlikely to consider the impact of the time and energy lost to discussions and discord on Brexit over the past two years...

Full Article

UK's rejection of child refugees under Dubs scheme unlawful, court rules

The government’s treatment of unaccompanied child refugees who were denied residence in the UK has been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal.

Lord Justice Hickinbottom said children were given “patently inadequate” reasons for being refused entry under the Dubs Amendment - an act that required the government to relocate a number of unaccompanied children to the UK.

But a 480 cap on places for unaccompanied child refugees will remain in place after the court rejected an argument that the government had not properly justified the upper limit.

Full Article

Councils will be allowed to borrow billions more to build new affordable homes for millennials struggling to get on the housing ladder

Councils will be allowed to borrow more money to build new homes, Theresa May announced today.

The PM said councils would no longer be capped on how much they can borrow against their Housing Revenue Account assets – effectively loaning against their property to free up cash to build homes.

Local government leaders welcomed the move today and signalled it would unlock a new wave of housebuilding in the UK.

Full Article

Whitehall 'neglecting' smaller cities and towns, report warns

The Government’s focus on major cities ‘neglects’ the contribution that smaller cities, towns and communities can make to economic growth, according to a new study.

The report, published by Centre for Towns, Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Industrial Communities Alliance, Key Cities Group, argues that national policymaking is ‘preoccupied’ with London and the main regional cities because of an assumption the wealth created in these areas will trickle down to the rest of the country.

Full Article

Northamptonshire County Council plan to cut £65m unveiled

A council plans to cut spending on agency staff and highways services, while boosting tax receipts, to tackle a £65m funding shortfall.

The "stabilisation plan" published by Northamptonshire County Council aims to save an additional £20m in 2018-19, on top of £45m in cuts already planned.

Government-appointed commissioners have been brought in to oversee the council, which has twice banned new spending.

Full Article

Matt Hancock: ‘Emergency social care funding will free up vital hospital beds'

An emergency £240m will be pumped into the social care system to try and avoid yet another NHS “winter crisis”, the Health and Social Care Secretary has announced.

Matt Hancock told the Conservative Party conference action was needed to stop hospital beds being used by people who could be better cared for in their homes – so-called “bed blockers”. The extra money will be allocated to councils to spend on measures including housing adaptations and care packages.

“We will use this money to get people who don’t need to be in hospital, but do need care, back home, back into their communities, so we can free up those vital hospital beds,”Mr Hancock said in Birmingham. “And help people who really need it get the hospital care they need.”

Full Article

English councils brace for biggest government cuts since 2010 despite 'unprecedented' budget pressures

Councils are facing the biggest cuts to government funding since 2010 despite unprecedented pressure and demand, which could risk “tipping many over the edge”, local authorities have warned.

Figures show that the revenue support grant – the main source of government funding for local services – will be cut by 36 per cent next year, marking the largest annual deduction in almost a decade.

It comes despite repeated warnings that continuing cuts to vital local authority provisions mean vulnerable people, such as the elderly, at-risk children and homeless people, are being left to “fend for themselves”.

Full Article

Teachers to be given extra volleyball and zumba coaching - as they're told to get pupils fit

Around 17,000 teachers will receive extra coaching to help get children fit in a new blitz on school sport.

Sport England is spending up to £13.5million on a teacher training programme – the first ‘significant’ investment in secondary school PE since 2008.

The move comes as Education Secretary Damian Hinds this weekend revealed he is launching a fresh drive to boost competitive sport in the country’s schools.

Full Article

Chancellor Philip Hammond announces u-turn on apprentices tax in a bid to build bridges with businesses

The Chancellor’s review of the Apprenticeship Levy – a flagship policy of his predecessor George Osborne – is one of a series of pro-enterprise moves that he will unveil in his conference speech.

The olive branch comes after bitter fallouts with the Government over attack on boardrooms and Brexit.

The Government also suffered a withering attack on its own conference stage from TV business celebrity and former Labour minister Lord Jones.

Full Article

Number of new-builds falls short of pre-crash level

England is building 21 per cent fewer homes than during a peak in 2007 as the government struggles to reach its target of 300,000 homes a year.

Figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showed that housebuilders started work on 38,730 homes in England on a seasonally adjusted basis in the three months to the end of June. This is down from 48,920 in the first three months of 2007. However, it was 126 per cent higher than a low of 17,120 in the first quarter of 2009, in the depth of the financial crisis.

Conversions — for example, turning an office block into flats — also count toward the 300,000 target. When these are included, the figures show that there were 217,350 “additional dwellings” in England in 2016-17, a ten-year high. However, the number of housing starts for new homes is still declining, suggesting that a higher total figure may not be achieved this year. Compared with the previous quarter, the number of housing starts fell by 3.7 per cent from 40,200 in the three months to March and by 4.1 per cent from a year earlier.

Full Article

Head teachers protest at Downing Street funding rally

Hundreds of head teachers from England and Wales are due to attend a rally in central London later, to demand extra funding for schools.

They will meet in Parliament Square before delivering a letter to No 11 Downing Street, amid concerns over work conditions and overcrowded classrooms.

The heads quote the Institute of Fiscal Studies' claim that per pupil funding has fallen 8% in real terms since 2010.

Full Article

Government spending on children at risk of neglect or abuse slashed by more than a quarter in five years, figures show

Government spending on children at risk of neglect or abuse has been slashed by 26 per cent over the past five years, new figures show, leading campaigners to claim they were being left to “fend for themselves”.

Budgets for “early intervention” children’s services, designed to help stop family problems such as abuse and neglect spiralling out of control, have dropped by £743m in the last five years, data from the Department for Education shows.

Over the same period, government spending on children’s centres, such as Sure Start and other universal family services, has dropped by £450m - a decrease of 42 per cent.

Full Article

Government spending on children at risk of neglect or abuse slashed by more than a quarter in five years, figures show

Government spending on children at risk of neglect or abuse has been slashed by 26 per cent over the past five years, new figures show, leading campaigners to claim they were being left to “fend for themselves”.

Budgets for “early intervention” children’s services, designed to help stop family problems such as abuse and neglect spiralling out of control, have dropped by £743m in the last five years, data from the Department for Education shows.

Over the same period, government spending on children’s centres, such as Sure Start and other universal family services, has dropped by £450m - a decrease of 42 per cent.

Full Article

Labour Plans Dramatic £4.8bn Expansion Of Free Childcare Policy

A massive expansion of free childcare and “Sure Start plus for the 21st Century” will be central pillars of Labour’s offer to voters, Jeremy Corbyn will confirm.

Under new £4.8bn plans from the party, 30 hours of free childcare will be available to all two, three and four-year-olds, and all means-testing will be scrapped.

The poorest families will also be eligible for more free hours over and above the 30-hour threshold, while more well-off families needing extra childcare will be charged a maximum of £4-an-hour.

Full Article

Labour leaders refuse to back Corbyn's illegal budget comments

A number of Labour council leaders have refused to endorse comments made by the party’s leader in support of councils that refuse to set legal budgets.

Jeremy Corbyn said he understood why councils might choose to break the law in order to make a political point about a lack of money.

“I absolutely understand it,” Mr Corbyn told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. “I represent an inner city area, Islington, as you know, and we were very angry in the 1980s at the way in which our council expenditure were cut, and I’m very angry now when I see local authorities trying their best to deliver good quality services and the whole time the government is either cutting – is cutting the central government grant and saying they can keep some of their rate income, but of course that’s not fair across the country.”

Full Article

Chancellor calls early Budget to fit round Brexit talks

This year's Budget is to be earlier than usual to avoid clashing with the final stage of Brexit negotiations in November.

The date of the Budget, 29 October, also fits in with ministers' availability and official data releases, a Treasury spokesman said.

The Budget will also be a week after a high profile Brussels Brexit summit.

Full Article

Parents in England seek legal action over special needs funding cuts

Parents are initiating legal action against the government over multimillion-pound cuts to special needs funding in England, amid warnings of “a national crisis” affecting thousands of children with disabilities across the country.

Two families from East Sussex and North Yorkshire with children with special educational needs are the latest to launch a crowdfunding appeal to bring a legal challenge to cuts.

Earlier this year, families in Surrey, Bristol and the London borough of Hackney began legal action against their local authorities after they announced substantial cuts to special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) budgets.

Full Article

Labour would scrap ATM charges in bid to 'save high streets'

Charges to withdraw money from cash machines would be scrapped under a Labour government to "save Britain's high streets".

Attempts to stop their "slow agonising death" were announced by shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey with a range of measures - including stopping Post Office closures.

Labour would also draw up a register of landlords of empty shops in every local authority.

Full Article

Union Worker Who 'Stopped Girl Walking Into The Sea' Makes Plea For Better Youth Services

ONS figures released at the end of 2017 revealed that while overall suicide rates were at a 20-year low, the number of women aged 20-24 who died by suicide in 2016 (118) was 76% higher than in 2006 (67).

“The feeling of not being able to cope experienced by that young woman is a national and a growing trend,” Jacobs said, slamming budget cuts that have “decimated” youth services.

Quoting Local Government Association figures, she [Jesse Jacobs] added: “By 2020, authorities will receive £15.7bn less than they were in 2010.

Full Article

Heads told school pension contributions to rise by over 40% from 2019

Headteachers have been told contributions schools pay towards teachers’ pensions are set to rise by more than 40 per cent.

An email sent to headteachers states the estimated contribution rate for schools under the Teachers’ Pension Scheme will rise to 23.6 per cent from September next year.

The current employer contribution rate is 16.48 per cent.

Full Article

Adult social care vacancies are soaring, according to the sector’s key training organisation.

Skills for Care says that there are around 110,000 vacancies in the sector – 22,000 up on last year. That represents an estimated 8% vacancy rate, compared to 6.6% in 2017.

Nearly one in three people working in the sector changed jobs over the last year. The organisation also highlighted a significant pay gap between local government care workers and those in the private sector, with council staff earning on average £9.80 per hour – compared to an average of £8.12 paid by private firms.

The figures come as Local Government Association (LGA) is urging the government to provide more support for England’s 5.7 million unpaid carers.

Full Article

Call a halt to fiscal gerrymandering, says SIGOMA

Council finances have been skewed by the Government directing more cash towards wealthier authorities, a coalition of urban councils has claimed.

SIGOMA is calling on the Government to drop plans to allocate £153m to some of the country’s wealthiest authorities in this year’s Local Government Finance Settlement through the negative revenue support grant.

It warned that deprived councils outside of London will have lost £1bn since 2010 due to this proposal and other similar policy decisions.

Full Article

Labour conference: No new free schools or academies, Angela Rayner pledges

Labour would "immediately" end the government's academy and free schools programme in England, the shadow education secretary has said.

Angela Rayner told the party conference in Liverpool the current system is "simply not fit for purpose".

The two thirds of secondary schools and fifth of primaries already out of local authority control will not be affected.

But Labour says powers over school admissions and building new schools should be returned to councils.

Full Article

Labour leaders demand radical council tax reform

Labour local authority leaders have called for the council tax system to be scrapped in a direct appeal to the Prime Minister.

An open letter to Theresa May signed by 23 mayors and council leaders and 12 Labour opposition leaders demands powers for local authorities to set local taxes, a movement away from ring-fenced grant funding and a reversal of business rates retention.

The letter blames austerity for increases in crime, foodbank usage and homelessness and a reduction in life expectancy. It adds: ‘We therefore call on government to reverse the disastrous policy of austerity that has dominated thinking in the Treasury since 2010 and has been disproportionately weighted against local authorities.’

However, the campaigners have yet to form details of what would replace the council tax system.

Full Article

Public ‘tiring of austerity’ as major survey reveals support for tax and spend

A majority of British people now believe the Government should increase levels of tax and public spending, a major annual survey has found.

Around 60% of those surveyed agreed that taxing and spending more should be Government policy — up from 49% in 2016 and 31% in 2010.

The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) has been running the survey every year since 1983, with questions repeated periodically to assess how opinions change over time.

Full Article

Government borrowing jumps to £6.8bn in August

Government borrowing rose by more than expected last month following subdued tax receipts and an increase in expenditure.

Borrowing jumped to £6.75bn last month from £4.35bn a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said.

It was the first year-on-year rise in borrowing in August for three years.

Full Article

Council misses accounts deadline

The wait for Reading Council’s 2016/17 accounts to be signed off is expected to stretch on for at least another month.

Reading’s 2016/17 accounts should have been signed off by the end of September last year but the council has now missed several self-imposed targets for completing the process with its auditors, EY.

The accounting giant’s fees for its work are now expected to reach more than £400,000 - quadruple the indicative fee quoted in April 2016.

Delays to the sign off period will also have a knock-on effect on the 2017/18 accounts, which are now expected to be signed off in late November.

Full Article

'£1bn in unpalatable county council cuts' ahead in England

Council bosses in England say the "worst is yet to come" in cuts to services, as the government further reduces local authority funding. The County Council Network predicts "unpalatable cutbacks" next year as the councils identify at least £1bn savings to plug a £1.5bn shortfall by 2020. It also warns the risk of some councils stripping their services back to a minimum 'core offer' is growing.

The government said councils will get a real term funding increase in 2018-19. It insists its approach strikes the right balance between relieving pressure on local government and ensuring taxpayers do not face excessive bills.

Full Article

Potholes: How engineers are working to fill in the gaps

Potholes are a perennial problem. They are dangerous to road users and the damage they cause to vehicles can be hugely expensive. The cost of repairing them is also vast. But still they appear, and reappear, in countless places.

Why do these pesky crevices pose such a difficult challenge? And is there any light at the end of this unevenly-surfaced tunnel?

Potholes often begin as imperceptible microscopic cracks in the road surface. Bad weather, poor drainage and heavy traffic can all cause the surface to loosen and wear away. In 2017, more than 2 million potholes were repaired on UK roads, at a cost of some £120m.

