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News Headlines

Rent arrears could see homelessness treble this year, campaigners warn

Homelessness could treble this year due to financial impact of coronavirus, campaigners have warned today.

A new report, published by Generation Rent, shows that rent arrears has trebled since the start of the crisis, with over half a million households currently in arrears.

The report urges the Government to suspend evictions for rent arrears and ensure the benefits system covers housing costs.

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CIPFA mulls legal action against council

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has put aside £500,000 to fund potential legal action against Ealing LBC over a contract dispute.

CIPFA wants to recover its losses from the London Counter-Fraud Hub (LCFH) after the project failed to get off the ground.

London Councils had said that all boroughs intended to participate but, in its early stages, CIPFA publicly admitted that ‘coordinating agreement across 33 organisations, all of which might have their own priorities and political agendas’ would be a ‘significant challenge’.

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‘We’re making a noise because this is money we’ve spent in good faith’

The chief executive of a council facing a Covid-19 budget deficit equivalent to all of its non-social care services has branded the prospect of major cuts “manifestly unfair” on residents.

Redbridge LBC is urging residents to sign a petition calling on the government to make good on its commitment to provide councils with “whatever funding is needed” as a result of the pandemic after it received just £15.7m to cover the £60m estimated financial impact for 2020-21.

In an interview with LGC chief executive Andy Donald said the shortfall was equivalent to about a quarter of the council’s net revenue budget.

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Other Headlines

Struggling councils face £10bn black hole, Keir Starmer warns

Councils face a "perfect storm" as a result of the coronavirus crisis and government inaction which could decimate local services, Labour is warning.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer says local authorities will have a £10bn "black hole" in their finances unless ministers step in to plug the shortfall.

Many councils have struggled with the pressure on budgets caused by lockdown measures cutting off their income sources while demand for support for the elderly, disabled, homeless, and other vulnerable groups is high, and must be paid for while keeping normal services - such as bin collections - running.

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English councils breaking law in 'secretly' relocating homeless people

Councils across England are systematically breaking the law by relocating hundreds of homeless people outside of their boroughs without notifying the authorities receiving them.

An investigation found that schools are being overwhelmed, with northern cities such as Bradford having received at least 290 households from 31 different boroughs in the past two years, many of them from London, Kent and Essex.

If a homeless person is moved elsewhere in the country, local authorities are legally supposed to notify the council in charge of where they are being placed so social, medical and educational support can be put in place.

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Jenrick expected to announce plans to ease finance woes

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick is expected to announce new measures to help cash-strapped councils deal with the coronavirus pandemic when he speaks to the Local Government Association virtual conference tomorrow.

Ministers have repeatedly indicated they were working on a ‘comprehensive plan to ensure councils’ financial sustainability over the financial year ahead’ amid growing concern in the sector about the future viability of some authorities.

Mr Jenrick, along with local government minister Simon Clarke, has been involved in detailed talks with chancellor Rishi Sunak in the run-up to his speech.

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MHCLG rejects statutory duties review

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has rejected calls to review statutory duties on councils, The MJ has learnt.

With councils desperate for more funding to keep services going and a number of leaders expressing fears that their authority will not be able to fulfil its legal duties, ministers had been asked to review which services are a statutory duty and which are non-statutory.

MHCLG acknowledged that local authorities were having to make ‘difficult decisions as to priorities’ but pointed out the Government had already made ‘significant reductions to the burdens faced by local authorities at this challenging time’.

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COVID funding gap hits £7.4bn, LGA estimates

The funding gap created by COVID-19 now stands at £7.4bn, the Local Government Association has said.

Analysis of the June financial returns showed council incurred £4.8bn in extra cost pressures and income losses as a result of the pandemic.

The association now estimates the cost to councils will now reach £10.9bn. After the £3.2bn emergency funding provided by Government, and a further £300m from clinical commissioning groups, it leaves councils with the £7.4bn black hole.

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Councils miss outbreak plan deadline amid uncertainty over lockdown powers

Some councils have failed to get local outbreak plans approved by councillors before a government deadline, amid concerns about access to data and a lack of clarity about who would trigger a local lockdown.

The day after the official deadline passed for councils to get their local outbreak plans in place, LGC understands that some plans are still awaiting final approval from councillors.

But directors of public health have been working on shifting sands to finalise their plans, which have been made on the basis of existing powers and responsibilities; secondary legislation is expected to pass through Parliament this week, triggered by the spike in cases in Leicester, which it is reported will give local areas further powers to trigger ‘local lockdowns’ of whole areas as opposed to just particular institutional settings and businesses.

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Leicester lockdown tightened as cases rise

The UK's first full local lockdown has been announced in Leicester, with stricter measures imposed in the city.

Non-essential shops will shut on Tuesday, and schools will close for most pupils on Thursday because of a rise in coronavirus cases. The loosening of restrictions for pubs and restaurants in England on Saturday will also not be taking place there.

He told the House of Commons on Monday evening: "We recommend to people in Leicester, stay at home as much as you can, and we recommend against all but essential travel to, from and within Leicester."

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Boris Johnson pledges 'new deal' to build post-virus

Boris Johnson will promise to "build build build" as he unveils government plans to soften the economic impact of coronavirus.

Speaking in the West Midlands, the prime minister will say he wants to use the coronavirus crisis "to tackle this country's great unresolved challenges".

The prime minister's speech comes as BBC analysis found that the UK was the hardest hit of all the G7 major industrialised nations by the virus in the weeks leading up to early June. In April, the UK economy shrunk by a record 20.4% as a result of the spread of coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown measures.

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Coronavirus slump could delay building of 300,000 homes

More than 300,000 planned new homes may remain on the drawing board over the next five years, deepening the UK’s housing crisis, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, new research predicts.

Stalled construction and the recession will slash the number of new homes being built, with 85,000 predicted to be lost this financial year, according to a study by the property agency Savills with the housing charity Shelter.

Shelter is proposing the government compresses its already announced five-year, £12.2bn affordable homes programme into two years to combat the slump.

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PM promising £1bn to rebuild crumbling schools

Funding of £1bn for 50 major school building projects in England is being promised by the prime minister.

There will also be a further £560m for repairs to crumbling school buildings.

"It's important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed," said Boris Johnson.

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Thousands may have died in care homes after families were ‘blocked from discharging them’

Thousands of care home residents may have died because their families were not allowed to discharge them during the coronavirus pandemic, lawyers have told the Telegraph.

Dr Oliver Lewis, a human rights barrister, claims providers failed to take into account the “clear risk” to its patients and they should have disregarded safeguards to send people home.

In one case a woman passed away from Covid-19 in her care home despite her family fighting for months to remove her. They are now facing a hefty bill for the care she received in the weeks prior to her death.

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UK needs 'biggest-ever peacetime job creation plan' to stop mass unemployment

The biggest job creation package in peacetime is needed to prevent the worst unemployment crisis in Britain for a generation, a leading thinktank has warned.

Sounding the alarm as job losses mount, the Resolution Foundation called on the government to continue subsidising the wages of workers in the sectors of the economy hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis until at least the end of next year.

It said the coronavirus job retention scheme – which is supporting the wages of more than 9 million workers at a cost to the taxpayer of more than £22bn so far – should be turned into a job protection scheme that would be kept in place throughout 2021.

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South Yorkshire devolution deal set for approval

South Yorkshire's devolution deal will be finalised in Parliament later, four years after it was first announced.

The county, under Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis, will have new powers and receive about £30m from Whitehall. Local Government Minister Simon Clarke said the deal would "unlock real benefits for people across South Yorkshire".

The order for the deal will be laid in Parliament after letters of agreement were submitted by the mayor and council leaders in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

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Back-to-school safety plans for autumn leaked

The return-to-school plans for autumn in England will involve entire year groups staying in separate "bubbles".

A draft of the plans, set to be announced later this week, has been published by the Huffington Post. It means that groups of up to 240 pupils could be kept apart within a school, with a separate time for starting and finishing.

The plans, understood to be draft documents shared as part of a consultation, show the approach to safety in the autumn is an expansion of the "protective bubble" approach already used.

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Cash strapped county unitary names new chief

Terence Herbert has been appointed chief executive of Wiltshire Council as the unitary moves back to a traditional single chief executive structure.

The council, which earlier this month warned it could go bust by the end of the current financial year, introduced a triumvirate management structure in 2018 with the responsibilities of the chief executive split between Mr Herbert, Carlton Brand and Alastair Cunningham.

Following Mr Brand’s departure in January 2020, Mr Herbert and Mr Cunningham split the responsibilities of chief executive between them.

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Jenrick ‘comprehensive plan’ likely this week as June returns show costs rising

Councils have reported an increase in the financial impact of Covid-19 of at least £800m in June, figures shared with LGC show, as speculation mounts that further government support will be announced this week.

The latest set of returns detailing the cost increases and income lost by councils as a result of the pandemic were submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government on 19 June.

The 47 members of the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities are forecasting a combined financial impact of more than £2.5bn during 2020-21, up from £2bn in May’s return. Income losses were up by almost 14% to nearly £1.4bn while cost pressures were up by more than a fifth to almost £1.2bn with services expecting increased pressure across the board. Research officer Sam Blakeman told LGC some of the increase could be down to “more accurate” predictions of full year costs in the June returns compared to the May data which asked councils to assume a return to normality in July.

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Playground guidance branded ‘bonkers’ as minsters urge reopening of tips and toilets

Whitehall has been accused of unrealistic expectations of councils' ability to ensure facilities such as toilets and playgrounds are reopened in a Covid-19 safe way after a decade of austerity and job cuts.

Senior figures in local government have reacted angrily to a letter issued to leaders and chief executives of councils over the weekend from local government minister Simon Clarke and environment minister Rebecca Pow, urging them to reopen toilets and tips.

The letter “strongly” urged councils with toilets still shut to refer to government guidance on opening toilets in a safe way, to “consider the harm to public health and the local environment caused by people relieving themselves in public” and “the equality implications” of those who need to use the toilet more often.

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Sheffield devo deal set to be passed by Parliament

A new devolution deal for South Yorkshire will be laid before Parliament today, handing new powers and millions of pounds of funding to the region.

Sheffield City Region Mayor, Dan Jarvis, described it as a ‘landmark moment’.

He said: ‘The journey to reach this point has been long and difficult. I firmly believe it is worthwhile, as it provides leaders in South Yorkshire the opportunity to transform our region. I am confident we will seize this moment to build back better, creating a stronger, fairer, greener economy and society.’

He vowed to work alongside the leaders of the South Yorkshire councils – Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield – as the region works to rebuild the economy post COVID-19.

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Council may have to issue s114, warns CIPFA

Windsor & Maidenhead RBC may not be able to set a legal budget in future years and may have to issue a Section 114 notice, finance experts have warned.

A review of the council’s governance by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) said the authority (RBWM) faced an ‘uncertain future’. The review read: ‘The position for the royal borough is more acute than other councils due to its very low level of reserves.

CIPFA also found a ‘lack of financial transparency and medium-term financial planning over a number of years,’ a poor officer culture and ‘little differentiation between officer and senior member roles and responsibilities’.

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County set to approve £102m waste contract

Norfolk County Council is set to approve a new six-year waste management deal with Veolia, worth £102m. If approved, the contract would save the council £2m and 47,000 tonnes of carbon a year.

The report says: 'The new contract would deliver additional recycling, provide a service based on zero waste direct to landfill, deliver improved value for money and savings of £2m a year, and achieve significant carbon savings compared to landfill by using rubbish as a fuel in incinerators to generate energy within the United Kingdom.'

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Clarke: Devo white paper will bring ‘more mayors and more unitaries’

Local government minister Simon Clarke has confirmed the government is looking to create unitaries with populations of at least 300,000 to 400,000 in one of the clearest indications of the government's plans for the future structure of local government.

Responding to a written question by Simon Hoare, MP for North Dorset, Mr Clarke said that the Devolution White Paper to be published this Autumn will establish “more mayors and more unitary councils”, and has also indicated separately his enthusiasm for strengthening the role of parish and town councils.

The Devolution White Paper will set out “transformative plans for economic recovery and renewal, and for levelling up opportunity, prosperity, and well-being across the country”, Mr Clarke said.

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Local health officials say they have been left in the dark on spread of coronavirus

The UK's Lighthouse Laboratories were designed to be able to centralise data on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus – but multiple public health directors say they are still being denied postcode-level and specific patient data for positive tests.

Speaking to The Independent as part of it's investigation into the UK’s coronavirus expansion, several said they had been informed about clusters of outbreaks by local media rather than via the NHS test and trace service because key details such as where a person works, or their place of worship, were not routinely recorded.

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'Unacceptable' drop in care at Kettering home with 12 Covid-19 deaths

A dramatic collapse in standards at a care home where a dozen people died from Covid-19 has been revealed by inspectors who discovered hungry and thirsty residents living with infected wounds in filthy conditions.

Infection control was inadequate, residents with dementia were left only partially dressed and one family complained of finding their loved one smeared in dried faeces at Temple Court care home in Kettering, which is operated by Amicura, a branch of Minster Care which runs more than 70 homes in the UK.

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Government ‘abandons plans to give Robert Jenrick more power over planning decisions’

The government wanted to give Robert Jenrick more power over planning decisions before the controversy erupted over his relationship with a billionaire property developer, according to reports.

However, Boris Johnson has decided to put the proposals “on hold” rather than unveil them in a major speech about rebuilding Britain in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, The Daily Telegraph claimed.

The prime minister was also expected to include the changes in a white paper on planning later this year, the newspaper said.

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Trafford Centre owner Intu falls into administration

Trafford Centre owner Intu has collapsed into administration, after failing to secure its future during crunch talks with lenders.

The shopping centre owner, which also runs Lakeside in Essex, had been in a desperate scramble to agree a “standstill” on its current loan agreements.

On Friday morning the group said it was likely to appoint administrators, as it remained unable to agree the terms of such a deal with its creditors.

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Citizens advice warn of council tax “D-Day”: Bailiffs to chase debts again under new rules

Council tax debt has become a real problem in recent months and new legislation put through by the government may only make this worse. Three of the UKs largest debt charities have called on the government to take urgent action.

Due to how dire the situation has become, Citizens Advice, the Money Advice Trust and Stepchange have joined forces, calling on the government to implement measures that could protect millions of people from spiralling into debt problems.

These changes could be desperately needed given new legislation that came into effect on Wednesday June 24.

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UK councils fear bankruptcy amid Covid-19 costs

Some of the largest UK councils say they may have to declare themselves effectively bankrupt unless the government agrees to further support.

Five councils said emergency spending controls - so-called section 114 notices - could be needed due to the impact of Covid-19.

Nearly 150 authorities have forecast a combined budget shortfall of at least £3.2bn, the BBC found.

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Liverpool says £467m will help prevent 'profound crisis' in post-Covid recovery

Leaders in Liverpool say a "profound crisis" in the city could be prevented if the Government provides £467 million towards a post-coronavirus recovery plan.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson and Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, have written to the Prime Minister to set out the £1.4 billion plan, which they say will create 25,600 jobs, provide 12,000 construction jobs and lead to more than 9,700 apprenticeships.

It comes as the BBC reported at least five English councils have warned they are effectively bankrupt, with Birmingham City Council saying emergency spending controls "would not rectify" its situation.

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‘A sticking plaster’: Fears government plans to rehouse rough sleepers will force thousands back on to streets due to their immigration status

Councils and charities have expressed concern that new government funding to support rough sleepers moving out of hotels will exclude thousands of homeless people because of their immigration status.

The government announced £85m in new funding on Wednesday to provide interim support for about 15,000 vulnerable people who have been accommodated in hotels and other forms of emergency accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, said the money would be used to support rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness into tenancies of their own, including through help with deposits for accommodation, and securing thousands of alternative rooms already available and ready for use, such as student accommodation.

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‘Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to speed up climate action with green recovery

The Government must seize the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to deliver a pandemic recovery that speeds up the fight against climate change, its advisers have urged.

In its annual report to Parliament, the Committee on Climate Change has warned the UK is not making the progress it needs to drive down emissions and prepare for the impacts of rising temperatures.

But recovering from the economic shock of coronavirus and at the same time accelerating moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 is “absolutely necessary and entirely possible”, the advisers said.

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Government to tear up red tape to allow more outdoor drinking and dining

A bonfire of red tape is being unveiled by Boris Johnson in a move to help the economy to recover from coronavirus and the nation to enjoy the summer sunshine outdoors.

On the day temperatures are set to soar to a record 34C - hotter than the Caribbean and Morocco - the government is publishing new legislation sweeping away dozens of planning regulations.

The result will be more food and alcohol on sale outdoors, more outdoor markets, car boot sales and summer fairs, all allowed without the burden of restrictive planning and licensing laws.

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Quarter of nurseries fear closure due to coronavirus

A quarter of nurseries are likely to shut within a year as coronavirus restrictions limit the number of places and many parents remain fearful of sending their children back, operators have said.

Nurseries and other early years childcare criticised the government for refusing to offer them similar support to that allocated to schools.

Analysis by Ceeda, a market research company specialising in early years education, found that only 37 per cent of childcare places in England were taken in the first week after nurseries reopened in early June. This compared with an average occupancy of 77 per cent a year earlier. Even if occupancy were to double the nurseries would still lose money because they have not been reimbursed for additional costs associated with the pandemic, such as personal protective equipment and additional cleaning.

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Over £46m paid to survivors of abuse at Lambeth children's homes

A survivors’ group has secured a total of more than £46m compensation for 1,340 people who suffered “horrific” abuse in children’s care homes that were infiltrated by paedophiles over several decades.

The highest individual payment to date has been £245,000, and with 620 applications still to be reviewed, and more survivors coming forward daily, campaigners believe the overall compensation bill could double.

The money has been paid to people who were in care over a period spanning from the 1930s to the early 1990s, living in homes predominantly run by Lambeth council in south London.

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Anglesey coronavirus cases: How a ‘local lockdown’ would actually work in the UK after spike at 2 Sisters meat factory

A recent outbreak in Anglesey, Wales – where two hundred cases of coronavirus were confirmed at a chicken processing plant in Llangefni – brought this issue to the forefront, leading to speculation that the area could have to retreat back into lockdown.

Wales’s First Minister has said it could implement a local lockdown in response to the outbreak – with officials reviewing the situation with the aim of judging whether a regional crack-down would be beneficial.

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Local councils face a Covid-19 cash crisis

ocal government finance is a bit like a sore tooth. It’s something people typically choose to ignore until they wake up one morning and find themselves in so much pain that they need a shot of morphine and a swift trip to see an emergency dentist for a surgical procedure.

Council taxpayers might be about to find out just how painful that surgery is going to be. Local authorities were in a precarious financial position before the novel coronavirus landed on these shores.

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Planning and licensing changes to pave the way for alfresco summer

Outdoor markets and summer fairs will not need planning permission while pubs and restaurants will be able to use car parks as seating areas, under a raft of new measures intended to boost the hospitality industry in the wake of Covid-19.

The Business & Planning Bill, announced by ministers today, will also make it easier for businesses to obtain pavement licences by reducing the consultation period from 28 calendar days to five working days. Consent will be granted automatically after 10 working days if the council does not issue a decision.

A government press release announcing the moves said councils would “need to continue to ensure their communities are consulted on licensing applications, that waste is disposed of responsibly, and that access to pavements and pedestrianised areas is not compromised”.

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Diana Melville: How to improve councillors’ financial scrutiny

"Elected members do not need to be financial experts, but they need to know the right questions to ask, writes the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy’s governance adviser."..

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Fresh reorganisation offensive leaves districts quaking

The County Councils’ Network (CCN) has launched a fresh offensive to rip up the local government map as the country emerges from the shadow of coronavirus.

Giving evidence to the House of Lords’ Public Services Committee, CCN chairman, Cllr David Williams, argued England had ‘far too many councils’ and called for reforms to the way local government is organised.

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Hand health powers to elected mayors, says report

Health powers should be handed to elected mayors as part of a ‘rejuvenated and fortified wave of devolution,’ a think-tank report has suggested.

The report by Respublica said the move would provide ‘regional democratic legitimacy’ to devolved health and care systems.

Respublica previously proposed a 'path to reform' involving 'transformative devolution to the counties' and 'complete reorganisation in the form of single-tier unitary councils'.

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Apprenticeships 'are not delivering social mobility'

The apprenticeship system is failing disadvantaged young people in England, warns the Social Mobility Commission.

The commission also says the Covid-19 pandemic will make things worse and will exacerbate youth unemployment.

In a report, it highlights a 36% decline in people from disadvantaged backgrounds starting apprenticeships, compared with 23% for other groups.

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1.1m pupils have returned to school

More than a million children in England are back at school for the first time in three months, data shows.

By the end of last week 1.16 million were getting face-to-face teaching, 12.2 per cent of all school-age children, up from 9.12 per cent the week before.

The rise is owing to secondary schools welcoming back Year 10 and Year 12 pupils for meetings with teachers to discuss online learning and study plans for the summer holidays. They take GCSEs and A levels next summer.

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Health leaders say UK must start preparing for second Covid-19 wave

Health leaders are calling for an urgent review to ensure Britain is properly prepared for the “real risk” of a second wave of coronavirus.

Ministers have been warned that urgent action is needed to prevent further loss of life and to protect the economy amid growing fears of a renewed outbreak over the winter.

The appeal is backed by the presidents of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, GPs and Nursing – as well as the chairman of the British Medical Association.

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Gyms and swimming pools ‘could reopen in July’

Swimming pools and gyms in England could reopen in July, the business secretary has announced as it emerged that drinkers who fail to socially distance in pubs could be fined by the police.

Alok Sharma said he hoped that leisure centres and indoor gyms would be able to reopen later next month as the government published hundreds of pages of guidance before reopening big sectors of the economy on July 4.

The bulk of England’s hospitality, leisure and tourism industries will be able to restart from July 4 as the coronavirus infection rate continues to fall. Pubs,

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Government allocates an additional £105m for rough-sleeping

The ring-fenced fund is made up of £85m of new funding from the Treasury and £20m from refocusing existing homelessness and rough sleeping budgets.

The government said the fund will be used to support rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness into tenancies of their own.

This will include help with deposits for accommodation and securing alternative rooms already available and ready for use, including student accommodation.

The funding is in addition to the ‘Everyone In’ scheme launched in April, which has seen local authorities house rough sleepers in hotels or emergency accommodation during the pandemic.

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Ministerial role needed to fix unequal education system, say MPs

A new ministerial post should be created to address the “entrenched inequity” in England’s education system, which is holding back pupils from diverse backgrounds, according to a cross-party group of parliamentarians.

The role is vital, they say, especially in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has called for greater diversity in the curriculum, and the disproportionate impact that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have on the most disadvantaged.

A report by the all-party parliamentary group on diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) education calls on the government to make it more relevant to the lives of all young people.

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UK public 'supports green recovery from coronavirus crisis'

People would be prepared to continue many of the lifestyle changes enforced by the coronavirus lockdown to help tackle the climate emergency, and the government would have broad support for a green economic recovery from the crisis, according to a report.

Working from home is a popular option, along with changes to how people travel, and the government should take the opportunity to rethink investment in infrastructure and support low-carbon industries, the report found.

The findings come from Climate Assembly UK, a group of 108 members of the public chosen to be representative of the UK population and to help shape future climate policy by discussing options to reach net zero carbon emissions, in line with the government’s 2050 target.

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Surge during pandemic of children needing foster care as more families reach ‘crisis point’

Foster care is in a “state of emergency” as the number of referrals rockets while the number of people looking to take children in has halved during the coronavirus pandemic, a charity has warned.

Barnardo’s, one of the UK’s largest fostering agencies, recorded a 44 per cent rise in foster referrals to its service during the public health crisis, with the figure increasing to 2,349 between 1 March and 23 April, compared with 1,629 for the same period last year.

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Eight out of 10 English councils at risk of bankruptcy, says study

More than eight out of 10 English councils providing adult social care services are at technical risk of bankruptcy – or face a fresh round of cuts to services – because they cannot meet the extra financial pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research.

The analysis estimated that predicted Covid-19-related costs and income losses in 131 out of England’s 151 upper-tier councils this year will exceed both the levels of their available financial reserves and the support so far provided by central government.

The majority of those councils that are in the “red wall” northern England and Midlands parliamentary seats won by the Tories from Labour at the last general election are at risk of going bust because of Covid-19 pressures, the study found.

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Whitehall not sharing Covid-19 data on local outbreaks, say councils

Local outbreaks of Covid-19 could grow undetected because the government is failing to share crucial testing data, council leaders and scientists have warned.

More than a month after being promised full details of who has caught the disease in their areas, local health chiefs are still desperately lobbying the government’s testing chief, Lady Harding, to break the deadlock and share the data.