Full Article

Somerset spending cuts delay new school buildings

Plans to build 24 new and replacement schools in Somerset have been delayed by council funding cuts.

Somerset County Council recently voted to approve £15m of cuts to more than 70 different services.

The council had planned to spend £140m on building new schools in the next four years, with £116m of that being paid for by council borrowing.

Full Article

Counties likely to slash frontline services next year to balance budgets

With central government funding for councils due to fall again in 2019-20, increasing numbers of county councils may have to strip services back to a ‘core offer’ or be unable to balance their budgets, the County Councils Network said today.

The umbrella-organisation estimated councils will have to make savings of £685m along with a further £233m of ‘unplanned’ frontline service cuts, in its response to the consultation for next year’s local government settlement.

Full Article

James Brokenshire accused of 'putting up barriers' to Yorks devo

The housing and communities secretary has been criticised for his intransigence on discussing devolution plans with Yorkshire leaders.

The leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake (Lab) told LGC that many council leaders were “incredibly disappointed” in James Brokenshire as he was “clearly” putting up barriers to the ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution proposal.

Cllr Blake said: “The council leaders who have come together to support the One Yorkshire proposal were incredibly disappointed that James Brokenshire has declined to meet with us to discuss the proposal we have.”

Full Article

Ministers ditch plans to sell off most valuable council properties to fund new social housing Save

Ministers have reversed plans to sell off the most valuable council houses to pay for cheaper social housing after admitting the policy was a bad idea.

James Brokenshire, the Housing Secretary, said the Government would no longer “take forward” the plan announced under David Cameron in 2015, as officials admitted it was acting as a brake on development.

It comes after Theresa May signalled a major shift in housing policy by saying people should feel “proud” to live in a state-owned home in a departure from the Tories’ traditional emphasis on right to buy.

Full Article

Social care pressures ‘result of funding issues - not European migration’

Problems affecting the social care sector are not related to European migration but rather reflect the lack of a sustainable funding model, an expert report commissioned by the government has concluded.

Yesterday, the Migration Advisory Committee published its finance report on the impact of migration from the European Economic Area, including the effects on public services and public finances.

The document, commissioned by then home secretary Amber Rudd in July 2017, concluded that EEA migrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

Full Article

Britain is on the brink of ‘social collapse,’ Labour council leaders warn

Britain is on the brink of “social collapse” after “eight years of uninterrupted austerity” caused by brutal Tory spending cuts, Labour council leaders warned today.

Twenty-six leaders of Labour-controlled councils have signed an open letter calling on the government to “recognise the catastrophic impact” that austerity has had on local authorities across Britain.

The statement, released under the banner of Councils Against Austerity, says budgets have been squeezed by direct government cuts and other pressures.

Full Article

Councils overwhelmingly back IFRS9 statutory override for the long term

The government should not time-limit a proposed statutory override for accounting changes to their pooled investments introduced by IFRS9, according to seven in every ten local government council treasurers.

In July, the government launched a consultation on introducing a temporary override to the accounting standard, which requires council treasurers to book some investments at fair value through profit and loss rather than “other comprehensive income”.

This year’s Room151 Treasury Investment Survey found overwhelming support for the proposed override, with 80.4% of those surveyed supporting the principle.

Full Article

Government ‘should borrow more to protect public services’

The government should borrow tens of billions of pounds more a year to protect public services, a think-tank has suggested.

Services such as prisons and public health could face real terms cuts of 2.1% or 4.1% per capita in the first half of the 2020s if the government fails to provide them with more money, the New Economics Foundation has claimed.

Even with the government’s announcement of an extra £20.5bn for the NHS earlier this year by 2023/24, this would amount to “no average increase at all”, in Austerity by Stealth?, the first in a series of work looking at the future of public services in the 2020s.

Full Article

The scandal of councils in affluent areas getting a better deal [opinion]

Owen Jones (A quiet crisis? No, we’re just not listening, 13 September) is right that Brexit is overshadowing the issue of crippling government cuts to council funding. This is a national scandal that is having and will continue to have an impact on people’s lives at least as significant as Brexit. Eight years of austerity has seen Nottingham’s main government funding slashed from £127m to £25m, despite the city council serving some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country. Councils serving affluent areas are not only getting a better deal under the government’s unfair funding formula, but have also benefited from extra government handouts over the last few years...

Full Article

Bedblocking by elderly patients cost NHS England the equivalent of 130,000 days of care in just one month

The number of older people left stuck in hospital beds is rising as a result of the social care crisis, figures reveal.

In July almost 130,000 days of care were lost in hospitals because staff were unable to move patients to another part of the NHS or to council care.

The figure – 4,000 higher than the previous month – follows a long period where so-called bedblocking was going down.

Labour said the increase was particularly worrying because it comes at the height of summer, when pressures on the NHS are traditionally much lower.

Full Article

Westminster ‘ignoring’ councils because of Brexit, says Bob Kerslake

Westminster is “shamefully” ignoring local government because it is “submerged by the Brexit debate”, former head of the civil service Bob Kerslake has claimed.

At a time when local authorities are under increasing pressure, central government is not properly considering issues such as the growing demand on social services, Kerslake told a conference of councillors.

Speaking at CIPFA’s inaugural councillor conference in Parliament on Thursday last week, the cross-bench peer told delegates that the strain on local government finance has been “shamefully not recognised by much of central government”.

Full Article

Radical pension system-type plans considered to solve social care crisis, Health Secretary reveals

A radical new system of insurance to fund care of the elderly is being considered by ministers as they try to get a grip on the issue that almost lost the Conservatives the last election.

The Health Secretary told The Telegraph the “opt-out proposal” modelled on the pensions scheme would mean every adult in England was expected to pay into a national fund to cover their care in later life.

The disclosure – which is expected to be part of a forthcoming Green Paper on social care – is the first indication of the Government’s position on the matter.

Full Article

Somerset blames ‘broken’ funding system for major cuts

Somerset County Council has announced a raft of cuts to services, saying the local authority funding system is “broken”. Savings of £13m over the remainder of this financial year and £15m in total in 2019-20 are expected to be made through the plans, ratified by the council last Monday.

Council leader David Fothergill said: “This is not the biggest set of savings Somerset has faced. But it is absolutely the most difficult set of decisions we have had to consider... The government model for funding local authorities is broken. Rural councils like ours don’t get the funding they need or deserve."

Full Article

Elderly care timebomb: Shock report says people needing help will double to 1.2m costing £18b a year by 2040

With stretched councils starved of cash by the Tories and the elderly living longer, the social care system in Britain is careering towards ­collapse, experts have warned.

The number of pensioners who will be looked after is to rise from 657,000 in 2015 to 1.2 million by 2040 and the bill by 159%, from £7.2billion to £18.7billion.

But with Theresa May refusing to end austerity, councils are facing a £3.5billion funding gap by 2025.

Full Article

'Lost for words': Somerset cuts £28m of help for most vulnerable

On Wednesday the eight-person cabinet of Somerset county council voted through £28m of spending cuts, spread over the next two years. Over the previous six months, speculation had raged about whether Somerset would become the next Conservative-run council to join Northamptonshire in effectively going bankrupt and to call in government commissioners to sort out its mess.

And here was the answer, delivered at not much more than a week’s notice. To avoid a final disastrous plunge into the red, there would be a hacking down of help for vulnerable families and children with special educational needs, youth services, road gritting, flood prevention and much more.

The proceedings took place at Shire Hall, a mock-Gothic Victorian edifice in Taunton, Somerset’s county town. An hour before they started, around 80 people had gathered to protest, chanting a slogan apparently dreamed up by the local branch of the public sector union Unison: “Don’t let the eight decide our fate.”

Full Article

Public sector audit appointment body names new head

Public Sector Audit Appointments has named Tony Crawley as its new chief executive.

Crawley has a background in district audit and is currently a director at KPMG, focusing on local public audit. He will join PSAA in mid-October.

As chief executive, Crawley will lead PSAA’s work as the “appointing person” responsible for auditor appointments for nearly 500 local authorities and police bodies.

“I am very much looking forward to working with PSAA's Board, staff and partners to help promote the importance of local audit as we move into a new phase for the company,” he said.

Full Article

LGA in last-ditch warning over rule changes

Smith Square has warned that planned accounting rule changes could force councils to unnecessarily cut services or raise council tax.

IFRS 9, which has caused concern across the sector ahead of its expected implementation by local authorities in England from April, will force councils to make an adjustment to their revenue account every year to reflect changes in the value of certain investments, even when these changes are on paper only because the investment is not being sold.

Whitehall has offered a three-year statutory override of the new rules but the Local Government Association (LGA) has launched a last-ditch plea for the override to be made permanent.

Full Article

Deprived areas ‘bearing brunt’ of local authority cuts

Councils in the most deprived areas of England have shouldered 97% of total cuts in spending on services for people in need, according to analysis.

Services for vulnerable people have become a “post-code lottery” with northern metropolitan councils typically suffering the most, a report by the New Policy Institute think-tank, on behalf of charitable trust Lloyds Bank Foundation, has found.

Looking at Whitehall data on local government from 2011-12 to 2016-17, researchers estimated that 97% of total cuts in spending in areas like adult social care, child social care and housing have fallen on the poorest 20% of councils. This is despite those areas also having a higher number of people in need.

Full Article

Treasury slammed for ‘lacking grasp of real world’

The Treasury is increasingly cut off from local public service leaders and is staffed by young, inexperienced civil servants, a think-tank has warned.

As next year’s spending review will be done under the most ‘challenging’ circumstances for years, the department – the most powerful in Whitehall – must tackle its “recurrent failings”, the Institute for Government said in a report out today.

The think-tank also said that the Treasury’s spending plans were “not credible”, suggesting the department relied too much on “flattering accounting adjustments” – effectively ‘putting it on the credit card’ – and “optimism bias”, such as understating the likely costs and timescales of projects.

Full Article

Cash-strapped schools relying on donations from affluent parents

Government budget cuts are forcing many schools to rely more heavily on extra financial contributions from parents, a charity focusing on social mobility finds.

A new report from The Sutton Trust has found that two in five (39%) of school leaders say that extra financial contributions requested by their school have increased in the last two years.

Based on a survey conducted by YouGov, Parent Power 2018 also found that nearly half of parents (49%) say their school has asked them for an extra financial contribution in the last twelve months.

Full Article

Councils should ‘step back’ from service provision, think tank says

Local authorities should shift their focus away from direct service provision and focus more on enabling communities to ‘step up’, new study argues.

A report from the think tank New Local Government Network (NLGN) says that financial pressures and rising demand means that the relationship between councils and communities will have to change.

Published by the charity Local Trust, Rebalancing the Power suggests the current, top-down relationship between councils and their residents is ‘no longer effective or sustainable.’

Full Article

Government ranks areas on health/social care interface

A league table rating performance on patient flow between the boundaries of health and social care has been published, as the Care Quality Commission announces it will continue local area reviews ahead of possible inspections of council commissioning.

The ‘NHS social care dashboard’ provides rankings on six “key indicators” of performance, including emergency admissions levels for over 65s (April 2017- March 2018), the percentage who receive rehabilitation (2016-17) and delayed days in hospital (April 2017-March 2018), which is given the highest weight in calculations.

The dashboard was updated last week but some councils have claimed the data does not reflect current performance, particularly on delayed days since March.

Full Article

Councils urged to offer staff low interest loans

ocal authorities should offer staff low interest loans that could be paid back through their payroll system, according to a new report by ResPublica.

The report, published by the think tank, reveals that poor credit ratings are disproportionally concentrated in the most deprived communities. Blackpool has the worst credit score in the UK at just 312.54, with 143 local authority districts having a credit score below the median of 353.

It calls on local authorities to take a place-based approach to improving the credit scores of their residents and initiate salary-linked lending schemes.

Full Article

Councils under the most financial strain

Away from the permutations of Brexit negotiations, ongoing leadership jostling and racism rows a less discussed debate continues a lot closer to home: the future of local government finances.

As English councils strive to balance their yearly budgets, keep reserves stocked and plan future savings any service that can be cut is at risk.

It has meant fewer bin collections, fewer libraries and - come the next Beast from the East - fewer roads that will be gritted.

Full Article

Leicestershire district leaders urge county council to halt ‘unreasonable’ merger proposals

Leaders of Leicestershire’s seven district councils have urged Leicestershire County Council’s proposals to merge the authorities into a unitary body to be dropped, labelling the plans “unreasonable.”

In a letter to Leicestershire County Council leader Cllr Nick Rushton, who threw his support behind the plans in June, leaders noted that it was “regrettable” that the district authorities were not shown details of the county’s proposals other than those which were outlined in a public report to the Cabinet on the 6 July.

The plans would replace the current two-tier structure of the county council and district councils and replace them with a singular unitary model, which, Cllr Rushton argued, would save the area £30m a year, simplify and improve services.

Full Article

Deal secured between PCC and Hertfordshire County Council as fire services debate dropped

A deal has been agreed between a south east county council and the police and crime commissioner (PCC) after he dropped his business case to take over the running of the fire service.

In an announcement yesterday, an agreement was made to set up the Hertfordshire Emergency Services Collaboration Board, which will ensure the collaboration agreements can be delivered by all partners.

PCC David Lloyd had previously submitted his business case to the Home Office over the summer to potentially close fire stations in Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield, and move them into a joint station at the police offices in Welwyn Garden City.

Full Article

Oxford strikes £2.6m deal to maintain its own roads

The two councils covering Oxford have struck a deal that will see the city council provide routine highway maintenance services on its streets on behalf of the county.

Through its wholly-owned company Oxford Direct Services, Oxford City Council will repair potholes, carry out resurfacing work and deal with other road-related issues such as signing, lining and drains for up to five years.

The deal, which is worth £2.6m, formalilses an agreement reached in April and builds on a long-standing arrangement that has seen Oxfordshire County Council providing funding for Oxford to do similar work on minor roads in the city.