The situation was described by one director of public health as a “shambles”, while a scientist on the government’s own advisory committee said it was “astonishing” that public health teams are unable to access the information.

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Government announces more money to keep rough sleepers off streets

The Government has committed more money to stop thousands of homeless people returning to the streets after charities warned they could be evicted from hotels without further funds.

Rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless will be helped to secure their own tenancies through £105 million, £85 million of which is new funding, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said.

The Treasury money will also help them put down deposits for accommodation and secure thousands of rooms already available, such as student accommodation, while they wait for a permanent home.

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Cash-strapped councils in poorer areas will be hit hardest by coronavirus, study warns

Councils in hard-up areas are more likely to see increases in demand for their services if poorer families are hit harder by the coronavirus crisis, a report warns today.

More deprived communities have populations likely to be more vulnerable to the health and social impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says.

Rates of mental illness are more than 1.5 times higher in the most deprived tenth than the least deprived tenth, and around twice as high in places such as Manchester and Hackney, London, than in Wokingham, Berks – the least deprived council in England.

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Call to build 100,000 homes a year for frontline ‘heroes’

Ministers are being urged to build 100,000 “homes for heroes” every year to ensure that key workers in the pandemic have affordable accommodation.

The ambitious construction programme would boost the economy by creating thousands of jobs and cut the housing benefit bill, according to the Local Government Association.

Properties could be rented to public service workers at reasonable rates and be used to house people who have lost their relatives during the coronavirus pandemic.

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PM to announce on Tuesday if pubs can reopen

Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Tuesday if the hospitality sector can reopen on 4 July and if the 2m distancing rule in England can be relaxed.

Non-essential shops have reopened in England already. Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier said England is "clearly on track" to further ease lockdown restrictions.

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Boris Johnson drops plans to suspend Sunday trading laws after objections from own MPs and Labour

Boris Johnson has shelved plans to suspend Sunday trading laws for a year after they were opposed by a string of Tory MPs and by Labour.

Downing Street had been pushing for the suspension of Sunday trading laws to be included in new coronavirus legislation that will be published this week.

The move was opposed by traditionalist Conservative MPs, however, and by Labour, which is concerned about the impact on shop staff. As many as 50 Tory MPs were said to be opposed.

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GCSEs and A-levels likely to be later next summer

Next year's A-levels and GCSEs in England could be pushed back later into the summer to allow more teaching time, says Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

This would allow schools to catch up some of the time lost since the lockdown.

Mr Williamson told MPs he would be consulting the exam regulator Ofqual about extra time to deliver courses.

It follows a similar proposal announced for exams in Scotland.

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Rishi Sunak plans emergency cut in VAT to rescue ailing economy

Rishi Sunak is ready to slash VAT and pump billions into the economy as the government prepares to ease social-distancing rules.

The chancellor has ordered officials in the Treasury and HMRC to prepare options to reduce the sales tax, including a cut in the headline rate, and zero rating more products for a fixed period.

In private briefings last week, Treasury officials pointed out that Sunak could lower VAT and business rates at the stroke of a pen when he makes a planned speech on the economy in early July.

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'One metre plus', the new rule that will reopen UK

Boris Johnson is poised to announce a new "one metre plus" rule for all venues, including shops, restaurants, schools, offices, and parks, in an overhaul designed to unlock swathes of the economy.

The move, which would take effect from July 4, is understood to entail allowing people to remain a metre away from others if they take additional measures to protect themselves, such as wearing a mask or meeting outdoors.

In restaurants, pubs and bars, firms will be expected to introduce measures such as partitions between tables that are less than two metres apart.

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£350m tutoring scheme aiming to help pupils worst hit by school closures pleases some and concerns others

A multimillion-pound tutoring programme for pupils worst affected by coronavirus closures has been widely welcomed but concerns have been raised about the ability of some schools to pay towards the subsidised scheme.

The £350 million year-long initiative is due to start in autumn and will see state primary and secondary schools in England able to access “heavily subsidised tuition” from an approved list of organisations.

It was announced as part of a £1 billion fund to help children “catch up” with lost learning after months out of school amid the pandemic.

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Up to half of rough sleepers in hotels may not have access to support when they leave, charities warn

Thousands of rough sleepers living in hotels during lockdown may not be able to access any support when they are made homeless again because of their immigration status, leaving them with no option but to return to the streets, charities warn.

Almost 15,000 rough sleepers have been housed in hotels or emergency accommodation since the lockdown began under the “Everyone In” scheme, under which local authorities in the UK were required to house rough sleepers with a £3.2m pot of funding from central government.

Ministers told local authorities at the end of May they must put in place plans to ensure all rough sleepers currently accommodated in hotels and other forms of emergency accommodation were supported as part of the “next phase” of the government’s strategy for rough sleepers.

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4.5m people in UK forced to become unpaid carers

An estimated 4.5 million people – three times the size of the NHS workforce – have been forced to become unpaid carers for sick, older or disabled relatives by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to research.

Charities say the huge increase – a result of support services being withdrawn – has happened behind closed doors.

There were already an estimated 9.1 million unpaid carers before the outbreak. The research comes after it was revealed that more than 100,000 people doing unpaid caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives had been forced to use food banks since start of the pandemic.

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UK debt now larger than size of whole economy

The UK's debt is now worth more than its economy after the government borrowed a record amount in May.

The £55.2bn figure was nine times higher than in May last year and the highest since records began in 1993.

The borrowing splurge sent total government debt surging to £1.95trn, exceeding the size of the economy for the first time in more than 50 years.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the figures confirmed the severe impact the virus was having on public finances.

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Homeless people moved out of hotels prompting fears hundreds will be forced to return to streets

Homeless people are being moved out of hotels they have been in since the start of lockdown, prompting fears that hundreds of vulnerable individuals will be displaced back onto the streets while the coronavirus crisis is still ongoing.

Almost 15,000 rough sleepers have been housed in hotels or emergency accommodation since the lockdown began under the “Everyone In” scheme, whereby local authorities in the UK were required to house rough sleepers with a £3.2m pot of funding from central government.

Contracts between local authorities and hotels were thought to be terminating at the end of June at the earliest, but The Independent has learned that rough sleepers have already been asked to leave a number of hotels in London.

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Care providers 'will go to the wall' without more funding

Leaders of social services in England have said there will be "catastrophic consequences" without immediate investment in the sector. Councils could run out of cash and care providers could "go to the wall", a report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) warns.

It says increased costs due to Covid-19 have exacerbated an existing crisis. The government has given councils an extra £3.2bn to tackle the pandemic and £600m for care.

The ADASS report warns that increased spending due to coronavirus - for example, on personal protective equipment (PPE), staffing costs and sickness cover - means some private care providers may go out of business.

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Get all children back to school, doctors tell Boris Johnson

More than 1,600 paediatricians have called on Boris Johnson to reopen schools or risk “scarring the life chances” of a generation of children. In an open letter to the prime minister they said that vulnerable children were suffering while schools remained shut during the lockdown.

The letter, signed by members of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, asks the government to publish a clear plan for getting all children back to school as a first step in a national recovery programme for young people.

Most children have been out of school for more than 12 weeks, a break that the letter describes as “without precedent” and which puts the opportunities of a generation of young people in jeopardy.

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Government to fund private tutors for English schools

The government is set to announce a year-long national tutoring programme aimed at helping pupils in England to catch up on lost learning as a result of school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Guardian has learned.

Under the plans, schools will be funded to hire private tutors from approved agencies to deliver one-to-one and small group lessons to pupils who have fallen behind with their studies after months out of school. Many have not accessed any remote learning throughout lockdown.

The multi-million-pound programme, to be funded by government, is expected to involve thousands of tutors and will be delivered in schools, with a mixture of online and face-to-face sessions, designed to support and complement pupils’ regular school work.

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Luton Council warns of ‘severe cuts’ to frontline services

The council said the pandemic has had a “catastrophic” impact on its finances, and it may have to cut services in order to deliver a balanced budget.

It said it had been hit hard by the shutdown of its airport, which it said plays an increasingly key role in supporting vital services.

The council added that it faces a £50m shortfall in its finances, even taking into account government funding to date. It said it is able to draw down on its reserves, but added it still needs to take out almost £22m from the budget in order to fulfil its duty to balance the books.

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Covid-19 effect on Scottish economy revealed

New monthly data published to track the economic impact of the pandemic estimate that GDP in Scotland fell by 18.9% in April after a decline of 5% in March.

The worst hit sectors have been accommodation and food services, which has seen a decline of 85% over the last two months, and arts, culture and recreation, where output has fallen by over a half.

“These results are very similar to the pattern seen across the UK as a whole and reflect the direct economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland during the first weeks and full month of the lockdown phase,” the report from the Scottish Government’s chief economist directorate said.

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Home and school-based learning must be ‘poverty-proofed’, says charity

Children are sharing workspaces and laptops at home and missing out on seeing their classmates online, as families struggle with the cost of home schooling, a report has found.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) found that families on low incomes who are living on means-tested benefits are particularly likely to have bought extra resources to help their child’s education during the lockdown.

Families living on means-tested benefits were particularly likely to say that they lacked all the resources they needed to support learning at home, with 40% saying they were missing at least one essential resource.

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Bank of England unleashes another £100 billion to boost economy amid signs of ‘less severe’ hit

The Bank of England has launched another £100 billion of economy-boosting action in the face of the coronavirus crisis, despite signs the hit may be “less severe” than first feared.

Members of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted eight to one to expand its quantitative easing (QE) programme to £745 billion, on top of the extra £200 billion announced in March.

The Bank held interest rates at an all-time low of 0.1%, despite mounting speculation policymakers may look to take rates below zero for the first time ever to pull the economy out of its nosedive.

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Social care is running out of cash, experts warn

Social care could run out of money to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus crisis by the end of the summer unless the Government steps in with more cash.

The peak of the crisis may have passed, but the impact on social care will continue for a long time to come, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Care (ADASS) has said. They estimate they will need at least as much funding again as they have already had.

In the second report on the dire state of social care and its funding, the association called for a two-year ring-fenced funding settlement to protect services while a long-term solution is found.

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Council celebrates ‘landmark’ ruling that will save museums thousands

Exeter City Council has welcomed a landmark ruling over the rateable valuation of a Grade II building in a court decision that could save museums thousands of pounds.

The Royal Courts of Justice ruled that the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery’s rateable value should be reduced from £445,000 to £1.

The council was supported by Arts Council England (ACE) and the National Museum Directors Council (NMDC) due to the importance of the case for the sector.

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UK inflation rate falls to fresh four-year low

A record fall in fuel prices, including petrol, pushed the UK's inflation rate down to 0.5% in May, the second full month of the coronavirus lockdown.

Fuel prices declined by 16.7% during the month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, dragging the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) to the lowest level since June 2016.

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New trials planned for cash-stricken communities

Eight locations across the UK, including an army barracks, have been chosen for trials to help solve problems with access to cash.

Organisers hope they will inform debate over the future of cash in the UK, particularly for those who rely on it.

The Community Access to Cash Pilot will test new subsidised ATMs and local cash deposit centres for retailers.

It comes as a new forecast suggests cash use will fall faster in the UK than in much of Europe.

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Younger children ‘struggle with behaviour and focus in lockdown’

Younger children have struggled to cope with lockdown but teenagers are faring well, an Oxford University study suggests.

Parents of primary school age children taking part in the research reported an increase in their children struggling with emotional and behavioural problems and lacking focus.

They saw increases in their children feeling unhappy, being worried, clingy and experiencing physical symptoms associated with worry, according to early results from the Co-SPACE study, set up to monitor how families are coping during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Job cuts warning as 600,000 roles go in lockdown

The number of workers on UK payrolls dived more than 600,000 between March and May, official figures suggest.

Meanwhile, the number of people claiming work-related benefits - which includes the unemployed - was up 126% to 2.8 million.

The early estimates reflect the impact of around six weeks of lockdown in which large parts of the UK were shut.

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'Invisible' unpaid carers going hungry in lockdown

Christie Michael is so worried about protecting her elderly mother that she has not gone outside her front door since the lockdown began in March.

She says it is "lonely and isolating" - but the mother and daughter in Essex have also found themselves hungry.

Research from Sheffield and Birmingham universities suggests more than 100,000 unpaid carers in the UK have had to rely on food banks during the pandemic.

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Toilet fears hamper high street return for some

The high streets, retail parks and shopping centres are buzzing with life again as the coronavirus lockdown eases across England. But in many areas public toilets remain closed. So how are people meant to spend their hard-earned pounds, when they can't even spend a penny?

Laura Reid needs to carefully plan her shopping trips - and won't be visiting any in a hurry. The 27-year-old has irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) so hasn't been to any shops since they reopened because of a lack of toilet facilities.

"The big thing for me when I go out is 'where is the nearest loo' because you've always got that anxiety in your head," said the journalist, who lives in Barnsley."I've avoided going to the shops or supermarket for that reason."

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England's councils 'face large-scale' cuts to services

Some of England's biggest councils could see "large-scale reductions" to services as they attempt to balance the books, new analysis says.

A report for the County Councils Network found that 39 local authorities face a funding shortfall of £2.5bn.

It warned councils may have to "use up" all the money they hold in reserve by next year as they deal with the fallout from coronavirus.

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Coronavirus leaves £500m black hole in London's finances

Coronavirus has left a £500m black hole in the capitals' finances, the Mayor of London has revealed.

Sadiq Khan has warned services, including the police and fire brigade, will need to be cut back without a government bailout.

Local authorities across the country face a shortfall of business rate and council tax income caused by the impact of Covid-19, he said.

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Budget setting could result in ‘large scale reduction’ in services

England’s largest councils could be forced to make “large-scale reductions” in services in order to set legal budgets this year, according to a report from the County Councils Network.

The study, carried out by advisory firm Grant Thornton, reveals that all 39 of the county and unitary authorities surveyed could use up their available reserves in 2021/22 to cover a funding shortfall of £2.5bn.

It adds there is a risk that a “significant” number of councils will be forced to implement service reductions and, as a last resort, issue a section 114 notices in the current year to meet their statutory duty to deliver a balanced budget in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

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Leeds City Council warns of cuts and job losses

The coronavirus pandemic could result in "draconian" cuts in services and job losses without further government support, a council has warned. Leeds City Council said it expected to face a budget overspend of almost £200m this year.

Losses from council tax and business rates as a result of Covid-19 have accounted for £61m of the overspend, Victoria Bradshaw, the council's chief finance officer, said. She outlined the scale of the situation, saying the overspend position for the current year stood at around £197.6m. The authority's total budget for 2020/21 is £530m.

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Free internet to help poorer pupils study online

Free internet access is being offered for six months to help some disadvantaged youngsters study online.

The scheme will provide 10,000 families in England with vouchers for internet access, funded by BT and distributed by the Department for Education. Most primary and secondary pupils are still out of school and learning online. But there have been concerns about a "digital divide" with poorer pupils missing out.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said everything possible would be done to "make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus".

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Council chiefs call for action to resolve £6bn Covid-19 crisis

Local authority leaders have urged the Government to provide detailed plans on how to ensure the financial stability of cash-strapped councils.

Already strained local authority budgets have been placed under more pressure by the pandemic with the Local Government Association (LGA) estimating the funding shortfall for councils this year to be ‘at least’ £6bn.

Speaking in the Commons yesterday, the local government minister Simon Clarke said that the Government was working on a ‘comprehensive plan to ensure financial sustainability of councils this financial year’.

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Council planning powers under threat

Planning powers could be shifted from local authorities to development corporations as part of an economic stimulus package to be announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson later this month.

A panel of experts has been put together by communities secretary Robert Jenrick to advise on changing planning laws that will create a zonal system, transferring powers to development corporations and speeding up permission for infrastructure building, according to reports.

Under the proposals, each council area would be divided up into different neighbourhoods, in which some uses would be permitted and others forbidden.

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Give 1m UK children reliable broadband or risk harming their education, MPs say

The government must urgently ensure that more than 1 million children have reliable internet access at home or risk irreparable harm to their education, a cross-party group of MPs and former ministers has said.

Tony Blair is among a number of prominent figures, including a Tory grandee, to back calls to equip 1.3 million children eligible for free school meals with a broadband connection and devices.

A bill that will be presented to parliament this week says the coronavirus lockdown had “exposed the digital divide”, with about 700,000 children unable to complete any schoolwork because of a lack of internet at home.

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IFS exposes impact of COVID-19 on different areas

The balance of protecting public health and returning to economic activity varies from one area to the next, research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found.

In a report that could have wider implications for a localised response to the virus, the IFS found the cost of lockdown could even vary in neighbouring local authories.

Torbay and the Isle of Wight are the areas likely to be hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, the IFS said, but there is no north-south or urban-rural divide.

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Councils warn they have no legal powers to enforce ‘local lockdowns’

Councils do not have the legal powers to enforce a “local lockdown” across a city, town or neighbourhood to prevent clusters of coronavirus cases spreading widely into the community, local authority leaders have warned.

They called on ministers to urgently spell out what a local lockdown might mean in practical terms or risk a local outbreak spreading out of control, at a hearing of a parliamentary committee.

Greg Fell, director of public health for Sheffield, said that while councils did have the power to act to control smaller outbreaks “in a school or a workplace or a care home” by, for example ordering them to close, that did not apply for larger areas.

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[Coronavirus] '3.5 million jobs at risk' if two-metre rule isn't eased, PM warned

A decision on the future of the two-metre rule will be "underpinned" by science, the foreign secretary has said, as Downing Street was warned "millions of people depend on this decision".

Some Conservative MPs - such as Imran Khan - have claimed 3.5 million jobs are at risk if the restrictions aren't eased.

Speaking at the latest coronavirus news briefing, Dominic Raab the restriction is "something that can be looked at" as the virus is brought under control.

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Four in 10 pupils have had little contact with teachers during lockdown

Four in 10 pupils in England are not in regular contact with their teachers, a study has found, amid mounting evidence of wide disparities in the provision of schoolwork during lockdown and fears that millions of children are doing little or nothing at all.

The report for the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) also found that a third of pupils were not engaged with their lessons, fewer than half (42%) had bothered to return their work, and pupils in the most disadvantaged schools were the least likely to be engaged with remote learning.

As concerns grow about the impact of learning loss on a generation of children locked out of school, a separate study for the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education estimated that two million pupils in the UK – around one in five – had done no schoolwork or managed less than an hour a day.

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[Coronavirus] Oversupply of kits to care homes raises concern over Covid-19 test figures

Care homes are receiving far more coronavirus testing kits than they order, raising concern that the extra supplies help the government inflate the number of people it claims have been tested.

Robin Hall, manager of the Home of Comfort nursing home in Southsea and secretary of the Hampshire Care Association, said her home requested 92 kits and received 150. Other homes in Hampshire asked for 62 kits and got 100, another sought 20 and received 50, and another got 50 after requesting 35.

Gabriel Scally, a member of the Independent Sage committee of scientific and medical experts, said the dispatching of extra kits to care homes appeared to be a deliberate attempt to distort the total that ministers announce at the government’s press briefings as the number of tests carried out.

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Wardens hired to police crowds as high streets in England reopen

Local councils and retail giants will deploy a small army of “social distancing wardens” on Monday to police crowds as non-essential shops open their doors after almost three months of lockdown.

Councils across the country have hired or redeployed staff to ensure shoppers and retailers comply with social distancing rules. And big chain stores, including Primark, Ikea and John Lewis, have brought in extra security staff.

The councils and retailers hope the wardens will prevent unruly queues as people rush back to clothes, homewares and electrical shops that have been closed since March. More than 1,000 people were reported to have queued outside Ikea warehouse stores, some turning up at 5.30am, when the Swedish chain was allowed to open two weeks ago.

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[Coronavirus] jobless total to hit 4.5m as firms wield axe

Boris Johnson has been warned by cabinet ministers to brace himself for unemployment to hit 4.5 million, the highest number since records began, as a poll finds one in three firms is poised to make staff redundant due to the coronavirus.

A survey by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) reveals that 34% of managers are set to lay off staff, with 26% expecting to do so this year.

The findings come before figures this week that are expected to show the worst rise in unemployment since the 1920s.

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Business rates grant money could be clawed back, says IFS

Central government funds given to councils to pay for grants and business rates waivers may have to be paid back if it is unspent, a finance think tank has claimed.

Of the £22bn given to English local authorities, up to £400m could be left unspent, according to calculations by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).

IFS associate director, David Philips, said a lack of a centralised databases of business rates, and the speed at which the scheme was set up meant it was ‘inevitable’ that the initial allocations would differ from the final cost of the grant scheme.

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Prime minister is risking basic right to an education, says children’s tsar

Boris Johnson was accused of putting children’s basic right to education at risk last night, as he faced a mounting chorus of pleas to unveil an unprecedented emergency programme for England’s pupils.

With growing frustration among teachers, MPs and unions over the chaotic return of schools, Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, warned there was a “very dangerous” threat to the historic right to guaranteed education.

She warned that next year’s academic year could be seriously hit, and that reduced access to education was being allowed to become “the default” in some schools. The right to education is enshrined in the UN’s convention on the rights of the child.

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Coronavirus R number may have risen above 1 in parts of England, govt says

The coronavirus reproduction rate may have risen above 1 in parts of England, government scientists have said.

Official figures indicate the rate - known as the R number - is between 0.8 and 1.0 across the whole of England. This range is slightly higher than for the entire UK, where it remains between 0.7 and 0.9.

The figure is crucial in guiding the government's gradual relaxation of coronavirus lockdown measures. If the R value is one, each infected person will on average pass COVID-19 on to one other.

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UK economy shrinks record 20.4% in April due to lockdown

The UK's economy shrank by 20.4% in April - the largest monthly contraction on record - as the country spent its first full month in lockdown.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the "historic" fall affected virtually all areas of activity.

The contraction is three times greater than the decline seen during the whole of the 2008 to 2009 economic downturn.

But analysts said April was likely to be the worst month, as the government began easing the lockdown in May.

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Test and trace funding allocated to councils

Local authorities across England have been allocated a share of £300m to support new test and trace services.

Each upper tier local authority has been awarded funding to develop outbreak control plans, with extra funding provided for communities with lower incomes or higher healthcare demands.

Minister for regional growth and local government, Simon Clarke, said: 'Councils are playing a hugely important role in our national efforts to respond to the virus, and this includes test and trace services.

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Older carers ‘forgotten’ by care system says charity

Older carers have been ‘forgotten’ by authorities despite them bearing the brunt of the pandemic, a charity has warned today.

Age UK said over one million carers aged 70 or over have been negatively affected by coronavirus due to a reduction in care services.

It found that home care packages of support have been cancelled for many older carer during the pandemic, forcing them to take on more caring responsibilities. It argues this has left them feeling forgotten and at breaking point.

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[Coronavirus] Poorest areas of England and Wales hit hardest by Covid-19 – ONS

People living in the poorest areas of England and Wales have been twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as those in less deprived areas, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The analysis reveals the disproportionate impact of the death toll in some places, with London boroughs with high levels of socioeconomic deprivation particularly hard hit.

The figures covering March to May show that people living in the poorest 10% of England died at a rate of 128.3 per 100,000, compared with a rate of 58.8 per 100,000 among those living in the wealthiest 10% of the country.

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‘Simmering community tensions’ spark Covid cohesion concerns

Councils are concerned about rising community tensions in the wake of Covid-19 amid fears that further inequalities caused by a prolonged recession will provide “fertile territory for extremists”.

The concerns come as the death of George Floyd in the US and the higher Covid-19 death rate among BAME communities in the UK has sparked protests over racial inequality across the world.

Several councils have reported concerns to the Local Government Association about simmering community tensions and how this will play out as the country emerges from lockdown.

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Scientists say coronavirus 2m rule can be relaxed

The two-metre social distancing rule can be abandoned by businesses reopening after lockdown if they introduce other measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Government scientists have told ministers.

Following a political backlash against the two-metre rule, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) published a paper on Friday which set out protocols – such as regular breaks, and getting workers to sit side by side – that would make it much safer for people to be within one metre of each other.

Over the past few days, officials have begun discreetly contacting business groups to ask whether they would object to it being watered down, The Telegraph understands.

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Unite to ballot members over ‘insulting’ council pay offer

Around 100,000 council workers will be asked if they want to accept or reject the 2.75% pay offer.

Unite the union will ballot its members over the pay offer which it has described as ‘unrealistic and insulting’. It is warning members that the offer amounts to just £1.83 a day.

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Traffic levels 'now double the lockdown low'

Traffic on Britain's roads is now at a similar level to that seen in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the AA says.

It slumped to between 35% and 40% of the pre-coronavirus volume at the beginning of lockdown but has since doubled to around 75%.

AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens told the BBC that traffic could return to normal "by the end of July".

But Friends of the Earth said pollution should not be allowed to "creep" back to the pre-pandemic level.