Full Article

Elderly care on edge of collapse warns charity

Social care for the elderly is on the verge of collapsing, the charity Independent Age has warned. Under-funding of social care in England means older people are being increasingly let down by the system, it found in a survey.

If trends continue, access to social care will “predominantly become a service based on ability to pay and many older people will be left to fend for themselves and forced into crisis”, said the charity.

It is calling for older people to have free access to personal care – initially based on current eligibility criteria, but in the future to be available to all older people in need in England.

Full Article

'Supersize' infant classes double over seven years

The number of infant school children taught in “supersize” classes has almost doubled in the past seven years, amid concern that schools are flouting the law.

In England, 43,130 five to seven-year-old children were taught in classes of over 30 in 2011, but this had increased to 82,358 by 2018.

This represents 4.9 per cent of all infant school pupils, compared to 2.9 per cent in 2011, according to a Labour analysis of House of Commons research.

Full Article

Special needs funding at crisis point, say school leaders

A teaching union has accused the government of making “empty promises” to the families of one million children diagnosed with special educational needs whose schools have failed to receive additional funding.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said funding for schools supporting pupils with special needs and disabilities was at crisis point, citing a survey of members that found 94% said it was harder to support such pupils now than two years ago.

Full Article

Councillor designs ‘virtual’ Facebook councillor

The Redditch councillor who set up David Cameron’s official Facebook page has designed his own chatbot service to help local people communicate with the council.

Cllr Mike Rouse designed the chatbot to manage issues such as missed bin collections, contact details, fly-tipping, road closures and requests for tree cutting.

The service will send automated response messages to constituents via the Facebook Messenger service, which will make it easier for people to contact the council but it will also save on printing and distributing leaflets.

Full Article

Chancellor urged to cut surging business rates to save the high street after 50,000 retail jobs lost this year

Business rates must be completely overhauled if the High Street is to survive, a lobby group for small firms has warned.

Surging rates are adding to the burden on small shops as they are crushed by foreign internet giants such as Amazon – sparking a crisis which has already destroyed 50,000 retail jobs this year.

Now, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has demanded a reform of the tax to give shopkeepers a better chance of survival.

Full Article

Children's pressures push Suffolk towards £8.6m overspend

Suffolk CC is projecting a £8.6m overspend this financial year, largely driven by rising demand in children’s services.

Almost £5m of the projected overspend – equivalent to 1.7% of the council’s £501m net revenue budget – is attributed to rising demand and increased costs relating to services for looked-after children, youngsters requiring specialist social care and home-to-school transport.

There are also projected overspends in adult social care (£1.5m) and corporate services (£1.8m), largely due to pressures in not achieving income targets.

Full Article

Free childcare scheme 'closing' nurseries, education charity says

A scheme offering 30 hours of free childcare a week has had a financial impact on providers, a charity says.

Since 1 September 2017, most working parents in England have been entitled to the free care for children aged three to four during term time.

But the Pre-School Learning Alliance (PLA) said some childcare providers were struggling to remain open because of increased running costs.

The government said it would "continue to monitor delivery costs".

Full Article

Somerset's savings 'difficult to stomach' as cuts concerns raised

Staff and councillors will be forced to take unpaid leave and 130 jobs will be lost, Somerset CC has confirmed.

Cuts to both children’s and adults’ services are also being planned, despite concerns about the impact they will have on service users, as the council seeks to find £13m in-year savings.

Somerset leader David Fothergill (Con) said: “We’ve tried hard to avoid this, looked at every option open to us in terms of financial flexibility, but have been left with no choice. These proposals will be hard to deliver and difficult to stomach for anyone who works for or with this authority.

Full Article

Sleep-in shifts resolution 'could take a year'

Councils are being advised to hold fire over pay for sleep-in shifts as legal wrangling continues in the courts.

Smith Square has warned that the courtroom battle could continue for another year.

The advice comes after Unison challenged a Court of Appeal ruling that nighttime care workers were not eligible for the minimum wage when they were asleep.

Full Article

Somerset at 'very sharp end of austerity'

Somerset CC has been left with ‘no choice’ but to propose another tranche of deep service cuts to balance its books this year, its leader has said.

Senior councillors will meet next week to discuss signing-off an extra £28m in savings by 2020, including cuts to transport, adult social care, disabilities and advisory services.

Plans for all staff and councillors to take a compulsory two days unpaid over the next two years are likely to prove controversial, but could save up to £1m.

Full Article

Thousands of children face shorter week at school due to Tory cuts as education crisis deepens

Head teachers desperately trying to balance the books due to Tory cuts are putting pupils on shorter weeks in a bid to save even more cash as the schools crisis ­deepens.

And they warn the drastic move could severely jeopardise the education of tens of thousands of children unless Theresa May ends her crippling austerity.

Many have been left with no choice but to bring in a 4.5-day week for kids as they cannot staff classrooms properly.

Full Article

Almost 1,000 elderly people a day needlessly admitted to hospital amid social care crisis

Almost 1,000 elderly people a day are being admitted to hospital needlessly amid a crisis in social care, Age UK has found.

Analysis of NHS figures by the charity found that there were 341,074 avoidable emergency admissions for people aged 65 and over during the year to April 2017.

The number has risen by 107 per cent since 2003 for those aged 65 to 69, and by 119 per cent for older people aged 75-79.

Full Article

Councils knocked back over settled status costs

Local authorities have warned the Government that Whitehall will have to ‘rely heavily’ on them to facilitate the process.

But their pleas have failed to illicit any firm funding commitment from Government to cover any new burdens.

A Home Office source said: ‘We haven’t bottomed out anything here yet with MHCLG [Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government].

Full Article

'Very sharp end' of austerity hits in Somerset in plans to cut £28m from council spending

The details of a huge range of proposed savings have been revealed by Somerset County Council (SCC) ahead of a vote in which councillors will consider around £28m of money-saving proposals.

An SCC spokesman described the suggested savings plan as "a decisive step to secure its long-term financial sustainability", while the leader of the council, David Fothergill, said the plans come as the authority faced the 'very sharp end' of austerity.

Full Article

Council £6m investment to boost income

West Lindsey DC’s property investments have reached £14m with the purchase of a £6m site in Gainsborough – the authority’s biggest deal to date.

The Lincolnshire-based district has completed the £6.1m purchase of an industrial unit on the outskirts of the town.

Council leader Jeff Summers said the latest deal would not be the authority’s last and has committed to more ‘in the coming months’.

Full Article

Council pension funds invest £9bn in fracking industry

More than £9bn is being invested in the fracking indistry by council pension funds, new figures have revealed today.

The data, published by 350.org, Platform and Friends of the Earth, found the Greater Manchester Pension Fund invests the largest amount in the fracking industry at almost £1bn.

Full Article

Schools turn down children who live one minute away with half of secondaries now oversubscribed

Up to 14 children are fighting for each place at top primary schools, a major audit shows today.

It found that some catchment areas stretch barely 100 metres from the main gates.

Children living only a minute's walk away – often on the same street – are being rejected. The figures also show that 50 per cent of secondaries are now oversubscribed – compared with 43 per cent three years ago.

Full Article

Numbers of elderly in 24-hour care set to double by 2035

The number of people aged 85 and over needing 24-hour care is set to double, says a new study, as an expert warns the care system is "at breaking point".

The study, published in the Lancet Public Health journal, analysed the projected health needs of the elderly in England between 2015 and 2035.

It found that the number of 65-year-olds and over needing round-the-clock care is also set to rise by a third.

Full Article

England facing secondary school places ’emergency’, councils warn

England is facing a secondary school places “emergency” with more than 130,000 children at risk of missing out on places over the next five years, town hall bosses have warned.

In 2023/24, over half of councils in England may be struggling to keep up with demand in their area, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

The school system has been put under pressure in recent years due to a rise in the school-age population.

Full Article

Record demand for sexual health services ‘puts huge pressure on councils’

Record demand for sexual health services in England has seen visits to clinics reach 3.3 million a year, putting the system under huge pressure, council leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said the surge in demand is happening at the same time as cuts to funding for councils’ vital public health services.

It said the latest figures show there were 3,323,275 attendances at sexual health clinics in England in 2017 – up 13% on the 2,940,779 attendances in 2013, and the equivalent of an extra 210 a day, or 1,471 a week.

Full Article

Police commissioner's bid for fire service control slammed by county

Norfolk CC has said a bid by the county’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) to take control of the local fire and rescue service would put the public at risk and is based on a “misleading” business case.

Responding to a consultation on the proposal launched in June by PCC Lorne Green (Con), Norfolk described a claim of £10m savings as “speculative and misleading”, adding the plan would put the service at “significant financial risk”.

Full Article

Charities urge curbs on pavement parking

Motorists should be banned from parking on pavements to prevent pedestrians having to walk on the road, ministers have been told.

A coalition of charities is calling on the Department for Transport (DfT) to fast-track legislation designed to bar drivers from mounting the kerb.

In a letter, the groups criticise the government for “stalling” over the issue and say that action is needed to stop cars on congested streets spilling over on to the pavement.

Full Article

England's schools face 'severe' teacher shortage

England's schools are facing a "severe shortage" of teachers, with bigger class sizes and more subjects taught by staff without a relevant degree, says the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

The independent think tank says that as schools prepare to return after the summer break, the problems of teacher recruitment remain unresolved.

The think tank says targeted pay increases could reduce shortages.

Full Article

County could axe almost 900 jobs as it seeks to save £33m

Nearly 900 jobs at Oxfordshire CC could be lost within three years as it seeks to save £33m.

The county council is proposing a “complete overhaul” of the way it operates but said its transformation intends to protect frontline services and instead focus increasing the use of new technologies, cutting red tape and reducing back office administration.

Oxfordshire, which has a net revenue budget of about £422m in 2018-19, needs to find £33m savings as part of its four year budget plan.

Full Article

England left behind in social care race, charity claims

England has been “left behind in the race” to resolve its social care funding problems, a charity has warned.

Age UK said an entire generation of elderly people had “lost out” after various proposed care reforms had been left to “gather dust”.

The comments come after a new report compared social care systems across the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Japan.

Full Article

One in four girls aged 14 have self-harmed in ONE year, study reveals

The Children’s Society warns 110,000 kids of that age deliberately hurt themselves as they struggled to cope with life’s pressures.

They say concerns about looks, sexuality, gender stereotypes and school performance are the main reasons for unhappiness.

The charity said more needs to be done to improve children’s mental health, including greater access to counsellors in schools.

Full Article

Children forced to travel hundreds of miles for NHS mental health treatment

Children and young people with serious mental health problems are receiving treatment as far as 285 miles away from their homes, despite a pledge to end such practice, because bed shortages in some areas are so severe.

Experts say sending highly troubled under-18s to units far from their family and friends can be frightening for them, reduces their chances of recovery and increases their risk of self-harm.

In all, 1,039 children and adolescents in England were admitted to a non-local bed in 2017-18, in many cases more than 100 miles from home, figures collated by NHS England show. Many had complex mental health problems that often involve a risk of self-harm or suicide, such as severe depression, eating disorders, psychosis and personality disorders.

Full Article

Council first to use new legal powers to demand Brexit clarity

The leader of Plymouth City Council is hoping to force the Government to reveal the impact Brexit will have on the city through the use of new legal powers.

Tudor Evans is invoking the Sustainable Communities Act to force the Government to share any information it holds about what Brexit will mean Plymouth, even if it's considered confidential.

In a letter to local government minister James Brokenshire, cllr Evans called for: 'Immediate receipt by Plymouth City Council of all government departmental information and analysis pertaining to the impacts upon Plymouth’s communities and businesses of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, including any information deemed by the Government to be confidential.'

Full Article

Over 100,000 children homeless over holidays, council chiefs warn

The number of children who spent their school holiday homeless has risen to more than 123,000, council leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said this represents an increase of around 53,000 since the summer holidays of 2011.

The figures also show the number of homeless children that councils are housing in temporary accommodation has increased by 76% in the last seven years.

Full Article

Tens of thousands of homeless kids in ‘miserable existence’ this summer holiday as they stay in temporary accommodation

Almost 80,000 families in England were in temporary accommodation during the first quarter of 2018, the highest figure for a decade.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the figures underlined the need for both welfare reform and the flexibility for councils to borrow money to fund home-building programmes.

Judith Blake, the LGA’s housing spokeswoman, said: “For too many families, it (the summer holiday) has been a miserable existence, living in inappropriate conditions as they experience the sharp end of our national housing shortage.

Full Article

Whitehall not doing ‘nearly enough’ to tackle pothole epidemic

The Government is not doing ‘nearly enough’ to improve the state of the roads in the UK, road users say.

A survey of 7,000 people by IAM RoadSmart found that the majority think that our roads have become much worse in recent years.

The road safety charity also discovered that the respondents felt there were many more potholes than ever before and that they had to swerve to avoid potholes on every journey.

Nearly 50% said they had experienced damage to their car, commercial vehicle, motorbike or bicycle, or personal injury as a result of hitting a pothole.

Full Article

Council to approve accounts after LOBO loan delay

Lancashire County Council’s accounts are set to be approved after a temporary delay caused by a complex £50m loan deal.

Members of the Audit, Risk and Governance Committee deferred signing the accounts at a meeting last month because of concerns over a Lender Option Borrower Option (LOBO) loan taken out in 2010.

Due to the loan’s complexity, the external auditors, Grant Thornton, had to ask for more time to seek technical advice around the accounting treatment.

Full Article

Highland Council warns of £5.1m overspend

A Scottish council has warned of ‘harder times ahead’ as it projects a £5m plus overspend for the year.

The Highland Council’s corporate revenue monitoring statement for the first quarter of the financial year predicts a £5.1m overspend for the coming year.

Budget leader Cllr Alister Mackinnon said that ‘urgent action’ was required to bring expenditure back under control by next March.

Full Article

Crunch time for municipal bonds

The struggling Municipal Bonds Agency has pleaded for councils to ‘pull behind us’ amid warnings it could run out of money before issuing a bond.

The UK Municipal Bonds Agency (UKMBA) was given one of the highest possible credit ratings by global firm Moody’s back in March but - four years after it was launched - has struggled to get enough councils to be able to issue a bond.

It has incurred ‘significant expenses,’ with total pre-tax losses amounting to £2.7m over two years, according to the latest data available.

Full Article

Respite care: families at breaking point as councils slash funds

When 16-year-old Scott Crawford was small, a psychologist taught him two words to manage his anxieties: “First? Then?’’ Framed as a question it is his way of asking “what will happen next?” and also a barometer of his wellbeing. “If Scott is highly anxious, the ‘thens’ will go on until we’ll be discussing what will happen at Christmas,” says his mother Jane. Not once, but hundreds of times a day.

Scott’s parents try to stick to set routines. It helps them manage their son’s agitation and prevents his anxieties – which stem from his autism and learning disabilities – erupting into meltdowns and self-inflicted bites. But recently, Scott’s world has been turned upside down.

Full Article

Councils' care spending spirals as other services cut

The plight of Northamptonshire County Council has highlighted the perilous financial state of local authorities.

One of the key pressures they face is the cost of looking after children and vulnerable adults - which has been spiralling as services elsewhere are cut back.

Full Article

London could be hit hardest by fair funding review, IFS warns

Inner London borough councils could be hit hardest by the outcome of the fair funding review, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

It believes the government is set to make low-taxing councils “bear more of the cost” of services, at the same time as reducing spending needs estimates for councils which are currently deemed to have the highest needs.

London boroughs tend to set low council tax rates but they have historically received more generous income streams in relation to other councils, in part due to their high needs assessments.

Full Article

Home Office announces £13m fund to support vulnerable children

Local authorities have welcomed £13m of Government funding to help vulnerable children but warned funding shortages for children’s services are making it ‘increasingly difficult’ to help families.

The Home Office today announced that 11 councils have been allocated a share of the multi-million pound Trusted Relationship Fund – a scheme that attempts to intervene early if a child is at risk of abusive predators by helping foster close relationships with trusted adults in the community.

Full Article

Fair funding review to ‘hit’ inner London boroughs

The Government’s review of funding for local authorities is likely to hit inner London boroughs much harder than suburban and rural authorities, financial experts have predicted.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that Westminster’s Fair Funding Review, which assesses the relative funding needs of councils, could lead to inner London boroughs losing central Government funds.

Many of the capital’s authorities have high assessed spending needs but set tax rates at relatively low levels. They rely on Government money to make up the difference.

Full Article

Brexit will leave UK short of 380,000 care workers by 2026, analysis suggests

England will be short of nearly 400,000 carers to look after the booming older population unless it strikes a deal to guarantee the free movement of EU staff on which the sector relies, a new analysis claims.

Using Office of National Statistics data, the think tank Global Future predicts England will have a shortfall of 380,000 workers by 2026 unless low-skilled roles can be filled with people from overseas, something at odds with government Brexit plans.

The UK’s 1.34 million adult social care workforces is currently short of 90,000 staff, a vacancy rate of 6.6 per cent – three times higher than the UK labour market average.

Full Article

Clive Betts: My demands for radical funding reform

It wasn’t long ago that ministers and senior civil servants were dismissing any suggestion that some local authorities were heading for the financial rocks – let alone that the whole sector was approaching dangerous waters.

I don’t think they are as complacent today. But despite the continued insistence that they are not expecting any surprises, it is clear there is a lot of nervousness and finger-crossing.

Establishment complacency has largely been fuelled by the way local government has coped with the significant cuts in resources since 2010, assisted by the disciplines of seeking best value and comprehensive performance assessment.

Full Article

Northamptonshire County Council 'bought rugby hospitality box'

Councillors spent public money on a hospitality box and hiring a plane as the authority headed towards financial crisis, an investigation has found.

Payments were made by a company owned by Northamptonshire County Council whose directors were councillors.

NEA Properties, which bought the box at Premiershiap rugby side Northampton Saints, was dissolved a month before the council banned spending.

Full Article

Council chiefs defend use of Bentleys and limousines

Cheshire West and Chester Council has come under fire by the Tax Payer's Alliance over the cost of its luxury limousine used by civic dignitaries.

The Bentley Continental has a starting retail price of £132,000. Some say the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Full Article

Councils call for funding boost after £2bn budget surplus announcement

Town hall chiefs have called for the Government to provide extra funding to local government after official figures show July's budget surplus reached an 18-year high.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show the Government logged a £2bn surplus last month, the largest July surplus since 2010.

At the same time, public sector net borrowing between April to July 2018 also fell to its lowest level since 2002.

Full Article

Council Cuts To Trading Standards Leaving Vulnerable At Mercy Of Scammers

Fraudsters are getting a free pass to prey on the elderly and vulnerable due to dramatic cuts to trading standards budgets, it has been claimed – and things could get worse after Brexit.

Cash for the council-run service, which protects consumers from unfairness and illegal practices, has fallen from £213m in 2009 to £105m this year, with the number of enforcement officers slashed by 56 percent, according to research by the Labour Party.

Experts say it paves the way for rogue traders to peddle fake goods, scams and unsafe products much more easily, as local authorities struggle to keep up with the number of concerns flagged by members of the public.

Full Article

Households have ‘fallen behind on essential bills such as Council Tax by £18.9billion’

Households have fallen behind on essential bills such as council tax and utilities by an estimated £18.9 billion, according to Citizens Advice.

The charity made the calculation as it said it received a cry for help with bailiff issues once every three minutes last year typically. It is calling for stronger regulation of bailiffs and said it has seen a 24% rise in related problems since 2014.

Citizens Advice said it is concerned that aggressive tactics are leading to further debt and mental health problems. It said falling behind with household bills can have particularly severe consequences - such as having essential services cut off or losing a home.

Full Article

Torbay council stops spending to tackle £2.8m shortfall

Torbay council has called an immediate halt to non-urgent spending and stripped its services back to the statutory minimum because of financial pressures.

The Conservative-run council ordered the freeze after its budget report for the first quarter forecast an overspend of more than £2.8 million by the end of the year, which it attributed to a substantial increase in the number of children being looked after.

Steve Parrock, the chief executive, told councillors: “Even if an activity or contract is budgeted for, the task or expenditure may be postponed or cancelled if the work is deemed not urgent by the chief finance officer or myself.”

Full Article

Radical ‘inheritance insurance’ pension pot plan to help the elderly pay for care without losing their home

Health ministers are considering radical plans for “inheritance insurance” so OAPs in care don’t ever lose their home to pay the bills.

The Government is looking at proposals that would significantly reduce the growing burden on cash-strapped councils from Brits living longer.

Full Article

Leaders agree on two-unitary option for Northants

Local leaders in Northamptonshire have recommended that the county is split into two unitary councils, as proposed by government-appointed inspector Max Caller.

As reported by LGC yesterday, the proposal would see one council in the west of the county cover Corby, Kettering, and Wellingborough BCs and East Northamptonshire Council, with the other in the east covering Daventry DC, Northampton BC, and South Northamptonshire Council.

This option was first proposed by Mr Caller in March after Northamptonshire CC, in February, became the first council in almost two decades to issue a section 114 notice. Commissioners have since been sent in to oversee some of the county council’s functions.

Full Article

Government's July surplus at 18-year high

The government's finances were in surplus by £2bn last month, the biggest surplus for July in 18 years, official figures show.

The figure was up from a surplus of £1bn a year ago.

At the same time, borrowing in the April-to-July period fell to its lowest level since 2002.

Full Article

Torbay fends off s.114 fears despite imposing spend moratorium

Financial pressures in children’s services have forced Torbay Council into a moratorium with restrictions on non-urgent spending worth more than £1,000.

While a section 114 notice has not been issued, there are concerns about rising costs and a predicted overspend.

Chief executive Steve Parrock has told councillors that the first quarter budget monitoring report is showing a forecast overspend of more than £2.8m this year. Torbay has a net revenue budget of £112m in 2018-19.

Full Article

Northamptonshire leaders to outline plans for two unitary model

Local leaders are set to outline plans that recommend splitting Northamptonshire into two new unitary councils based on the boundaries proposed by government-appointed inspector Max Caller, LGC understands.

The locally-developed proposals are due to be published tomorrow afternoon.

LGC understands they will mirror the idea of creating one council which will cover Corby, Kettering, and Wellingborough BCs and East Northamptonshire Council, and another council covering Daventry DC, Northampton BC, and South Northamptonshire Council. This option was first proposed by Mr Caller in March.

Full Article

Reality Check: Public toilets mapped

For travellers on their summer holidays, where to stop for a toilet break can be a source of worry.

Public toilet provision has been declining for a number of years and the BBC has learnt that some UK high streets and tourist hot spots now no longer have any council-run public toilets.

At least 673 public toilets across the UK have stopped being maintained by major councils (unitary, borough, district and city) since 2010, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information law. In that time, the UK's population has been increasing.

Full Article

Fair funding breakthrough?

Followers of local government finance will be aware that since early 2016 various groups have been wrestling with the next stage of rates retention – councils moving to a greater share of business rates and the ‘resetting’ of the system.

Full Article

Councils spending a pretty penny on loos

The British Toilet Association and the Local Government Association are right to point out budgetary pressures facing councils and innovative solutions as playing their part in helping halt the rapid rate of decline of public toilet provision (Cafes urged to let people use the loo without spending a penny, 8 August). But while the “Use Our Loos” campaign is admirable, what is urgently required is action by the government to exempt parish and town councils from paying business rates on the toilets they run and stop even more from closure. Parish and town councils are already saving our loos by taking them on from cash-strapped principal authorities. But at a price, with their small share of council tax increasing to cover costs which include business rates of around £16m levied on important and valued facilities which have an economic development as well as public health benefit.

Full Article

UK unemployment fell by 65,000 to 1.36 million in three months to June

UK unemployment fell by 65,000 to 1.36 million in three months to June - lowest for more than 40 years, figures show

Full Article

Vulnerable used as 'pawns' in Northamptonshire council budget cuts

Councillors will meet today in Northamptonshire as they decide how to make the drastic cuts to services required to fill a £70m hole in the county council's finances.

Adult and children's social services could face cuts and road maintenance, waste disposal, libraries and country parks could also have their budgets slashed.

A vote to reduce all but essential services followed fierce criticism of the way the Conservative-lead authority's finances have been managed.

Full Article

Social housing tenants to gain powers against rogue landlords

Social housing residents will be empowered to take on rogue landlords under the government’s new strategy, but campaigners have criticised the document which offers no new funding.

The social housing green paper has pledged to offer all tenants a “springboard” into ownership, with new shared ownership schemes that allow residents to buy as little as 1% of their homes each year.

However, the paper will say no social housing tenant should feel a “stigma” about council renting and the department said it would “challenge the stereotypes that exists about residents and their communities.”

Full Article

There is no new money to end rough sleeping, minister admits

Ministers will not put any new government money behind a £100 million scheme to end rough sleeping within a decade, James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, has admitted.

The government had hailed the scheme as a comprehensive strategy to “help the most vulnerable in our society get the support they need”.

Yesterday Mr Brokenshire admitted that half the cash had already been committed to rough sleeping and the other half was “reprioritised” from existing budgets in his department.

Full Article

School cuts: ‘Children now raise money for their own education’

The village of Benenden in Kent has a green nearly as big as a football pitch. At one end stands a charming stone church. On the western edge is a picturesque mid-19th century building out of which, at 9.15am on a Wednesday, a stream of children dash, wearing their blue and white PE kit. This is Benenden primary, a state school in one of the wealthiest areas of the country: just up the road, the famous Benenden School charges parents £12,650 a term.

Full Article

Public would prefer council services cuts to tax increases

Most Britons would prefer to cut council services to the legal minimum rather than see council tax increases, a poll reveals.

A narrow majority of 53% would choose cutting services as far back as legally allowed, with 47% preferring an increase in council tax if forced to choose between the two.

However, asked about specific examples of services that would face cuts in that scenario, people feel their council tax should be going towards services beyond which the council are obliged to provide.

Full Article

Banks in line of fire over high street crisis – Closures turning centres into ghost towns

The death of the high street is being sped up by the growing tide of bank closures, new research reveals. The loss of more than 2,500 banks across Britain since 2015 has turned once bustling shopping streets into ghost towns because potential customers have less reason to visit them.

Full Article

Chief leaves by mutual consent after election probe suspension

A chief executive who was suspended after it emerged more than 1,000 voters were disenfranchised at the last general election has left his post by mutual consent.

LGC reported last November how Newcastle-under-Lyme BC chief executive and acting returning officer John Sellgren was suspended following an investigation by the Association of Electoral Administrators. The investigation found that 500 postal voters in the Newcastle-under-Lyme constituency were disenfranchised, close to 1,000 potential electors based at Keele University were not included in the election register, while two people not entitled to vote actually did so.

The council has now announced Mr Sellgren has left by mutual consent after seven years as its chief.

Full Article

UK growth boosted by warmer weather

Economic growth in the UK picked up in the three months to June as construction and services were lifted by the warmer weather, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The economy grew by 0.4% in the period, compared with a rate of 0.2% in the first quarter of the year.

However, the ONS added that underlying growth remained "modest".

Full Article

Tory MP breaks ranks on Northamptonshire council crisis

A Conservative MP has said ministers need to urgently “learn the lessons” from the financial collapse of Tory-run Northamptonshire county council if they are to prevent more councils slipping into insolvency.

Andrew Lewer, the MP for Northamptonshire South, said that while mismanagement had fuelled the Northamptonshire crisis, the council was also a victim of underlying financial pressures affecting all local authorities with social care responsibilities.

Full Article

Pedestrians tripping on wonky pavements given millions in payouts by cash-strapped councils

Pedestrians tripping on wonky pavements have cost cash-strapped councils more than £2.1million in the last year.