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Low-carbon and renewable economy could create 700,000 jobs by 2030, report says

A low-carbon and renewable energy economy could create nearly 700,000 jobs in England by 2030, with the potential of more than 1.18 million jobs created by 2050, according to a report by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The LGA’s “Local green jobs” report showed demand for environmentally friendly jobs would rapidly increase as the UK transitions to a net zero emissions economy.

It also suggested that focussing on a low-carbon economy could help to counter job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which are likely to increase further when the government’s furlough scheme ends later this year.

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Covid-19 crisis means England's local authorities could go bust, warn mayors

Mayors in some of England’s biggest cities are warning that local authorities are at risk of going bust with potentially devastating consequences for communities unless the government takes immediate action.

As the impact of the Covid-19 crisis hits local authorities, the mayors of London, Greater Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool have issued a joint call to highlight the seriousness of the issue and urge Boris Johnson to respond.

“Unless the government acts immediately to support local and regional government in England there is a very serious risk that the economic recovery from Covid-19 will be choked off by a new era of austerity – something the prime minister promised wouldn’t happen,” the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said.

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Robert Jenrick urged to release documents in planning row

Labour has urged Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to publish all correspondence relating to his approval of a £1bn property scheme.

Richard Desmond donated £12,000 to the party two weeks after Mr Jenrick gave planning permission for his company to build 1,500 homes in east London.

The call came after it emerged the developer of the scheme has since given money to the Conservative Party. The Conservatives said policies were "in no way influenced by donations".

The property development was approved the day before the introduction of a new council community levy which would have meant the company paying an additional £40m.

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More than a third of employees furloughed in some UK towns

More than a third of employees in some towns in Britain have been furloughed due to coronavirus, according to figures that also reveal the government’s job retention scheme has now cost almost £20bn.

Crawley in Sussex, which sits next to Gatwick airport, had 33.7% of employees furloughed last month while in contrast Cambridge had just under half that proportion at 17.4%.

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Children face a 'whole series of harms' because their lives were put on hold by school closures designed to protect the middle-aged and elderly from the coronavirus, SAGE paediatrician warns

Children may suffer long-term mental health, social and educational problems because of a decision to shut schools to protect old people, a top scientist warns.

Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of government advisory group SAGE, said youngsters' lives had been 'put on hold' to benefit the middle-aged and elderly.

As a result, he said, millions of children have faced a 'whole series of harms', missing out on education and friendships, and vulnerable children have lost the safety net that going to school each day provided.

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Care homes were ‘afterthought’ with devastating coronavirus consequences

Years of failed efforts to integrate NHS and social care hampered the response to the coronavirus crisis, according to the first independent report into preparations for the pandemic.

The National Audit Office report into the work done to prepare services showed that care home residents were “an afterthought”, Meg Hillier, the chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, said last night.

The report said that 25,000 hospital patients had been discharged to care homes at the height of the pandemic. It said: “Due to government policy at the time, not all patients were tested for Covid-19 before discharge, with priority given to patients with symptoms.” It also found that one in three homes for the elderly had suffered virus outbreaks.

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New powers to crack down on cycle lane misuse by motorists

Local authorities will be given new powers to crack down on misuse of cycle lanes, the Department for Transport has announced.

Councils in England will be able to use CCTV to fine drivers who park illegally in cycle lanes under new laws coming into force on June 22.

It is hoped this will reduce the number of cyclists forced into the flow of traffic because a cycle lane was blocked.

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Rip up planning red tape to spur house building, says Robert Jenrick

The Housing Secretary has called for a rethink of the "overly bureaucratic" planning system, with reform seen as a key part of the Government's economic recovery plan.

Robert Jenrick has said he wants to "speed up and simplify" the process and help young people buy their first home.

Ministers consider planning reform to be one of the ways to get the UK economy going again after the coronavirus pandemic, with work ongoing in Number 10 and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

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Dozens more statues could be removed due to slavery links as councils promise reviews following protests

Dozens more controversial statues face being pulled down after councils vowed to review their monuments following a series of Black Lives Matter protests.

Two slave trader statues have been removed in recent days - one by campaigners at an anti-racism protest and another with the approval of a local authority following a petition.

A statue of slave owner Robert Milligan was removed from its position in the docks he founded at West India Quay, east London, on Tuesday.

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[Coronavirus] Plans shelved for primary pupils to be back in school before summer as figures reveal half have reopened

New figures show around half of primary schools in England reopened to more children last week, as the government scrapped plans for all pupils to return before the summer holidays.

According to the Department of Education, around 659,000 children attended an education setting last Thursday, 6.9% of all pupils who normally attend.

Around 11% of all state nursery and primary school pupils attended education settings on Thursday - the first week that schools in England began admitting children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 as part of a phased reopening as the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

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Councils given extra time to update electoral rolls

Local authority staff will be given more time to complete this year's annual electoral canvass due to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government is extending the deadline for revised registers from 1 December 2020 to February 2021.

It will also allow the upcoming boundary review to be based on data from the previous electoral registers before the start of the pandemic.

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Wiltshire warns of s114 amid £50m shortfall

A £50m financial shortfall resulting from Covid-19 places a “significant risk and threat to the continuation of” Wiltshire Council in its current form, the authority has warned.

The Conservative-controlled council may have to issue a section 114 notice, effectively declaring its bankruptcy, before the end of the current financial year, a report for a cabinet meeting yesterday evening warned.

The document put coronavirus’s financial impact on the council for 2020-21 at £80m, with additional government funding estimated at just £29.8m. When the small impact on last year’s budget is taken into account, the shortfall is £50.6m, equivalent to 15% of Wiltshire’s net budget.

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Social distancing ‘could push leisure providers into bankruptcy’

The strict social distancing regime that leisure centres will have to introduce when they reopen could push some providers to close down centres permanently, council treasurers have warned.

Leisure providers were already facing financial hardship before the Covid-19 crisis hit, with almost two-thirds of leisure centres in need of urgent new investment, according to Sport England. During lockdown, they have faced a financial double whammy of ongoing utility bills while revenues dried up, and many have not received government support.

The District Councils’ Network is forecasting a financial hit to leisure centres of around £305m this year which it claims will send many out of business.

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District to hold emergency budget today to stave off section 114

Stevenage BC will hold an emergency budget meeting this afternoon in an attempt to plug a £4.8m budget black hole, but its leader has admitted that the proposed measures will only “put off”, and “not solve” its financial woes.

The Hertfordshire district has received £917,000 of emergency government funding, which even if the economy is only impacted from April to June is still less than half (49%) the total anticipated cost to the council of dealing with the crisis, according to a report going before council today.

Stevenage is grappling with income losses and cost pressures of £4.8m due to the pandemic and its leader, Sharon Taylor (Lab), has warned that its budget shortfall could rise to £6m by the end of this financial year if the economy does not pick up and more funding from Whitehall is not forthcoming.

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Closure of public toilets causing anxiety, distress and frustration across UK

The ongoing closure of many public toilets across the UK is having a serious impact on wellbeing, limiting people’s capacity to exercise freely or visit loved ones, and creating a significant secondary public health risk as people have no option but to relieve themselves in the open, a Guardian survey and investigation has found.

With reports of bushes in city parks stinking of urine, and human excrement in sand dunes, readers across Britain have described their anxiety, distress and frustration as public toilet closures – coupled with the absence of alternatives in bars, restaurants and public buildings – curtails their daily movements.

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Councils using data analytics to identify vulnerable people

A number of local authorities in England are using data-mining tools to help identify vulnerable people in need of support, including those who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Several authorities are now partnering with data management companies to build a picture of those requiring support and, last month, data management firm Xantura partnered with CIPFA to help identify those individuals most vulnerable as a result of the pandemic.

The process identifies vulnerable people based on a broad set of risk factors, including debt levels; income and reliance on benefits; whether they live alone; and disabilities – as well as wider health issues.

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Council tax warning: Town Halls debt-collecting bailiffs must be banned, Sunak urged

The cross-party group has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to end “heavy-handed” debt collection by local authorities. It warned there is a "growing tendency” for councils to rely on bailiffs to collect tax arrears and the practice is “wasteful and punitive”. Hardline debt recovery tactics have been "widely abandoned" by the private sector because they are costly and ineffective, it adds.

Tory former Cabinet ministers Baroness Morgan and Sir Iain Duncan Smith along with ex-Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and 30 other parliamentarians have written to the Chancellor calling for urgent reforms.

"We are concerned about the regulations governing council debt collection which mean that, on missing one payment, households can become liable for the whole year's council tax bill,” the letter said.

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[Coronavirus] UK economy could be among worst hit of leading nations, says OECD

The UK is likely to be the hardest hit by Covid-19 among major economies, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has warned.

Britain's economy is likely to slump by 11.5% in 2020, slightly outstripping falls in countries such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy, it said. If there were a second peak in the pandemic, the UK economy could contract by as much as 14%.

In its latest assessment, the OECD found that the UK's largely service-based economy meant that it had been particularly badly hit by the government's lockdown restrictions.

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[Coronavirus] Plan dropped for all primary pupils back in school

The plan for all primary school years in England to go back to school before the end of term is to be dropped by the government.

There had been an aim for all primary pupils to spend four weeks in school before the summer break but it is no longer thought to be feasible and instead schools will be given "flexibility" over whether or not to admit more pupils.

Head teachers' leaders said it had never been a practical possibility. It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock conceded at Monday's Downing Street briefing that secondary schools in England may not fully reopen until September "at the earliest".

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[Coronavirus] Cash boost for debt advice as '£6bn tsunami' hits households

The Treasury has announced extra cash to support debt advice charities as a report warns of a £6bn personal debt mountain facing household budgets, directly caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The government said £37.8m in additional support for debt charities in England was the result of recognition that "some people are struggling with their finances" as the COVID-19 crisis lockdown restrictions continue to wreak havoc on the economy, despite just under £50bn being dispersed to prop up jobs and businesses at the last count.

It believed those with annual incomes below £30,000 are likely to have fallen behind since the crisis began.

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[Coronavirus] New coronavirus task force to protect care homes

A task force to drive down infections in care homes and protect them as the lockdown is eased has been set up by ministers who said there had been a 79 per cent decline in deaths since the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

All care home residents and staff will now be eligible for tests after the head of the task force said that asymptomatic cases were a key cause of infections in social care.

More than 12,500 people have died of the coronavirus in care homes and the government has faced accusations that it did not do enough to shield the social care sector as the NHS was prioritised for testing and personal protective equipment.

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£3m fund for urgent work to historic sites to help support recovery

Grants will be awarded for urgent repairs and work on historic sites under a new emergency fund to help the heritage sector recover from the pandemic.

Government heritage agency Historic England has launched a second emergency fund for the sector, following a £1.8 million fund supporting 70 organisations to weather the crisis and help with the recovery.

The new fund, of up to £3 million, will award grants of up to £25,000 each to those who care for some of England’s most significant historic sites, to help pay for urgent maintenance, repairs and investigations.

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[Coronavirus] How are England's coastal resorts faring?

In the 1950s, English coastal resorts throbbed with holidaymakers. Nowadays, seaside towns are more commonly associated with decay and poverty than popularity and prosperity.

Will the effects of the coronavirus lockdown tip these places into a terminal decline - or is there optimism that the government's aim of a further easing of lockdown rules next month will save the vital summer season?

BBC News went to three seaside towns to find out.

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[Coronavirus] Local lockdowns will require local furlough schemes, say mayors

Local furlough schemes must be put in place to compensate workers and businesses in the event of any local lockdowns, regional politicians and business leaders have said.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, announced last month that “we will have local lockdowns in future where there are flare-ups” of coronavirus. But the government has yet to issue any detailed guidance, prompting consternation across local authorities about what such lockdowns will look like and how they will be enforced.

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[Coronavirus] New UK travel quarantine rules a stunt, says Ryanair boss

New rules requiring all people arriving in the UK to self-isolate for 14 days have come into effect. Those arriving by plane, ferry or train - including UK nationals - must give an address where they will self-isolate. Rule breakers will be fined.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the laws were designed "to prevent a second wave" of coronavirus but the boss of Ryanair has said the rules are a "political stunt" and are not a quarantine.

Michael O'Leary told the BBC: "You could be in Sainsbury's, you could be on the beach, you could be on the golf course in the unlikely event the Home Office calls you - all they will have is a mobile number."

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[Coronavirus] PM may bring forward plans to reopen pubs and restaurants

Boris Johnson has agreed to accelerate lockdown easing as he prepares to set out more details later this week.

After receiving dire warnings over the future of the hospitality industry, the Prime Minister has reportedly signed off on a series of measures to help reboot the economy during a meeting with Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor.

Having been told by Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, that 3.5 million hospitality jobs are now at risk, Mr Johnson is expected to bring forward plans to reopen pubs, restaurants and theme parks ahead of the crucial summer period.

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Mayors press for local furlough powers

The mayors of Liverpool and Manchester have urged the Government to provide funds for ‘humanitarian assistance’ during local lockdowns as figures suggest COVID-19 is spreading.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram said they were ‘disappointed’ at the lack of consultation on lockdown relaxations in a joint letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The mayors also said ‘significant support’ will be required in any local lockdown proposals, including a local furlough scheme. ‘The Government urgently needs to provide more policy detail to local authorities on the proposal for local lockdowns,’ they write.

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Clash over call to scrap requirement for annual balanced budgets

Senior councillors from both major parties are calling for councils to be freed from the pressure of having to balance budgets on an annual basis, as the scale of the financial impact of Covid-19 becomes clear.

Figures released by the LGA last week showed the sector is facing a shortfall of £6bn between the financial impact of Covid-19 and £3.2bn emergency funding received from government.

Councils are facing a double whammy of increased costs as a result of new demands for services and lost income from fees and charges as well as council tax and business rates.

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MPs call for clarity on proposed Shared Prosperity Fund

A group of MPs have called on the Government to provide further details on its proposed Shared Prosperity Fund.

The MPs have warned that no details have been published yet about the fund, which is due to replace the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESI) at the start of 2021.

The chairs of the Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Northern Ireland, Scottish, and Welsh Affairs Committees have called for answers on potential timetabling and whether the cost of the Covid-19 crisis will be reflected in financial allocations.

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Council planning powers under threat

Planning powers could be shifted from local authorities to development corporations as part of an economic stimulus package to be announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson later this month.

A panel of experts has been put together by communities secretary Robert Jenrick to advise on changing planning laws that will create a zonal system, transferring powers to development corporations and speeding up permission for infrastructure building, according to reports.

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[Coronavirus] UK daily deaths drop to pre-lockdown level

The UK has recorded its lowest daily rise in the number of coronavirus deaths since before lockdown on 23 March, latest government figures show.

A further 55 people died after testing positive with the virus as of 17:00 BST on Sunday, taking the total to 40,597.

This included no new deaths announced in both Scotland and Northern Ireland for the second consecutive day.

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[Coronavirus] Millions have become carers due to coronavirus crisis, new research finds

Millions of people across the UK have become unpaid carers for loved ones due to the coronavirus outbreak, new research has found.

Data released to mark the start of Carers Week on Monday estimates that 4.5 million more people are now caring for older, disabled or seriously ill family or friends as a result of the pandemic.

This is on top of 9.1 million people who were already caring for loved ones before the crisis erupted.

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Minister slammed for expecting rough sleepers to ‘return to friends and family’

Rough sleeping minister Luke Hall has been told by a senior councillor to "get back to reality" for making "impractical and callous" suggestions to councils that rough sleepers should be encouraged to return to their friends and family.

Mr Hall made the direction in a letter to council chief executives last week, requesting that they set out next-step support plans for rough sleepers housed during the pandemic within seven days.

He asked that when considering move-on accommodation options, councils should “seek to encourage people, where appropriate and possible, to return to friends and family”.

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Boris Johnson considers giving drivers up to £6,000 in diesel and petrol car scrappage scheme

Drivers will be given up to £6,000 to swap their petrol or diesel cars for electric ones under plans being considered by Boris Johnson ahead of a major speech to relaunch the economy.

The move is designed to provide a shot in the arm for UK electric car manufacturing and for the car industry as a whole after it was devastated by the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Johnson is understood to have pencilled in Monday, July 6 for the speech, in which he will set out his plans to get Britain back on its feet. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is expected to make a statement on the economy shortly afterwards.

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[Coronavirus] Care home residents face steep hike in fees

Some older people in care homes are being asked to pay more than £100 a week extra in fees to cover the costs of coronavirus.

Age UK said residents who pay their own fees are facing the bills to pay for protective gear and rising staff costs. It adds "insult to injury" for people who have "been through the mill" during the pandemic, the charity said.

The government said it provided £600m for infection control in care homes and £3.2bn for wider council services.

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[Coronavirus] plans to open shops all day on Sundays

Sunday trading laws will be suspended for a year and cafés and pubs will be given fast-track approval to serve food and drink outside under plans to boost the economy.

Downing Street is drawing up a package of measures in response to mounting concern that Britain will face mass unemployment as it emerges from the coronavirus lockdown.

The government is preparing legislation that will enable larger supermarkets to open for more than six hours on Sundays. Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, are said to be in favour of the move, which is also being pushed by Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Alok Sharma, the business secretary.

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[Coronavirus] Widen rules on where face coverings must be used, say UK doctors

Doctors have urged the government to make face coverings compulsory in all places where social distancing is not possible, not just on public transport.

All passengers on public transport in England must wear a covering from 15 June, the government said on Thursday but the British Medical Association, the doctors' union, said masks "should not be restricted" to transport.

The current guidance in England, which has been in place since last month, advises people to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible, such as in some shops.

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Unlock our lavatories, councils told

Public lavatories must reopen and introduce enhanced safety measures, the government has urged councils.

Government guidance from May 13 said public lavatories could be reopened with stricter cleaning procedures and signs asking visitors to queue two metres apart. However, only a fraction of facilities are open, according to a campaign group calling for greater access to public lavatories.

Councils are responsible for decisions about reopening lavatories, based on risk assessments and whether social distancing can be ensured.

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[Coronavirus] Court action threatened over school meal vouchers

Campaigners have threatened to bring legal action against the government for not providing free school meal vouchers during the summer.

Normally children only get free meals from school during term-time but eligible pupils received food vouchers over Easter as the country coped with the Covid crisis.

The Department for Education said the scheme will not continue in the summer holidays but campaigners say children in vulnerable families will go hungry. They have written to the Department of Education threatening to bring a judicial review of the decision.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes face £6.6bn bill to fight Covid-19

Old people's homes and other social care firms face a £6.6bn bill by the end of September as they battle Covid-19, a new report has warned.

Costs for cleaning, staff and protective gear have surged while revenues are falling and extra funding from government is not believed to be enough to fill the gap, the Local Government Association warned.

Funding fears were raised in a report by Lang Buisson which was commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), and Care Providers Alliance.

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[Coronavirus] Ban on landlords evicting renters extended

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced a two-month extension to the government's ban on evicting renters amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

New evictions in England and Wales of tenants in both social and privately-rented accommodation will be suspended until 23 August.

"No-one will be evicted from their home this summer due to coronavirus," Mr Jenrick tweeted but housing charity Shelter said the announcement was "only a stop-gap".

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[Coronavirus] Calls for post-Covid-19 homeless plan

More than half of frontline services have reported an increase in the need to provide support relating to homelessness since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from charity Crisis.

The report, which surveyed more than 150 charities and organisations, found nearly three-quarters have seen a rise in demand for services to support homeless people since the start of the outbreak.

Of those surveyed, 86% reported a rise in people seeking help for basic needs, such as food, while 60% said they had seen a rise in people “sofa surfing”. In addition, 60% reported an increase in people who have recently lost their jobs and seeking support.

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Hughes gets key OBR role

A former Treasury director has been nominated to become the next chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the public finances watchdog.

Richard Hughes is a former director of the Treasury fiscal group and was previously acting chief economist.

Once his appointment is ratified by the Treasury Committee, Mr Hughes will take over from Robert Chote, the OBR’s first and only chair since 2010, when it was created by then chancellor George Osborn

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Lockdown legacy: debt and public finances

In mid-May, a government document leaked to the Daily Telegraph estimated the cost of government measures to support firms and bolster health and social care services in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Treasury predicted that the UK’s deficit – the amount it needs to borrow to balance the books – is likely to reach £337bn this year.

This would be more than six times the £55bn predicted in the March Budget and the highest level since the Second World War. Officials believe the deficit could rise to £516bn in the worst scenario.

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Councils must challenge Government fearlessly for pandemic cash

Local government is rightly protesting that the Government does not renege on its promise to reimburse local authorities for the financial costs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As has been reported over the last few weeks in the MJ, local authorities have been hit by a double financial whammy. In responding to the public health crisis, they have had to incur significant additional unbudgeted expenditure. They have properly got on with the job, the expenditure has been unavoidable and certainly it has been fully justifiable. However, they have also lost and continue to face major shortfalls in revenue such as car park revenues, income from leisure services and much more.

Seemingly, the Government is not now committing to meet all the additional expenditure and is apparently expecting local authorities to absorb the loss of planned and budgeted income. It is claiming that this is what it promised. This is disingenuous given the strong clear commitments made by ministers, including the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government; and it is irresponsible too.

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[Coronavirus] Thousands of homeless 'back on streets by July'

Thousands of homeless people who have been housed during the coronavirus pandemic could return to the streets by the end of June, a charity has warned. Since the lockdown began, more than 14,500 people who were on the streets or at risk of sleeping rough have been given emergency accommodation.

The government said councils must continue to provide accommodation but councils have asked the government to be clear on what extra practical support they will get.

The councils were given £3.2m from the government as part of an emergency scheme called "Everyone In", which was aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Govt facing legal action unless it admits to acting 'unlawfully' over care homes

The daughter of an 88-year-old man who died in a care home is demanding the health secretary retract his claim that "a protective ring" was thrown around care homes or she will take him to court.

Dr Cathy Gardner, whose father Michael Gibson died on 3 April, wants an acknowledgement the treatment of care homes up to and during the pandemic was unlawful.

In particular she wants an admission that guidelines allowing coronavirus patients to be discharged from hospitals into care homes untested was unlawful.

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Apprenticeship promised for every young person

Every young person in Britain will be guaranteed an apprenticeship, Boris Johnson has announced, as he warned it was “inevitable” that there would be “many, many job losses”.

The prime minister said the government would take an “interventionist” approach as the country recovers from coronavirus in an attempt to ensure the nation “bounces back sharply”.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is preparing to launch an economic stimulus package in July. He has previously warned that the UK faces an unprecedented recession.

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Gypsies and Travellers in England left without water during lockdown

Gypsy and Traveller communities around the country have been left without water and sanitation facilities during the coronavirus lockdown, prompting concern from politicians and charities.

Families in England have no access to sanitation, refuse collection, or water for drinking, cooking, showering and washing clothes, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma (GRT) said in a letter to the Local Government Association.

Some local authorities have directed vulnerable Travellers to uncleaned public toilets with no hand-washing facilities, the letter said, while others are attempting to evict camps. It stressed that these basic facilities were needed for communities to physically distance, self-isolate and follow guidelines on hand washing and hygiene.

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Council stops 300 fraudulent single-person discount claims in one year

West Suffolk Council prevented 299 fraudulent single-person Council Tax discounts last year – resulting in a saving of £240,362, according to figures from the authority.

The council’s billing, collection and debt recovery is administered by the Anglia Revenues Partnership, a service provider which works on behalf of five local authorities including West Suffolk – and the authority has been working with ARP to enhance its fraud-prevention measures.

The local authority also said its fraud and compliance teams are now reviewing all newly awarded single-person discounts, to confirm that customers are still entitled to the discount.

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Brexit delay ‘would hit Scottish GDP’

An additional £3bn could be lost from the coronavirus-hit Scottish economy over the next two years if an extension to the Brexit transition period is not agreed, the Scottish Government has warned.

In a new paper, it argues that failure to negotiate an extension beyond the end of this year could lead to a reduction in Scottish GDP by up to 1.1% by the end of 2022, with the agriculture, fisheries and manufacturing sectors likely to be worst hit.

The UK Government, currently in its fourth round of negotiations with the EU over a post-Brexit trade deal, has until the end of the month to broker a further extension to the transition period.

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[Coronavirus] Thousands of homeless people face being evicted as lockdown is loosened

Thousands of homeless people could be kicked out of hotels and return to the streets at the end of the month if local councils are not giving urgent funding, a charity has warned.

Crisis urged the Government to step in with contracts between local authorities in England and hotels are due to finish at the end of June, when current state funding runs out.

Almost 15,000 people are now in emergency accommodation such as hotels, according to the latest Government figures, after local authorities moved people into safe accommodation during the coronavirus crisis.