Local authorities were swamped with more than 10,000 personal injury claims from walkers hurting themselves on loose flagstones or bashing into badly-placed street signs, The Sun Online can reveal.

Figures show an average windfall of £2,458 per successful case — draining overstretched public coffers and providing a cash-cow for injury claims firms.

Of the 10,329 cases, all but 120 were for trips and slips on pavements in the year to 31 May.

Full Article

Over 300,000 children are being taught by unqualified nursery staff, charity warns

Over 300,000 children are being taught by unqualified nursery staff, a charity has warned, amid concerns that children are starting school unable to read or write.

There are over 10,000 nurseries, playgroups and children's centres across the country where staff do not have suitable qualifications, according to figures obtained by Save the Children.

An analysis of data obtained through Freedom of Information requests by the charity reveals that there is a shortage of around 11,000 early years teachers in England.

Full Article

Northamptonshire council meets to vote on huge cuts

Massive cuts to jobs and services are expected to be approved by councillors in Northamptonshire later.

The county council, which is facing a funding shortfall of £70m, will discuss an action plan on Thursday that would see budgets for services slashed.

Children's services, road maintenance and waste management are among the areas in line for "radical" cuts.

Other councils face similar issues, with East Sussex planning service cuts to a legal minimum "core offer".

Full Article

Northamptonshire council backs 'radical' cuts to services

A cash-strapped council has approved massive cuts to jobs and services in a bid to tackle a £70m funding shortfall.

Northamptonshire County Council backed the action plan to reduce spending during a crisis meeting.

Children's services, road maintenance and waste management are among the areas facing "radical" cuts.

Full Article

Use Our Loos campaign urges UK firms to open toilets to non-customers

Cafes, restaurants, pubs and shops are being urged to open up their toilets for general public use under an initiative to tackle the growing national shortage of free conveniences.

Over the past two decades the number of public toilets in the UK has slumped by more than a third (39%), according to responses to freedom of information requests, as local councils’ increasingly squeezed budgets lead to mass closures.

The total has fallen from 3,955 in 2000 to 2,414 this year, according to data submitted to the British Toilet Association (BTA) by 266 councils in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Full Article

Birmingham back on the brink

In a highly critical financial statement, Grant Thornton claimed the council has ‘effectively been running an annual deficit of £75m’, which has been masked by spending reserves. It accused the council of not being transparent in its accounts and failing to report governance failures effectively.

It said: ‘The council has not been transparent, in particular, in the way it reports its financial position.’

It added: ‘The reported year-end overspend of £4.9m in 2017/18 appears a modest deficit, but was delivered through the application of £75m of reserves (£42m planned), a significant proportion of which were applied in-year.’

Full Article

Council’s solar farm generates £1.3m in second year

Forest Heath District Council’s solar farm has generated more than £1.3m of income in its second year enabling the authority to plough over £370,000 back into council services.

The council purchased the £14.5m solar farm in 2016 based on a 25-year, independently produced business model which indicated how the solar farm is likely to perform.

Figures for the 12 months to the end of July show that it generated 12,258MWh — enough to power around 3,300 homes and offset the carbon dioxide emissions from 1,500 cars.

This is sold on the National Grid and has raised the local authority £1.3m. It has also helped Forest Heath establish itself as a carbon neutral council.

Full Article

Inspectors praise Peterborough’s ‘thriving’ children’s services

Inspectors have praised Peterborough City Council for creating the conditions for the city’s children’s services ‘to thrive’.

The council is piloting a new approach called Family Safeguarding, which offers a whole family approach, enabling families to address their difficulties and keep their children safe.

Launched earlier this year, the approach has seen a reduction in the number of children on child protection plans from 280 in August 2017 to 230 in May 2018.

Full Article

PM signs off on £600m Edinburgh City Deal

Theresa May has signed off on a deal that will bring hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment into the South East of Scotland.

The UK and Scottish governments have each committed £300m to the Edinburgh City Deal, the terms of which were agreed last year.

The funds will go to scientific research on space, health sciences, agri-tech and food and drink at Heriot-Watt, Queen Margaret and Edinburgh universities.

Full Article

Warning that more councils could cut services to bare minimum

An increasing number of councils could be forced to cut services to the legal minimum, financial experts have warned.

Rob Whiteman, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said the move by East Sussex this week to reduce services to little more than those required by law was 'to be expected' considering the pressure on councils.

Full Article

Taxes ‘must rise’ to end social care crisis

It comes as a poll suggests the majority of Britons realise they will have to stump up more now to pay for what lies ahead.

Last night former care minister Paul Burstow told the Daily Express it would take courage to tell people that not enough is being spent on adult social care and there is a need to contribute more to make the system better and fairer.

He said that failing to fully fund care was a false economy and that it can escalate into a costly NHS admission and often more expensive care when people finally leave hospital.

He said the fairest way to raise the extra money is through general taxation.

Full Article

East Sussex County Council cuts services to 'legal minimum'

A second Conservative-run council has set out plans to strip back services to the "legal minimum" amid calls for talks with central government.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) said it had saved £129m since 2010 and had to be realistic about the future. The authority has confirmed it may only be able to offer services it is legally obliged to provide.

Full Article

Ex-Northants leader quits party as she rails against new members

Warning: This article contains language which some may find offensive.

The former Conservative leader of Northamptonshire CC, who has quit her party, has hit out at the council’s newest and youngest members and defended her administration’s decisions.

In an explosive interview with LGC Heather Smith said she had been made a “scapegoat” for the county council’s financial difficulties and was “so angry” about the way it had all been handled. The interview took place before she announced on Twitter she had resigned from the Conservative party.

Full Article

Councils want National Citizen Service funding for youth services

Millions of pounds of is being spent on the government's flagship citizenship scheme for young people while local youth clubs are closing, councils say.

The National Citizen Service, a four-week summer scheme for 15 to 17-year-olds - accounts for 95% of central government spending on youth services.

But the Local Government Association said only 12% of eligible teens took part in 2016.

Full Article

Bank of England raises UK interest rates

UK interest rate rises to 0.75% - the highest level since March 2009

Full Article

Brexit - Any port in a storm?

Prime Minister Theresa May will deny it, but Whitehall now appears panicked over the increasing possibility of a hard Brexit. Since the 2016 vote, for example, we have learned that the OBR believes Britain will lose around 3% of GDP after Brexit.

Nowhere is the likely impact of a crash-out going to be felt more than across Britain’s port towns and cities, where the import and export of goods will be dictated by the terms on which the UK exits. The risk of a crash-out is that Britain and the EU have to default to more complex WTO rules.

Referring to the impact Mrs May’s White Paper plan could have on key British ports – the physical access and exit points for around 22% of the UK’s total GDP – the document pulls no punches about what happens in the event of a ‘no deal’.

‘If agreement on the EU white paper proposals cannot be reached, there remains a risk that councils will be required to undertake new checks on imports from the EU in the event of a no deal scenario. The City of London has estimated that this could increase their workload by around a quarter: the impact could be even greater at other ports of entry,’ it states.

Full Article

Tax increases proposed to close £3.5bn social care funding gap

A wide-ranging social care green paper, including proposals on how to stabilise the current system and ensure vulnerable people receive the care they need in the future, has been published by the Local Government Association.

The document, released today, warns an estimated social care funding gap of £3.56bn by 2025 must be addressed “as a matter of urgency” to prevent further increases in the numbers of people not receiving the care they need, providers suffering financial failure and continued reductions in investment in prevention.

In a bid to influence the government’s delayed green paper, the autumn budget and next year’s spending review the LGA said “a failure to be bold today will impact on people, our communities, our hospitals and our economy tomorrow and for decades to come”.

Full Article

Details of financial crisis warning 'ignored' by Northants

Striking details have emerged of dire warnings from Northamptonshire CC’s former section 151 officer of a “financial crisis” at the council which were subsequently ignored in 2015.

Criticisms of senior management and their “defensive and non-compliant behaviour” approach to tackling savings were laid bare in an explosive letter from then finance director Matt Bowmer to chief executive Paul Blantern, dated 29 October of that year.

In that letter Mr Bowmer confirmed his intention to issue a section 114 notice within 21 days “if there are not robust plans in place to both restore effective financial management arrangements at the council and to bring spend back in line with the available resource”.

Full Article

Corby refuses to sign Northants unitary plans

Corby Borough Council has refused to sign up to Northamptonshire’s proposed local government overhaul.

Cash-strapped Northants CC this month unveiled a proposal to create two unitary authorities in a move aimed at alleviating the county’s financial difficulties.

The proposals would create a West Northamptonshire Council and a North Northamptonshire Council replacing the seven districts and county council.

Full Article

Holiday homes dodge £80m council tax

Tens of thousands of people with holiday homes from Cornwall to Suffolk are avoiding £80m in council tax a year, with many in effect getting their rubbish collected and other services free.

Official figures show there are 47,307 homes in England registered as holiday lets, which means they are exempt from council tax. These properties are liable for business tax, but there is 100% relief available on properties with a rateable value of £12,000 or less. This means most of these homes escape the tax net altogether.

Owners of holiday homes must advertise the properties as available for 140 days a year, but do not have to prove their second homes have been occupied.

Full Article

Rubbish piles up as families wait three weeks for bin collections

Thousands of families in England and Wales will have their rubbish bins emptied only every three weeks in an effort by many councils to boost recycling.

Councils are being forced to overhaul their service to encourage householders to cut waste because China is refusing to be a dumping ground for foreign refuse.

Earlier this month Guildford council proposed a three-weekly bin collection scheme. Other councils, including East Devon, St Helens in Merseyside, Oldham and Rochdale, are also proposing — or have already introduced — three-weekly collection.

Full Article

Local government ‘must transform’ to cope with funding pressures

Local government must transform, innovate and work together to cope with the pressures of increased need for services with less central funding, according to two major accounting bodies.

CIPFA and the Charted Institute of Management Accountants, in a report released today, said authorities that had successfully transformed had done so by procuring and developing skills more commonly found in the private sector.

“Skills shortages, such as the lack of in-house commercial ability ... may increase cost and complexity, cause delays and impact on effective project delivery,” the joint research noted.

It added: “With the pressures mounting, councils must make every public pound work harder to maintain public services. This requires a significant transformation of local government organisations and the services they deliver. It requires innovation, collaborative working, better decision making and greater understanding of risks.”

Full Article

Somerset County Council proposes 130 redundancies and cuts

A council has proposed cutting more than 100 jobs and major services so it can balance its books.

Somerset County Council has begun a consultation on 130 redundancies and is proposing cutbacks to highways, public transport and special needs services.

The authority needed to save £19.5m in 2017/18, but only made cuts of £11.1m.

Full Article

Brace yourself - tax increases are coming [opinion]

Spare a thought for Philip Hammond. As Britons prepare for their summer holiday, if they are not already on it, the chancellor is bracing himself for the inevitable barrage of requests from cabinet colleagues as he starts work on this autumn's budget.

His task has been made harder by Theresa May's promise of an extra £20bn a year, in real terms, for the National Health Service. In his Mansion House speech last month, the chancellor warned that, unfortunately, this means little extra money for other spending departments...

Full Article

School holiday hunger cash a 'great first step'

A new £2m government fund for food and fun for poorer children over the summer has been hailed as a great first step to solving school holiday hunger.

But charities warn that, with an estimated three million UK children at risk of going hungry over the summer break, there is far more to be done.

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the cash would fund a range of summer support for families in need.

Full Article

Northamptonshire ‘misappropriates’ £8m of ring-fenced funds to rescue cash-strapped services

Over £8m of cash ring-fenced for public health was spent on other cash-strapped services, an audit for financially-struggling Northamptonshire County Council has found.

An external report by auditor KPMG released yesterday found that the authority “misappropriated” £8.038m from a Public Health England grant, instead choosing to support activities that “do not meet the grant conditions.”

The news is the latest in a series of fiscal mishaps for Northamptonshire CC in recent months: last week a £70m potential budget shortfall forced the authority to issue another Section 114 notice, banning spending until further notice. This is Northamptonshire’s second spending ban in six months, after becoming the first council in 20 years to issue the notice in February.

Full Article

Dying young in Stockton - England’s most unequal town

Stockton-on-Tees is the town with England's biggest gap in healthy and unhealthy life expectancy, according to Public Health England, and resident Rob Hill, who is only 46, is getting ready for his death.

A lifetime of cigarettes and poor food have taken their toll and Rob has numerous health problems including emphysema, lymphedema and type 2 diabetes.

Two years ago he was given six months to live. Rob's on borrowed time.

Full Article

Unfunded care cap could have ‘catastrophic’ effects on council services

An un-costed cap on social care introduced for local services could have “catastrophic” repercussions for community care, with costs soaring as high as £691m a year, council chiefs have said.

In a new report released today, the County Councils Network (CCN) said if the government was to introduce a care cap— meaning a limit would be placed on the amount people in England would have to pay towards their social care— the costs passed onto local authorities annually could be as high as £691m if Whitehall does not supply mitigation funding.

Full Article

Extra dementia training for care home staff could save up to 20,000 lives a year and reduce levels of depression, study finds

Extra dementia training for care home staff could save up to 20,000 lives a year in Britain. Scientists found that better support for residents suffering from the illness led to a significant reduction in mortality, higher quality of life and lower rates of depression, apathy and aggression.

In a nine-month study they focused on training to reduce the use of anti-psychotic medicine and on increasing social interaction with dementia patients. 70% of care home residents have the illness and the vast majority are over-medicated and left for hours at a time without any human interaction. Experts warn the average patient talks for only two minutes every six hours.

Full Article

Counties warn unfunded cap on care would cost £691m a year

Introducing an unfunded cap on social care costs will push council services to the brink of collapse, county councils have warned.

The government has previously said it supports a cap on “punitive” costs, with the measure expected to be included in the government’s social care green paper which is now scheduled for the autumn after a series of delays.

A report on the future of social care published today by the County Councils Network says it supports a cap on costs but estimated an unfunded cap on individuals’ care costs of £50,000 would cost county councils £691m a year. This is double the expected cost of the £72,000 cap included in the Care Act 2014 but subsequently abandoned by the government.

Full Article

Bill for public sector wage rises £820m, estimates IFS

The government spends £181bn a year employing all the nurses, doctors, police officers, prison staff, civil servants, teachers, administrators and many others who run publicly funded services.

So, announcing a pay increase of any description means costs.

Particularly if some of those pay increases are, at 3.5% for many teachers, well above the rate of inflation, which is at 2.4%.

Full Article

Treasury would cover lost EU funding after Brexit

Philip Hammond is offering billions of pounds of government guarantees for projects dependent on EU funding after Brexit day as part of “no deal” planning.

The move means farmers, scientific research projects and new roads will not see their funding suddenly halt next April if Brexit negotiations break down.

The chancellor’s decision was slipped out on the last day of the parliamentary term. The Treasury is not able to put a precise estimate on the amount of money involved.

Full Article

Ministers plan for social care tax to help plug £3.5billion funding gap and fund care homes

A new ‘Social Care’ levy is being considered by Ministers in a desperate bid to plug a whopping £3.5 billion funding gap.

Under the plans, working Brits would be asked to save into a new insurance fund – which would then pay for their care in old age.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has pushed the idea in discussions with the Treasury.

Full Article

Government attacked over child mental health plan and told it is ‘sleepwalking into deepening crisis’

The government has been accused of “sleepwalking into a deepening crisis” on child mental health and attacked for its flagship plans to improve it.

Hundreds of mental health workers will be trained to work in and near schools from the end of next year to help boost young people’s wellbeing, after the government confirmed plans will go ahead.

But the Barnardo’s children’s charity said the £300m approved plan – first set out in a green paper last year – would still leave hundreds of thousands of children without the help they desperately need.

Full Article

Pay rises expected for public sector staff

The government is set to announce wage increases for about one million workers in the public sector, the BBC understands.

Last year the PM announced plans to lift the 1% cap - in place since 2013 - but deals were only confirmed for some NHS workers, prison staff and police.

Other professions - including the armed forces, teachers and doctors - are now expected to see an increase.

Full Article

At last, a radical solution to the social care crisis

Alan Bennett’s new play Allelujah! is set in the geriatric ward of a hospital in Yorkshire, which is the perfect backdrop for his quirky characters, witty one-liners and dark political undercurrents — but even the writer admits it is an unfashionable theme. He has the pompous NHS trust chairman declare of the hard-working immigrant doctor who befriends the elderly patients: “He says he chose geriatrics because he likes old people, but nobody likes old people — not even old people.”

Full Article

Northants issues new section 114 notice

Northamptonshire CC issued its second section 114 notice in the space of six months.

In a letter to councillors, finance director Mark McCloughlin detailed a budget shortfall for this current financial year of £60m-£70m as one reason for the notice.

A section 114 notice prevents any future expenditure for the rest of the financial year and is required in order to deliver a balanced budget.

Finance commissioner Brian Roberts said: “We are fully supportive of the issuing of this Section 114 which underlines the truly perilous state of Northamptonshire County Council’s finances.

Full Article

Northamptonshire's Section 114 Notice

Northamptonshire County Council’s director of finance has issued a second Section 114 notice due to the ongoing financial crisis facing the authority.

In a letter to councillors the director Mark McLaughlin outlines the challenges facing the council including a potential budget shortfall in this current financial year of £60m - £70m.

An extraordinary Full Council meeting will now be held next month to discuss a set of spending priorities in light of the spending controls.

Full Article

Government announces new standards for fire and rescue services

Addressing the Local Government Association’s Fire Commission yesterday, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, Nick Hurd, announced a new approach to improve professional standards for fire and rescue services across England.

While some professional standards currently exist for fire and rescue services, they are inconsistently applied and the government believes they can be expanded. A Fire Standards Board will be created to ensure standards are nationally coordinated to a high level across the sector.

Full Article

McArdle: Northants needs to face consequences of past actions

Northamptonshire CC’s lead commissioner has revealed he still does not know the timescale by when the stricken authority can balance its books as it faces a budget shortfall of up to £70m this financial year alone.

Tony McArdle spoke to LGC this morning about the “extraordinarily challenging situation” the county found itself in but insisted he was “100% confident that this council can live within its means”.

He was interviewed after it was revealed Northamptonshire had issued a second section 114 notice in six months which will impose new emergency spending controls on it until a balanced budget is set. This follows a previous section 114 notice imposed in February, which was followed by a budget which the council now believes has not resulted in financial balance.

Full Article

Classroom teachers up to 3.5% pay rise

Classroom teachers in England and Wales are to receive pay rises of up to 3.5%, ministers have announced.

Schools in England will receive a grant of £508m over two years to cover the increases, drawn from existing Department for Education budgets.

But the government has not implemented the independent pay body's call for an across-the-board 3.5% increase.

Full Article

Northamptonshire County Council bans spending again

A cash-strapped council has imposed emergency spending controls for the second time this year.

The section 114 notice bans all new expenditure at Northamptonshire County Council, with the exception of statutory services for protecting vulnerable people.

A letter sent to councillors says the authority "knowingly adopted unachievable savings" in its 2017-18.

Full Article

Calls for Northants County Council leader to resign

Opposition councillors at Northamptonshire County Council are calling for leader Matt Golby and some other senior Conservatives to stand down after another severe financial warning was issued at the authority.

The calls came after chief finance officer Mark McLaughlin issued another 114 notice today saying there is a budget shortfall of up to £70m.

His report issued to councillors this morning says that over the past four years financial decision-making had been ‘factually wrong, ill-informed, out of step and inappropriate’.

Full Article

John Sinnott: Cipfa deserves backing over resilience [opinion]

I was disappointed but not surprised to see something of a rush to criticise the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy’s consultation on its plans to establish an index of financial resilience for English councils.

There is a suspicion that Cipfa is being criticised for an overreaction to what has happened in Northamptonshire CC. I disagree with the criticism. In the current financial and political climate, there is too much at stake in terms of local government’s future and credibility for the sector to come out as defensive. Honesty is always the best policy.

Full Article

Homeless but working families rise by 73%, says Shelter

Tens of thousands of families are trapped in temporary accommodation despite "working every hour they can", says housing charity Shelter.

Its analysis of official data suggests 33,000 families living in temporary digs in England were also working in 2017 - up 73% on 2013.

The charity blames a mix of expensive private rents, a housing benefit freeze and a chronic lack of social housing.

Full Article

Poor mental health 'part and parcel of childhood'

Poor mental health has become "part and parcel" of childhood for many children, England's Children's Commissioner says.

Anne Longfield says there is currently a children's mental health epidemic.

"The fact of the matter is that poor mental health has become part and parcel of childhood for many many children and it affects every aspects of their lives as they grow up, these formative years."

Full Article

MHCLG to consider financial sustainability ahead of Spending Review

Marsham Street will embed its local authority sustainability tool in its preparations for next year’s Spending Review. The tool, which aims to track sector-wide financial sustainability risk using metrics, was developed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) after spending watchdogs in 2014 told the department to do more to understand the impact of funding cutbacks on council services.

Evidence published by the Public Accounts Committee from MHCLG permanent secretary, Melanie Dawes, read: ‘To ensure that we are aware not only of the circumstances of individual authorities, but also of emerging trends within the sector, the department has developed a tool to track local authority sustainability.

‘The tool measures the financial resilience of the local authority sector by measuring the degree to which local authorities could reduce spending or use reserves in response to unexpected spending pressures or reductions in income. Given the complexity of assessing local authority sustainability, the tool does not have a threshold for determining which local authorities are sustainable or unsustainable.'

Full Article

Britain's tax burden reaches its highest level since Harold Wilson was in charge while Government revenues are now at a 32-year high

Britain's tax burden has reached its highest level for almost half a century, a report has found.

The taxman is set to take £724.9billion this year – 34.3 per cent of GDP.

That is the highest proportion since 1969-70, when the country was run by a Labour government under Harold Wilson.

The report, written by the TaxPayers’ Alliance campaign group, also said overall Government revenues are at a 32-year high at 37 per cent of GDP, a measure of the size of the economy.

Full Article

MHCLG to consider financial sustainability ahead of Spending Review

Marsham Street will embed its local authority sustainability tool in its preparations for next year’s Spending Review.

The tool, which aims to track sector-wide financial sustainability risk using metrics, was developed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) after spending watchdogs in 2014 told the department to do more to understand the impact of funding cutbacks on council services.

Full Article

Think tank publishes scorecard for local government financing

A new scorecard assessing the options of funding local government post 2020 has been published by a think tank.

The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has launched the Local Finance Scorecard to help kickstart a debate on local government finance.

It outlines the different funding options for local government post 2020, giving each one a score based on feasibility and impact.

Full Article

PM to announce North of Tyne CA legislation

The prime minister is expected to announce on Monday new legislation will be laid in parliament that will create a new North of Tyne CA and pave the way for up to £600m of government investment over 30 years.

The deal will allow Newcastle city , North Tyneside, and Northumberland county councils to set up a new authority in October after leaders voted in support of the deal at a meeting of the North East CA leadership board in April.

Nick Forbes (Lab), leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Our region needs more and better jobs and we have ambitious plans to take back control of decision making and let people here determine how we should invest in the North East.

Full Article

The Guardian view on school funding: cash is needed but so is a change of direction

Since 2009, school spending per pupil in England has fallen by about 8% in real terms, with a smaller fall in Wales of about 5%. While total school spending has risen in England by about 1% in real terms over this period, a 10% rise in pupil numbers means that slightly increased resources are now more thinly spread. In Wales, spending has fallen by around 5% but because pupil numbers there have remained constant, it is English schools that have experienced the more severe cuts. Since spending per pupil in Wales was lower before 2009, the cuts have evened things out...

Full Article

Northamptonshire new CEO approved by Full Council to lead area through ‘unprecedented time of change’

Northamptonshire County Council’s new chief executive has been endorsed at the authority’s Full Council meeting yesterday, with the authority’s leader saying the new CEO “knows what she’s letting herself in for.”

Theresa Grant, who stepped down as chief executive of Trafford Council in early July to “pursue new opportunities” will take the reins of the struggling council, starting her new role on 26 July.

Grant’s appointment was formally appointed by the authority on a fixed-term contract after being selected for the role following a recruitment process in which the government-appointed commissioners and the council were supported by the LGA

Full Article

UK government borrowing at 11-year low

Government borrowing in the April-to-June period fell to its lowest level since 2007, official figures show.

Borrowing for the financial year so far has reached £16.8bn, £5.4bn less than in the same period in 2017, the Office for National Statistics said.

June's borrowing figure fell to £5.4bn, which was down from £6.2bn a year ago but was slightly larger than expected.

Analysts said borrowing was falling faster than predictions had indicated, pointing to a less austere Budget.

Full Article

Counties query plan for financial resilience index

CIPFA’s proposed resilience index for English local authorities will be a “blunt instrument” that will do little to alleviate financial pressure, county chiefs have claimed.

The institute is currently consulting on an “authoritative measure” of local authority financial resilience based on publicly available information. The resulting index will provide an assessment of each council’s relative financial health.

But the County Councils Network and the Association of County Chief Executives today issued a statement saying the index would not help local authorities tackle the main problem of insufficient funding.

Richard Flinton, ACCE lead adviser for local government finance, and chief executive of North Yorkshire County Council, said: “Councils’ future financial stability has been a recurring theme in local government this year, and these well-meaning proposals are unsurprising in the current climate.

Full Article

Somerset County Council Tories quit over budget crisis

Two Conservatives have quit senior roles at Somerset County Council over its handling of a financial crisis.

Dean Ruddle and Neil Bloomfield held roles as the respective chair and vice chair of the audit committee.

The council has a projected overspend of £12m until the end of March 2019. In May, the chief executive said council spending needed to be stabilised.

Full Article

Northamptonshire CC to axe 'hundreds of jobs’ due to funding crisis

Services will be cut to the legal minimum and 'hundreds of jobs' axed as Northamptonshire imposes further cuts to deal with its funding crisis, the council has warned.

Cabinet leader for finance Michael Clarke said £35m this year and a further £50m of savings were needed next year to stop the council going under.

He told a finance scrutiny meeting at the trouble-torn Conservative council that 'some very serious and unpopular service cuts' were on the way.

Full Article

Hancock highlights 'intense pressure' on social care budgets

The new health and social care secretary has said social care budgets have been under more “intense pressure” than demands placed on the NHS and pledged £412m of technology funding for sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs).

In his first speech today since succeeding Jeremy Hunt, Matt Hancock said workforce, technology and prevention would be his early priorities.

He praised social care staff and pledged to improve their career opportunities, adding a consultation would be launched on “workforce issues” and a panel established of clinical and professional advisors from the health and social care workforce.

Mr Hancock said the £412m funding will be spent on “new technology in hospitals which make patients safer, make every pound go further and help more people access health services at home”.

Full Article

‘Double council tax on empty homes to ease crisis’

Doubling the council tax on England’s 205,000 empty homes could bring thousands back into use and ease the housing crisis, according to town hall chiefs. And hitting absentee owners with tax bills of almost £5,000 for each B and D property empty for at least a decade would also raise money for cash-strapped councils.

Full Article

Heads blame school cuts as exclusions pass 40 a day

More than 40 children a day are being expelled from state schools in England, new figures suggest.

Heads blamed funding cuts for the soaring numbers, saying that troubled pupils were missing out on early intervention and specialist support.

The annual statistics, published this morning, show increases across primary and secondary schools in both permanent and fixed-term exclusions.

Full Article

Wage growth slows despite jobless fall

UK wages rose more slowly in the three months to May, despite a further fall in unemployment, official figures show.