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Brits willing to pay an extra penny on income tax to fix social care crisis

A damning survey for the Daily Express reveals two-thirds of those aged 55-plus support the increase. And 41 percent across all age groups agree that a ring-fenced general tax increase is the best way forward. They want an end to the scandal of pensioners handing over their savings and selling their homes to pay for care. The system's failings have been cruelly exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Decade of progress in tackling pupil disadvantage 'wiped out'

Nearly 10 years of progress in narrowing the attainment gap in England between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates has probably been “wiped in a few months” due to the coronavirus pandemic, a study has found.

Analysis by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) charity said the closure of schools to most pupils 10 weeks ago was likely to reverse all progress made to close the gap since 2011.

Responding to the findings, Russell Hobby, the chief executive of Teach First, a charity that aims to address educational disadvantage in England and Wales, said urgent action was needed to tackle the problem.

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Record numbers used UK food banks in first month of lockdown

Poverty campaigners have called for an emergency cash support scheme to help struggling low-income households after UK food bank charities reported that the first full month of coronavirus lockdown was their “busiest ever”.

The charities said their experience of record food bank use in April, following a huge surge in food aid in March, showed it was clear that current social security safety net measures were not enough to prevent poorer families being swept into destitution.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank network, said it gave out 89% more food parcels in April, compared to the same month last year, while the Independent Food Aid Network (Ifan) recorded a 175% increase over the same period.

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Tony Travers: Covid is delivering John McDonnell’s hoped-for economy

The political, economic and social consequences of the pandemic are only just beginning, writes the director of LSE London.

Local government has performed well in the months since Covid-19 engulfed all aspects of British public and private life. Councils have maintained a full range of public provision in the neighbourhoods where 67 million people have overwhelmingly been required to remain on lockdown since late March.

There is no evidence of any reduction in the quality of street services, parks, refuse collection, roads maintenance, children’s social care or public health. Care for older people has faced problems, but these have occurred because of the failure of successive governments to fund the service properly.

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Public sector deposit fund reaches £1bn

A public sector fund run by fund manager CCLA has reached £1bn for the first time since its launch in 2011, due to the financial uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

The Public Sector Deposit Fund’s investor base is made up of 550 parishes, towns, districts, boroughs, counties, pension funds, police forces, fire authorities and housing associations.

The company said the pandemic is hitting many of the regular income streams councils rely on at a time when councils are having to spend more money addressing issues associated with the crisis. To be able to meet potential redemption requests from investors, the fund is holding increased levels of liquidity.

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Fears that nurseries could be forced to close permanently due to effect of pandemic

Nurseries across the region say they are only expecting around a third of children to return this week, prompting fears that some providers could be forced to close down permanently without further Government support.

Nearly three in four (71%) nursery leaders expect to operate at a loss over the next three months amid reduced demand and increased costs associated with operating safely, a survey suggests.

Nurseries are planning for 35% of their usual numbers of children coming back straight away, according to the poll of 528 nursery owners and managers which closed on Monday morning.

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Disruption to schools could continue to November, MPs told

The partial closure of schools in England could continue into the autumn and into November, the Commons education committee has been told.

Primary schools opened more widely to several year groups in some areas this week, 10 weeks after they were closed as part of Covid-19 lockdown measures.

David Laws, chair of education charity EPI, said assumptions all pupils will return in September may be wrong. The committee was hearing evidence on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on education and children's services.

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Deadly risk to social care staff revealed

Social care staff are at higher risk of dying from coronavirus than other occupations, Public Health England has revealed.

The health body’s analysis has shown race, age and income all have a huge impact on the life chances of those falling ill from the virus.

Its report found people of Bangladeshi ethnicity were twice as likely to die as their white British counterparts, while other BAME groups were also higher risk.

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Somerset CC returns to unitary proposals

An attempt to restart local government reorganisation in Somerset has been given a frosty reception by district authorities.

Somerset CC has launched a survey of residents and businesses as part of its business case to replace the five councils with a single unitary authority, due to go before council next month.

County council leader Cllr David Fothergill said: ‘Our focus has been, and continues to be on coronavirus and keeping people in Somerset safe. This goes without saying.

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Wage boards advocated for care workers

Wage boards should be created for low paid staff to improve pay and conditions starting with social care, says a Resolution Foundation report.

The study A new settlement for the low paid says Britain’s 4.2m low-paid workers have been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic with the lowest earners three times as likely to have lost their job or been furloughed as high earners, and more than twice as likely to do jobs exposing them to health risks.

Half the care workers that are clapped every Thursday are paid less than the real Living Wage (currently £9.30 an hour outside London and below the National Living Wage) while up to 160,000 are not even paid the legal minimum wage. The government pre-pandemic pledged to set the National Living Wage at two-thirds of typical hourly pay by 2024.

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District warns of s114 within two months

The chief finance officer of a south-west district has warned councillors he could be forced to issue a section 114 notice in less than two months without further certainty from government over emergency funding.

North Devon DC is forecasting £3.4m of lost income and £600,000 cost pressures as a result of Covid-19. The council has received just over £1m from the £3.2bn emergency funding handed out to councils in the wake of the pandemic, leaving it with a shortfall of £2.9m for 2020-21.

The most significant pressure on the council, which has a £13.3m net revenue budget, is the forecast loss of more than a third of its annual £3m parking income.

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[Coronavirus] Loved ones reunite and children begin return to school - despite warnings over lockdown easing

The wider easing of measures now in place in England will allow groups of up to six people to meet in public spaces or private gardens, while extremely vulnerable "shielded" people can have more social interaction.

Primary school children in reception, year one and year six will return to class, and car showrooms and outdoor markets are reopening.

The new rules also mean families and friends will be able to meet up for picnics and barbecues and travel freely around England, as long as they do not stay anywhere overnight that is not their primary home.

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[Coronavirus]: 'Highly variable' attendance at schools - as UK warned 'disease is not done yet'

Many parents are choosing to keep their children at home after the easing of lockdown measures - as the health secretary insists the UK is "winning the battle against coronavirus".

On the day many classrooms re-opened in England, Matt Hancock said that the falling death rates mean the government has been able to make some "cautious changes to the lockdown rules, safely and carefully".

He said: "The data show that we are winning the battle against coronavirus."

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[Coronavirus] Far too soon to ease lockdown in north-east England, leaders warn

Political leaders in the north-east of England have urged residents to disregard the government’s “reckless” relaxation of the lockdown amid concerns it will lead to a second spike of coronavirus in a region with the UK’s highest infection rate.

On the day that some primary schools reopened and people were allowed to meet more family and friends in England, council leaders and MPs warned that the easing of the measures had come “far too soon” in the north-east.

“Our advice is that people should be staying with the initial advice, which was lockdown, stay socially isolated within our homes until such time as we can have an effective testing, tracking and tracing system in place.”

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Top business leaders call on Boris Johnson to set out green recovery plan

Britain’s most powerful business leaders have called on Boris Johnson to set out economic recovery plans that align with the UK’s climate goals to help rebuild a resilient UK economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Almost 200 chief executives – from companies including HSBC, National Grid, and Heathrow airport – signed a letter to the prime minister calling on the government to “deliver a clean, just recovery”.

The letter emerged days after MPs called on the government to deliver £30bn in green aid to help to accelerate “faster, further, fairer” action to help tackle the climate crisis and the economic consequences of the coronavirus lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Packed beaches see government urged to ban people travelling more than five miles

People should be banned from travelling further than five miles after "awful scenes" on beaches in Dorset over the weekend, a council leader has said.

Three people were seriously injured after jumping into the sea from the limestone arch of Durdle Door on Saturday, with thousands having descended on coastal areas to enjoy the hot weather.

It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week that some of England's coronavirus lockdown measures would be relaxed within days, allowing up to six people to meet outdoors.

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus: No figures yet but Matt Hancock claims test and trace system has been 'successful'

The government's coronavirus test and trace scheme is "up and running" and "successful", the health secretary has declared.

Matt Hancock told the daily COVID-19 briefing that the "vast majority" of new cases of the coronavirus have been contacted since the system was launched last week - but he could not give a specific figure.

The health secretary also told the briefing that a total of 39,045 people have now died in all settings after testing positive for the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Emergency coronavirus budget to save 2 million jobs

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is working on an emergency budget statement in an effort to save the economy, after warning MPs last week that two million jobs would be lost unless pubs and restaurants reopened soon.

Plans to save millions of furloughed workers from the scrap heap and retrain them will be a centrepiece of the address to MPs, which is pencilled in for the week beginning July 6.

His intervention will come after a speech by Boris Johnson at the end of June, which is seen as the opening salvo in a “one-two punch” to put Britain back on its feet once the lockdown lifts.

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[Coronavirus] Blueprint to save the High Street

Town halls have been ordered to overhaul busy shopping areas before retailers resume trading in a fortnight.

Suggestions include 'queue zones' outside stores with spray markings and temporary barriers. The guidance from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government also recommends that pavements be widened 'to accommodate distancing between pedestrians'.

Councils are even encouraged to think about either limiting the number cars driving down high streets or getting rid of them altogether.

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[Coronavirus] Bosses will have to pay fifth of furlough staff wages

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is to announce that employers will have to pay a fifth of the wages of furloughed staff, and national insurance and pension contributions, as the state subsidy scheme is wound down.

Today Mr Sunak will say that employers will have to contribute from August as the lockdown is eased under plans to restart the economy.

He will allow employers to take furloughed staff back on a part-time basis for as many hours a week as they need.

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[Coronavirus] Government extends self-employed scheme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed the government is to extend the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

The scheme, which was introduced in March, saw workers who had trading profits of under £50,000 a year over the past three years qualify for a grant of 80% of their average profits, up to £2,500 per month for three months.

The extension will see eligible people paid a grant of 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total – the grant will be available in August.

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[Coronavirus] Councils could need additional £6bn to balance Covid-19 spend

Local authorities could need an extra £6bn to cover the costs of coping with the coronavirus pandemic this financial year, according to analysis from the Local Government Association.

The organisation analysed returns councils submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on the financial impact of the pandemic earlier this month.

The LGA found that the two emergency tranches of £3.2bn allocated by the government covered costs and income losses so far, but around £2bn more is likely to be needed to cover further costs of responding to the pandemic.

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Welsh government urges lifting of borrowing limit

The Welsh government has urged central government to increase its borrowing limit to help fund the country’s coronavirus response.

Under current rules, the Welsh Government is able to borrow £150m a year for infrastructure, up to a limit of £1bn, and £200m a year for day-to-day spending.

The call was made during the publication of the Welsh government’s supplementary budget, which allocated an additional £2.4bn of spending – 10% more than was planned in the March budget.

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[Coronavirus] Test and trace programme launches in England - but insiders report problems

The government's coronavirus test and trace system is up and running in England - but there are suggestions it may not be fully ready.

Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has been infected with COVID-19 will be asked to isolate for 14 days even if they have no symptoms.

Boris Johnson has acknowledged that being told to self-isolate was a "huge imposition" but people should be aware of why the programme was needed.

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[Coronavirus] UK's most vulnerable people at risk of losing 60% of their income

A loophole in government guidance has caused some of the country’s most vulnerable people to lose up to 60% of their income and is now forcing many to put their health at risk as lockdown comes to an end, one of the UK’s biggest charities has warned.

Around 2.5 million UK residents, hundreds of thousands of whom are in employment, have been identified by the government as being “extremely clinically vulnerable”. They were ordered to shield at home until the end of June, although their employers did not have to furlough them.

Research by Citizens Advice found that of the 2,000 people contacting them for help who were either shielding or at higher risk from coronavirus, over 70% had not been furloughed.

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[Coronavirus] Shop-bought kits taken off shelves for being unreliable

Superdrug is among retailers that have stopped selling a home coronavirus antibody test after the medicines watchdog said that it could give false results.

Laboratories have been told to stop processing commercial antibody kits that use finger-prick blood sampling to determine if someone has had the virus.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said that the process had not been validated for Covid-19 tests so results from home kits should be ignored.

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Committee calls again for social care reform

In a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak the committee highlighted the need for reform of the social care sector based on the recommendations of its 2019 report, ‘Social care funding, time to end a national scandal’.

Giving evidence to the committee last week, Sunak cited the absence of a consensus over funding as a significant barrier to care reform, along with expense.

However, Lord Forsyth, chair of the committee, said that the current funding model is “unfair” and the current circumstances have “magnified” the differences between the NHS and social care.

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Liverpool warns of funding ‘blackhole’

Liverpool’s combined authority has warned its funding gap could hit £250m as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and has written to the government calling for ‘fairer funding’.

The combined authority's Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and its six council leaders have written to the prime minister calling for extra funds, claiming the region has seen higher-than-average infection and mortality rates from Covid-19.

Liverpool City Region has estimated that the bill for the pandemic over the next six months is likely to be around £341m. It has received £100m so far from central government, and the combined authority is concerned that the funding gap could be as high as £250m – adding it is currently losing more than £5m a week.

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[Coronavirus] Lockdown easing to allow groups of six to meet

Groups of up to six people from different households will be able to meet outside in England from Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced.

They can meet in gardens - in addition to parks - as long as households keep two metres apart. "These changes mean friends and family will start to meet loved ones," in what would be a "long awaited and joyful moment," he added.

Currently, people in England can only meet one other person from another household at a distance in a public place.

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[Coronavirus] Government rejected radical lockdown of England's care homes

Public health officials proposed a radical lockdown of care homes last month to stem surging coronavirus deaths, including staff moving in for four weeks and deploying NHS Nightingale hospitals – but it was rejected by the government, the Guardian has learned.

An 11-point plan proposing “a further lockdown of care homes” was submitted to Downing Street on 28 April by officials at Public Health England (PHE), as fatalities peaked in care homes and the virus spread to half of homes in the worst-affected areas.

They urged ministers to “use NHS facilities and other temporary accommodation to quarantine and isolate residents”, and to “consider whether staff can move into the care home for the next four weeks”.

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Government pledges homes for rough sleepers

The government has pledged to provide 6,000 supported homes in a bid to “end rough sleeping for good”.

The proposal includes the fast-tracking of £381m announced?for rough?sleeping?services in the last Budget, alongside £52m of new funding to help make 3,300 homes available in the next 12 months.

The government will work with councils, local leaders and the property sector in a bid to deliver houses as quickly as possible for rough-sleepers, it said, adding that “aftercare” would be made available once people have moved into in, to help ensure they can “rebuild their lives”.

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Sigoma shortfall tops £1bn

Councils serving some of the most deprived urban communities in England still face a shortfall of £1.2bn between the financial impact of Covid-19 and emergency funding received from government, new figures shared with LGC show.

The 47 members of the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities received £841m from the £3.2bn handed out by ministers to councils in response to the pandemic.

However, LGC has been told eight have already used up all of their share on responding to coronavirus or plugging holes in their budgets from lost income while the remainder forecast they will do so next month.

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Tories lose control of district following ‘moral’ resignation over Cummings

The Conservatives have lost control of West Devon BC after a councillor resigned from the party whip in disgust at the Dominic Cummings affair.

Okehampton North councillor Mike Davies resigned from the Tory group to sit as an Independent in protest at the actions of the prime minister’s chief advisor which are widely believed to contradict travel rules introduced to combat Covid-19.

His departure leaves the council under no overall control with the Conservatives controlling 15 of the 31 seats.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes plan to withhold funds to CQC in protest at how they handled coronavirus

Care providers are calling on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to waive its registration fees this year, amid accusations the watchdog has “gone Awol” during the coronavirus outbreak.

The call came after a leading care home body expressed its “disappointment” with the role played by CQC during the Covid-19 crisis.

The CQC charges upto £16,096 in registration fees per year depending on the size of the care home.

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[Coronavirus] Text message tells vulnerable people in UK they are dropped from shielding list

People with cancer, liver disease or severe asthma have been dropped from the UK government’s coronavirus shielding list by text message before their doctors have been able to speak to them.

The decision to remove people with various health conditions from the shielding programme has caused upset. The text also informed people they would no longer qualify for government food parcels.

Many who received the messages last Friday believed they were fake. But the government has since confirmed the texts are correct and are official government communications.

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[Coronavirus] Pubs could reopen next month as Boris Johnson gives hope to Brit boozers

New moves to ease the two-metre social distancing rule could bring more cheer. Boris said: “We may be able to do things faster than I thought.” The PM said pubs, restaurants and hotels may all reopen next month.

He is also expected to announce new rules allowing two households to meet for barbecues at tomorrow afternoon’s three-week review of the coronavirus lockdown.

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Applications for government’s £1bn fund to remove unsafe cladding open next week

Applications for the government’s £1bn fund to remove dangerous cladding from high-rise buildings will open on Monday.

More than half a million people in England and Wales could be living in homes with unsafe cladding, analysis by industry body the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) said in February.

Leaseholders say they have been stuck in homes they cannot sell, as bills run into the tens of thousands to remove cladding approved under building regulations but subsequently deemed unsafe following the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people.

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[Coronavirus] All non-essential shops to reopen from 15 June - PM

All non-essential retailers will be able to reopen in England from 15 June, Boris Johnson has announced, as part of plans to further ease the lockdown.

However, the move is "contingent on progress in the fight against coronavirus", and retailers will have to adhere to new guidelines to protect shoppers and workers, the PM added.

Mr Johnson said new guidance had been published for the retail sector "detailing the measures they should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards".

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Care workers should be better paid and valued after Covid-19 – poll

There has been a dramatic shift in the public’s perception of care workers as a result of the coronavirus crisis, with most people believing they should be better paid and better valued, according to a survey.

The poll, which was published on Tuesday by the gender equality campaigning charity the Fawcett Society, found 65% of respondents supported an increase in income tax to fund a pay rise for care workers, a figure that rose to 68% among Conservative voters polled.

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Exclusive: Councils in England and Wales face £3.4bn funding black hole

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Councils across England and Wales have told ITV News the coronavirus pandemic has already left them with at least a £3.4billion hole in their finances and without more government help they will have to make severe cuts to services.

More than 200 councils have responded to our survey and 16 of those say they've already discussed issuing a 114 notice, which bans all new expenditure except safeguarding vulnerable people and statutory services. The only other time that has happened in history is with Northampton in 2018.

Eighty-three per cent of councils say the government hasn't given them enough to fill the shortfall and 22 per cent of councils have told us that if that doesn't happen soon, they'll have to make cuts to services.

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'Local lockdowns' to be introduced in UK for future coronavirus 'flare-ups'

Future "flare-ups" of coronavirus infections could lead to localised lockdown measures, the health secretary has said.

Matt Hancock revealed stricter social distancing measures could be introduced in certain areas in future as part of the NHS "test and trace" system for continuing to suppress the spread of COVID-19.

"We will have local lockdowns in future where there are flare-ups," he said at the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Tuesday.

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[Coronavirus] 'Virus could be here for year' so schools must open, says education secretary

"The coronavirus could be with us for a year or more" so children cannot continue to stay out of school for "months and months" longer, says Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

But he told BBC Breakfast he recognised there would be "initial nervousness" among parents about children returning.

Teachers' unions have warned it is not safe to open England's primary schools on 1 June.

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England to provide 3,300 homes for homeless after coronavirus

The government has vowed to make 3,300 homes available within 12 months to prevent rough sleepers housed in emergency pandemic accommodation in England returning to the streets.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will bring forward £160m of its £381m, four-year rough sleeping services budget to be spent this year.

Six thousand “housing units” will be built using the money and rough sleepers housed through the scheme will be provided support for mental health or substance abuse issues.

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[Coronavirus] Boris finalises plans to lift lockdown as package worth hundreds of millions unveiled

Ahead of Monday’s crunch Cabinet meeting to make the final decisions on lifting lockdown, the Government has revealed a package worth hundreds of millions of pounds to allow normality to begin to return and the economy to get going again.New measures include investment in high streets and the transport network to make them safe to use again.

They will also unveil an advanced trace and test system with 25,000 contact tracers recruited as part of the largest virtual call centre operation in the country.

Other measures include a risk assessment report which shows Parliament can return to normal business and end the hybrid arrangements when MPs return from their recess on June 2.

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[Coronavirus] People urged to stay away from UK beaches over bank holiday weekend

Pictures of crowds flocking to beaches in Brighton and Southend in recent days have raised concerns over social distancing.

Following the easing of some lockdown measures last week, there are no restrictions on how far people can travel to get to the countryside, National Parks and beaches in England.

Councillor Carmen Appich, from Brighton & Hove City Council, urged anyone thinking of travelling to the city "to consider very carefully how their journey will impact on others".

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[Coronavirus] Transport network to get £283m for Covid-19 protection measures

Roads, railways, buses and trams are to receive a £283m funding package to improve public safety and protect services, the transport secretary has announced.

Grant Shapps said the funding – £254m for buses and £29m for trams and light rail – would increase both frequency and capacity of services while ensuring there is enough space on vehicles to allow for social distancing.

In addition, 3,400 people, including British Transport police officers and Network Rail staff, have been deployed at stations to make sure passengers follow the physical distancing guidance put in place.

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[Coronavirus] Councils throw 1 June schools reopening plan into doubt

Only 20 of 99 councils to respond to a BBC Breakfast survey said they were advising schools to open more widely on Boris Johnson's target date. Of the 99 who responded, two thirds (68), could not guarantee schools would reopen to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

On Thursday the governments of Scotland and Northern Ireland announced plans for a phased return to school for pupils, starting in August. Ministers have been insisting that they would only be calling on schools in England to reopen in June if the scientific advice said it was safe to do so.

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Government has ability to make end of rough sleeping permanent if it wants, MPs say

The government's decision to end rough sleeping during the coronavirus pandemic could be made permanent with the right financial commitment and strategy, a cross-party parliamentary committee has said.

MPs on the housing and communities committee said it was "feasible" for the current situation to become "the new norm" if the government took the right action, with the progress made during the pandemic a "golden opportunity".

90 per cent of rough sleepers have been given accommodation during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with many put up in hotels and temporary accommodation.

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UK borrowing at record high as virus cost soars in April

The government borrowed £62.1bn in April, the highest monthly figure on record, according to official figures.

It underlines the cost of coping with the coronavirus pandemic through jobs schemes and loans, and is double the forecast of many economists. The cost of furlough schemes had the largest impact, hitting £14bn in April.

Mr Athow said it was impossible to forecast the current year's public finances because of the "high amounts of uncertainty". Tax receipts have fallen heavily, with the government deferring some payments, while Treasury income from VAT and air passenger duty are down significantly.

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£300 million additional funding for local authorities to support new test and trace service

Local authorities will be central to supporting the new test and trace service in England, with the government providing a new funding package of £300 million.

Local authorities to work with government to support test and trace services in their local communities. £300 million will be provided to all local authorities in England to develop and action their plans to reduce the spread of the virus in their area. Work will build on the continued efforts of communities across the country to respond to the pandemic locally.

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Rough Sleepers Could Return To Streets As Councils Warn Of Funding Shortfall

Rough sleepers taken off the streets as coronavirus hit the UK face being made homeless again because councils have not been given sufficient funding from the government to support them.

When the outbreak hit Britain in March, ministers asked local authorities in England to house all rough sleepers and those in hostels and night shelters, with hundreds of people being put up in hotels in a bid to isolate them from infection.

But in evidence to a parliamentary inquiry, councils have warned the initial £3.2m provided by central government fell well short of the actual cost they incurred.

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Local authorities to receive extra £300m for test and trace services

Local Authorities in England will be supported with an additional £300m in funding to help roll out the new test and trace service.

The Department of Health and Social Care announced today (May 22) that local authorities will be ‘central’ to supporting the new service, and will be asked to develop tailored outbreak control plans, in collaboration with local NHS and other stakeholders.

Work is to begin imminently, focusing on identifying and containing the potential areas of outbreaks in workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools.

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Vouchers to fix your old bike and more space on roads as part of biggest ever cycling push to be launched next month

Vouchers will be issued to pay for repairs to old bikes and more road space will be protected for cyclists, in a new Government initiative launching next month, the Telegraph understands.

Following unprecedented levels of walking and cycling across the UK during the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has fast-tracked statutory guidance which tells councils to reallocate roadspace for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians.

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Channel migrants: Lone children 'could overwhelm council services'

The rising number of child migrants crossing the Channel by boat risks overwhelming social services, the leader of Kent County Council has said.

Roger Gough appealed to Priti Patel to "prevent a crisis escalating into something unmanageable and unsafe".

The Home Office said payments to councils to deal with the problem "significantly increased" in May 2019 but, Mr Gough said the numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) had to levels seen during the height of the European migrant crisis in 2015.

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Ministers considered cap on care costs before coronavirus outbreak

A personal cap on care costs in England was being considered by ministers prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the BBC has learned.

The idea was raised during talks with Sir Andrew Dilnot, the former UK statistics chief, whose proposals for a cap were abandoned in 2017.

Sir Andrew's proposals would have introduced a more generous means-test for government funding, as well as a lifetime limit on social care costs. They were put into law in 2