Wage growth slipped to 2.7% from 2.8% in the three months to May, while unemployment fell by 12,000 to 1.41 million, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The unemployment rate remained at its joint lowest since 1975 at 4.2%.

Full Article

No section 114 for Somerset CC despite funding issues

A struggling south west authority will not issue a rare section 114 notice in spite of severe funding pressures.

Somerset County Council, who were close to issuing the notice earlier this month – which would impose strict spending restrictions and bring into effect an emergency budget – have said they are “not in that territory” whilst managing acute demand for sectors such as children’s services.

A revenue report released last week showed an overall net projected overspend of £12m, a considerable proportion of which is dedicated to children’s services due to the cost of external residential and foster care placement for children in care.

Full Article

The Guardian view on home-schooling in England: a register is needed [opinion]

The killing of 18-year-old Jordan Burling was needless and preventable, a judge told his mother and grandmother on sentencing them for his manslaughter last week. Burling died from bronchopneumonia following a heart attack in 2016, but the underlying cause was malnutrition and neglect so extreme that it is painful to imagine.

Defence lawyers stressed that Mr Burling was an adult, who had made what his grandmother Denise Cranston called a “choice” not to see a doctor. But he was a boy of 12 when his mother told the council she would home-school him. A safeguarding review will now examine how the authorities lost sight of Mr Burling, who had taken no exams nor gained any qualifications, and make recommendations as to how such a disaster can be avoided in future. But there is no reason for the government to wait before acting on behalf of other home-schooled children, of whom there are thought to be around 50,000 in the UK – a number that has increased sharply in recent years.

Full Article

Heavy toll on firefighters as call-outs to move the obese soar to 900 a year

Reforms needed to ensure that social care was sustainable would require two big tax rises to pay the projected £12.5 billion extra a year, analysis has suggested.

Ministers have pledged to cap the amount that wealthier individuals spend on personal care and to raise the threshold for the value of assets people can hold before they have to pay.

To meet the cost over time ministers would have to raise the basic rate of income tax by 1 per cent and increase national insurance contributions by 0.5 per cent, or use other combinations of tax increases, according to projections for Independent Age, a charity for older people. It used a statistical model created with Grant Thornton, the accountancy network, to calculate costs of options for funding social care.

Full Article

Nearly 8 million people providing care for family members without pay

The number of people caring for a family member has reached 7.6 million, a sharp increase of one million compared with a decade ago.

Data analysis by the Social Market Foundation, an independent thinktank, shows that millions are now giving up their time to for free to look after elderly relatives, a partner or a sick or disabled child – with the number spending 20 hours or more caring for a relative up by 4% between 2005 and 2015.

But charities have warned that carers are losing out in terms of work, finances and health. They are calling on the government to urgently invest in the care system rather than relying on good-hearted individuals to prop it up.

Full Article

Pothole-related car breakdowns ‘at a three-year high’

Councils are “not winning the battle” against potholes as related vehicle breakdowns between April and June reached a three-year high, a motoring organisation has warned.

The total of 4,091 call-outs received by the RAC was the most for the second quarter of a year since 2015.

Incidents included damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels.

Full Article

Monthly record set for DTOC reductions

A monthly record was set in May for reductions in delayed transfers of care, contributing to an overall improvement of 33% since February 2017.

Analysis by Impower found delayed transfers fell by 7.5% between April and May, the biggest drop since February 2017, with a total of 2,190 beds now freed up in 15 months - more beds than in any acute trust in England.

Delayed transfers attributable to social care are were down in May by 9.6% on the month before to just over three days per 10,000 of the population, while delayed transfers attributable to the NHS fell by 6.5% to 6.5 days per 10,000 people. This is at a time when emergency admissions continued to rise, with a 3.5% increase in May compared to the same time last year.

Full Article

Wales could show England the way to local government reform

John Harris is right to identify the potential of truly local government (The national calamity you won’t see on the front pages, Journal, 10 July).

Although Wales shares many of the same local government reform problems as England, town and community (parish) councils cover more than 90% of Wales, compared with less than 50% in England. In recognition of their potential the Welsh government has set up an independent review of the town and community council sector, which is due to report later this year.

The institutional infrastructure in Wales – a devolved nation where all principal authorities are unitary councils – is also somewhat simpler than that of England. Latterly we have had superimposed city deals – but working through councils themselves. So the heavy lifting that England would have to undertake in extending local councils comprehensively is not necessary.

Full Article

Number of secondary school pupils in England to rise

There will be over 400,000 more pupils in England's state secondary schools by the year 2027, new forecasts indicate.

Secondary pupil numbers are expected to rise by 14.7% over the next 10 years, the Department for Education projects.

The rise is fuelled by a baby boom in the early 2000s that is making its way through the education system.

School leaders say the projections highlight the challenge to find enough places for a growing population, and the pressures on school budgets.

Full Article

Court reverses £400m sleep-in shift ruling

Council leaders have welcomed the Court of Appeal ruling that social care providers will no longer be required to pay £400m in backpay to carers doing sleep-in shifts.

A tribunal last year ruled that support workers who do sleep-in shifts should be paid the hourly minimum wage for the periods they are asleep.

It also ordered providers to pay their carers six years of back pay, a figure which added up to £400m.

Full Article

Public sector ‘lacks policies to support blockchain’

The public sector is not widely adopting blockchain because of a lack of policies to support the technology, the director of a software company has told a conference.

Mark Gibbison, director of Unit4, told a workshop at a CIPFA conference on Wednesday that “blockchain can be used to transform the [public] sector in a number of areas” and is the “next big thing”.

Local governments could benefit from the technology but are not adopting it because there is a lack of standards and regulations, he said.

Full Article

One in six high street firms taken to court as business rates bite

Owners of almost one in six properties liable for business rates have been taken to court for non-payment over sky-high taxes in the past year, research has revealed. Rocketing rates have been blamed by scores of struggling retailers as shopkeepers fight to compete for custom with online sellers who do not have to pay the property tax.

One business leader said summons are being “hastily issued” as owners risk being penalised.

Freedom of Information requests revealed nearly 130,000 high street shops, pubs and other firms were hauled into magistrates courts.

Full Article

School spending on pupils cut by 8%, says IFS

The amount of per pupil spending in England's schools has fallen by 8% since 2010, says an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The study says rising pupil numbers - and cuts to local authorities and sixth form funding - have seen a real-term reduction in school spending.

Heads say it disproves government "rhetoric" about record funding levels.

Full Article

Pushing boundaries: Reshaping the government estate for the future

Just as our home is more than a roof over our head, the place where we work is more than just an office. Historically, the work of civil servants was conducted behind closed doors and civil service careers meant working nine to five at a desk in Whitehall. But as the work of government becomes more transparent and agile, and as we seek to reach our aspiration of becoming the most inclusive employer by 2020, the way we work and manage our buildings and our estate is changing.

Since 2014, we have responded to the changing needs of our citizens and our workforce. We have disposed of over 1,000 surplus properties, raising an impressive £2bn in sales, and have saved an additional £300m per year in running costs through greater efficiencies – freeing up funds to be redirected elsewhere.

Full Article

This government is indifferent to the crisis in local councils that is about to hit us

Hundreds of councillors and council leaders gathered in Birmingham last week to discuss the big issues facing local government. But while the sun was shining bright there was a destiny dark cloud over head.

We’ve become used to hearing of the dramatic and disproportionate cuts affecting local government. We’ve seen in every community — though some much more than others — the real impact as basic services have been reduced, facilities lost and a fire sale on land and property.

Income from the disposal of assets jumped from £1.2 billion in 2008/09 to £3.2 billion by 2016/17. In fact, almost as much was raised in the final quarter of that year than the whole of 2008.

Full Article

Majority of finance professionals pressured into acting unethically, says survey

Almost two thirds of finance professionals say they have come under pressure to act in an unethical way at some point in their careers, according to early findings from CIPFA’s ethics survey revealed today.

Of the 63% that said they had faced this kind of issue in the workplace, nearly half (47%) said it had happened once or twice, 29% between two and five times and 23% more than five times. Pressure was exerted by line managers in 42% of cases, by chief executives or chief finance officers in 30% of cases, and board, cabinet or council in 15% of cases.This was often done in the form of threats to bypass individuals for promotion and disciplinary action.

Respondents working in auditing firms were told that if they did not comply with a client’s wishes their bill might not be paid or they could lose out on future work. Only 7% of respondents said they had carried out the unethical request and 29% said they had partially carried out the request. Almost two third (64%) said they had refused to act unethically or gave no answer.

Full Article

Face up to tax and charging to make services sustainable, says Clarke

In his presentation to delegates, Clarke said government has three choices on public service funding in the current climate: to let services go into continued decline and allow private sector alternatives to rise; to raise general taxation; or to extend user charging such as road tolls or student fees.

However, he argued the first option was undesirable as it ultimately led to divisions in society.

“The idea that efficiency savings can deal with the situation [of declining funds for public services] is untrue. Choices have to be made,” he said.

“Declining public services are very corrosive of our standard of living and socially divisive.”

Full Article

Majority of finance professionals pressured into acting unethically, says survey

Almost two thirds of finance professionals say they have come under pressure to act in an unethical way at some point in their careers, according to early findings from CIPFA’s ethics survey revealed today.

Of the 63% that said they had faced this kind of issue in the workplace, nearly half (47%) said it had happened once or twice, 29% between two and five times and 23% more than five times.

Pressure was exerted by line managers in 42% of cases, by chief executives or chief finance officers in 30% of cases, and board, cabinet or council in 15% of cases.

This was often done in the form of threats to bypass individuals for promotion and disciplinary action.

Full Article

Sunak: Public sector leaders need tech focus

A common, ‘lego-like’ approach was needed to fix the public sector’s ‘digital plumbing’, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for housing, communities and local government also urged.

“IT does not belong in the basement but in the boardroom,” he told delegates in Bournemouth.

Leaders should be looking to technology in their “relentless focus” to improve services and ultimately save money, Sunak said.

Full Article

Grant set to be appointed Northants chief

Theresa Grant is set to be appointed chief executive of Northamptonshire CC on a fixed term.

Ms Grant, who announced last week she would step down from Trafford MBC after nine years, will replace interim chief executive Andrew Quincey on 27 July.

Lead commissioner Tony McArdle said: “I am very pleased to commend to council, for its endorsement, the appointment of Theresa Grant.

Full Article

Somerset chief accountant warns of section 114 risk

Somerset County Council could be forced to issue a section 114 notice in October if plans to reduce a predicted £12m revenue budget overspend are unsuccessful, its chief accountant has warned.

The council ended last year with an overspend of £2m, and pressures on the council’s children’s service budget are expected to increase that amount significantly, according to a report to councillors.

In a stark warning, Lizzie Watkin, service manager and chief accountant, raised the prospect of Somerset having to follow Northamptonshire in issuing a section 114 notice, bringing a halt to all non-essential spending.

“Work is underway to reduce the predicted overspend but if that work does not materially change the prediction by the end of quarter two (October), there is a risk that the council may have to take a number of urgent decisions to rectify the financial position,” she said.

Full Article

Rob Whiteman: Rise of dealmaker CEOs puts governance skills ‘at risk’

The rise of the commercially-minded “dealmaker” as a local authority chief executive requires a “reappraisal” of council governance skills, according to CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman.

Whiteman spoke to Room151 at the 2018 CIPFA conference in Bournemouth, explaining the need for his organisation’s new financial resilience index.

Whiteman said that it made sense for many councils to appoint chief executives with commercial skills, but added that traditional oversight skills are in danger of being lost.

Full Article

Extra funding freedoms for Liverpool City Region

The agreement will see over £120 million moved into the City Region’s revenue budget, from its capital budget, over the next 27 years. The move will boost the City Region’s investment programme, launched following the £900 million devolution deal in 2015.

The arrangement will give Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, and the Combined Authority, greater freedom to plan and invest in ways which will drive up long-term economic growth. This includes transport improvements, learning facilities and housing.

Full Article

Bosses who revive high street properties are punished with soaring business rate hikes

Thousands of entrepreneurs are being hit with huge increases in business rates because they have done up dilapidated high street properties.

Business rates are based on what a property is worth on the rental market, so when occupiers spruce up a derelict or run-down site, the value goes up and they are penalised with higher taxes.

Campaigners said this can push up costs by hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

Full Article

Hancock’s Big Moment [opinion]

In the Götterdämmerung of cabinet splits and resignations, with blond valkyries flying across the political sky, the appointment of a new health secretary seems an overture played in a minor key. Jeremy Hunt has filled the operatic gap left at the Foreign Office and in so doing is said to have been “promoted”. But the Department of Health is arguably a position carrying far more importance for ordinary Britons than the Foreign Office.

Mr Hunt had become the longest-serving postwar holder of the role of health secretary. Originally lampooned as a lightweight, he has dealt with crises such as the junior doctors’ dispute of 2016, kept things going through the dog days of austerity and finally won a funding increase in recent weeks.

His successor, Matthew Hancock, is both capable and likeable. But important though his work was as culture secretary, particularly in trying to evolve a government strategy for social media and hyper-connectivity, the Department of Health is a challenge of an altogether more substantial kind.

Full Article

‘There used to be a bus every hour. Now we hardly leave the house’

When Jill White, 53, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, she had three years of treatment, including operations and chemotherapy. It was a stressful enough experience to go through, but White, who is single and doesn’t drive, also faced a four-hour round trip, on a good day, to get to a hospital that was only 13 miles away, because buses from her village of Tatworth, Somerset only run on average every two hours.

Full Article

Government has not learnt from academy failures that damaged children’s education, MPs say

The government is failing to learn the lessons from high-profile academy failures that have been damaging to children’s education and costly to the taxpayer, MPs have said.

The Department for Education did not pay enough attention to scrutiny checks in a rush to convert large numbers of schools into academies, a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has found.

MPs said they were concerned about a lack of clear direction from the government on converting schools to academies – as well as the levels of support available to struggling schools.

Full Article

CIPFA president: We can rebuild trust in public services

CIPFA has a great opportunity to “flip the negative narrative” and rebuild trust in public services, the institute’s new president said this morning.

In her opening address to the CIPFA conference in Bournemouth, Sarah Howard highlighted that “pervasive” negativity had taken hold.

“I see what appears to be a universal breakdown in trust – whether we look at central government, local government, NHS or the private sector – the examples are well known,” she said, singling out Brexit, funding problems at Northamptonshire County Council and the collapse of the outsourcing and construction giant Carillion.

Full Article

Brexit will hit public finances, conference hears

Day-to-day spending on public services will fall by 0.6% in real terms between 2020-21 and 2022-23, delegates at CIPFA’s annual conference heard this morning.

The Institute for Government’s Gemma Tetlow told her audience economists for and against Brexit were “fairly well aligned” on the view that the Brexit vote had caused a slow down in growth in the UK.

“The figures that were laid out in March by the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast spending that was consistent with borrowing falling for the next four years and that implied that day-to-day spending on public services would be set to fall by 0.6% in real terms between 2020-21 and 2022-23,” the IFG’s chief economist told the conference.

Full Article

Schools miss out in rush to set up academies, MPs find

A rush to set up academies is leaving hundreds of schools ignored by inspectors amid mounting costs for the taxpayer, parliament’s spending watchdog has found.

The public accounts committee has concluded that escalating problems in the sector have left civil servants scrambling to change how they examine prospective academies’ financial viability and sponsors’ ability.

In a highly critical report released on Wednesday, MPs said they were worried that the Department for Education has not yet learned the lessons from high-profile academy failures that have been damaging children’s education.

Full Article

County set to cut to 'core offer'

East Sussex CC is to vote on whether to scale back services to a “core offer” focused on people in “most urgent need” due to rising budget pressures.

Citing “significant reductions” in government funding, coupled with “soaring” demand for social care services due to an increasing population of older people, chief executive Becky Shaw said the council could not meet its financial challenges over the next three years through locally sourced income, such as council tax and business rates.

Council leader Keith Glazier (Con) has written to housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire ahead of a meeting of the council’s cabinet next Tuesday to warn of “counterproductive choices” that have been “forced” on East Sussex.

In her report to cabinet, Ms Shaw said savings to date have already had “significant impacts” on social care, family centres, youth services, libraries, highways and the public realm.

Full Article

Brokenshire defends Whitehall ‘grasp’ of local government finance

Communities secretary James Brokenshire has rejected claims by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that his department has a “shaky grasp” of the financial issues facing councils.

Earlier this month, the committee voiced concerns that the department was unable to provide it with a definition of financial sustainability.

But speaking ahead of his debut appearance before the communities select committee this week, Brokenshire said his officials are fully on top of the situation.

Full Article

Council trials mobile phone detection technology

Norfolk County Council has become the first local authority to trial mobile phone detection technology in order to improve road safety.

The new system, which was developed by the Norfolk company Westcotec, will be used to identify mobile phone use from within a vehicle before activating a sign urging the driver to hang up.

‘Using a mobile phone whilst driving is an enormous distraction and apart from being illegal puts the lives of the driver, passengers and pedestrians at risk,’ said Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of the council’s communities committee.

Full Article

Raab replaces Davis as Brexit Secretary

Minister of State for Housing and Planning Dominic Raab has been appointed Brexit Secretary after David Davis resigns from UK government.

Full Article

Jeremy Hunt replaces Boris Johnson amid Brexit turmoil

Theresa May has launched a reshuffle of her top team after a string of resignations over her Brexit strategy plunged her government into crisis.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been named as the new foreign secretary after Boris Johnson quit, accusing Mrs May of pursuing a "semi-Brexit".

His departure followed that of Brexit Secretary David Davis and several junior figures.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock replaces Mr Hunt as health secretary.

Full Article

Bed blocking costing NHS ‘£550 per minute’

Bed blocking because of a lack of social care availability is costing the NHS an “eye-watering” £550 per minute (£290m a year), Age UK has estimated.

Analysis by the charity also showed that in just two years, the number of older people in England living with an unmet care need has risen by 19%, which translates to 1.4m over 65s living with unmet care needs

More than 300,000 need help with three or more essential daily tasks like getting out of bed, going to the toilet or getting dressed, the charity found, and of this 165,000 receive no help whatsoever from paid carers, family members or friends.

Full Article

Hammond promises tax on digital firms as business rates weigh on struggling retailers

Business rates are hitting the high street too hard, the Chancellor Philip Hammond has admitted.

These taxes are calculated based on the cost of a property that a business occupies and, with prime locations, high street retailers have been hit hard compared to their online competitors. Many are already struggling, with mounting numbers of store closures.

Retailers have complained that the revaluation exercise undertaken last year has left them with higher bills in an already challenging climate.

The Chancellor said he would continue efforts to “find a better way of taxing the digital economy” in order to reduce the tax advantages for online retailers compared to high street stores.

Full Article

'Councils beat academy trusts at boosting failing schools'

Councils are best when it comes to boosting the inspection grades of inadequate schools, analysis of official figures suggests.

Researchers looked at how much schools rated inadequate by Ofsted in 2013 had improved by the end of 2017.

Those schools that had remained council maintained were more likely to be good or outstanding than those that had become sponsored academies.

Full Article

Rural roads busier as drivers escape urban congestion

Traffic on rural roads has risen sharply over the past decade as drivers try to avoid congestion in towns and cities. At the same time the number of vehicles on urban roads is falling.

Overall traffic levels in Britain increased to a record high last year, official figures show. There have been complaints that the boom in internet shopping is fuelling congestion.

Figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that vehicles collectively covered 327.1 billion miles on British roads. It was a 1.3% rise over the year before and represents a 4.2 per cent increase in a decade. The number of vehicles using rural A roads has increased by 10.3% in ten years.

Full Article

Local authority bus budgets cut by 45%

Local authority bus budgets in England and Wales have been cut by 45% - £182m – since 2010/11, according to a transport campaign group.

The Campaign for Better Transport, in analysis released on Monday, said funding for supported buses dropped by £20.5m last year – the eight year in a row budgets have been cut.

Full Article

Put up tax to pay for social care, say councils

Nine in 10 councils think increased tax is crucial to stabilising the adult social care sector, council leaders have said.

A survey conducted by the Local Government Association also found that 96% of councils believe there is a major national funding problem in adult social care.

The survey, based on responses from 79 councils with adult social care responsibilities, revealed that 89% supported increased taxation to tackle the perceived funding shortfall in adult social care.

Full Article

PAC highlights Whitehall’s ‘shaky grasp’ of council finances

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has only a “shaky grasp” of the issues facing local authority finances, the Public Accounts Committee has claimed. A report published by the committee today noted a significant reduction in councils’ spending power had been imposed at the same time as increases in demand pressure.

Local authority spending power, comprising government funding and council tax, has fallen by 28.6% since 2010-11, while key services have come under increased pressure, the PAC said. In the same timeframe there has been a 14.3% growth in the estimated population aged 65 and over in need of social care, while authorities have endured a 10.9% increase in the number of children being looked after.

Full Article

Minister promises more self-financing councils will not be abandoned

Central government will not financially abandon local authorities – even as grants are phased out in favour of business rate revenue, local government minister Rishi Sunak has promised PF.

In an interview ahead of the CIPFA conference in Bournemouth, the junior minister said that moving to a system whereby councils retain 75% of business rates by 2020-21 was “exciting and important to get right”.

This comes as the local government secretary James Brokenshire told the Local Government Association yesterday that the government was to “shortly” publish a prospectus for a further round of business rates retention pilots for 2019-2020.

Full Article

Call for business rates to be scrapped

Business rates should be scrapped and local authorities should be handed a swathe of new powers to revitalise struggling town centres, a major new review has urged.

Bill Grimsey, the former Wickes and Iceland boss, today published a follow-up to his 2013 report on the British high street. He called for business rates to be scrapped and replaced - perhaps by a sales tax - describing the current system as a ‘monolithic giant that needs to be strangled’.

Full Article

Millions of children 'fending for themselves' and facing 'serious risk' at home

More than two million children in England are growing up in families where there are serious risks, the Children's Commissioner has said. Anne Longfield's report states the dangers include domestic violence and living with parents who are alcoholics or have substance abuse problems.

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: "It's our most vulnerable children who are paying the price for the punishing central government cuts to council budgets, and being left without the early help they desperately need."

Roy Perry, vice chairman of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, said: "We want the Government to heed these increasingly urgent warnings and accept the critical need for properly funded children's services, which face a funding gap of £3billion by 2025 just to keep services running at current levels.

"We have long warned of the rising demand councils face, with an average of more than 270 children taken into care or placed on a child protection plan every single day to keep them safe from harm."

Full Article

Local councils at risk of bankruptcy due to government 'complacency', MPs warn

Local councils face a funding gap of £5bn by 2020 because of “complacent” government ministers’ failure to plan for the future, an influential committee of MPs has warned.

In a damning report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said government-imposed budget cuts of almost 50 per cent in the last seven years have left a number of councils under “enormous pressure” and “in a worrying financial position”.

It is “unsustainable” to expect town halls to continue to draw on cash reserves to fund day-to-day spending, MPs on the committee said.

They accused the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) of being “overly reliant” on hopes that councils will be given more money in next year’s spending review – an outcome that looks less likely after the Treasury committed an extra £20bn a year to the NHS, depleting government coffers.

Full Article

Authorities expect to make almost £900m from parking fees this year

Local councils expect to make almost £900m from parking fees this year after imposing punishing hikes on shoppers driving into town centres.

According to the RAC analysis, the 354 local authorities in England made an estimated surplus from parking of £786m in 2017/18 but they are expecting this figure to rise by 13% to £885m this financial year.

They made £658m in 2013/14, meaning profits are set to soar by 34% in just five years.

Full Article

Tory Peer Tears Into Government Over Social Care Crisis

[Contains language which some may find offensive]

Social care will only improve if the Government cuts through the “horseshit” which sees the NHS and councils not working together, the Tory chief of the Local Government Association warned today.

In a forthright attack on his own party, Lord Porter claimed Theresa May wasn’t going to “fix” the social care crisis facing local authorities, and argued her rebranding of the Department of Health to include “Social Care” in the title was merely window dressing.

Speaking at the Local Government Association’s annual conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, Lord Porter also tore into the Government’s aim to solve the housing crisis – again questioning his own party’s desire to “fix” the problem.

Full Article

Surge In Children's Social Workers Quitting Profession Amid Violent Crime Wave

One in seven children’s social workers quit the profession last year amid a spike in violent youth crime.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner called the drop-off rate a “national scandal” as hard-up social workers’ caseloads are left overflowing, due both to a scourge of gang violence and poverty-stricken families struggling to cope with life on the edge.

Speaking at the Local Government Association conference in Birmingham, Rayner highlighted Department for Education statistics which showed 4,500 left the profession last year and the turnover rate of children’s social workers is now 50% higher than in 2011.

Full Article

Countryside facing a ‘demographic time bomb’

The countryside is facing a “perfect storm” caused by a rapidly ageing population, a dearth of affordable housing, a skills shortage and inadequate mobile and broadband coverage, local authorities have warned.

A “demographic time bomb,” caused by an exodus of young families and an influx of retirees, is threatening the survival of rural communities, the LGA said.

“It is increasingly difficult for people to buy a home in their local community, mobile and broadband connectivity can be patchy, and people living within rural and deeply rural communities face increasing isolation from health services,” Mark Hawthorne, from the LGA, said.

Full Article

Brokenshire dodges funding commitment pledge

Communities secretary James Brokenshire has failed to make a firm commitment to fighting for more funding for councils despite warnings the 'bank of local government is running on empty'.

Speaking at the Local Government Association's (LGA) annual conference today, Mr Brokenshire said he was under no illusions of the financial challenges facing the sector.

However, when questioned whether he would follow the example of other ministers by 'knocking on the door of the chancellor to fight for more funding' he would only pledge to listen 'carefully' to the sector.

In his speech, Mr Brokenshire said: 'Everyone agrees that the current formula needs fixing and I want to see a robust, straightforward approach, where the link between local circumstances and resources allocated is clear.

Full Article

Funding for support buses slashed by 45%, campaigners warn

Local authority funding for supported buses has been halved since 2010 leaving many parts of England and Wales without public transport, campaigners warn.

A new report from the Campaign for Better Transport has found that council bus budgets in England and Wales were cut by £20.5m last year - the eighth year in a row budgets have been cut. The report, entitled Buses in Crisis, also warned that since 2010-11 supported bus budgets in England and Wales have been reduced by £182m. This amounts to a 45% cut.

Full Article

Thousands of children facing abuse ‘repeatedly’ referred to social care services

Thousands of children are ‘repeatedly’ referred to children’s social care but get no help until their problems escalate to crisis point, a children’s charity has discovered.

New research from Action for Children has revealed that more than 120,000 children were referred to children’s social care in both 2013/14 and 2014/15. However, about 36,000 had their case closed in the first year and were referred again the following year. The charity found that two thirds of these referrals, i.e. 23,000 children, were found to be ‘children in need’ and the remaining third did not get statutory support for a second time.

Full Article

Councils withheld just £32m last year on underperforming PFI deals

Councils withheld £32m last year from underperforming PFI providers, according to new research published today.

Law firm Collyer Bristow found only 0.3% of annual payments to all PFI providers were held back, suggesting local authorities are paying for poor or undelivered services.

The research shows that Birmingham City Council accounted for nearly half this figure after it held back £14m following a long running dispute with Amey.

Full Article

LGA in social rents plea

Ministers should drop plans to ditch social rents from the official definition of affordable homes while Britain continues to struggle to build new council housing, Smith Square has urged.

On the eve of its annual conference in Birmingham, the Local Government Association (LGA) urged the Government to retain social rented units within the definition of affordable housing covered by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPP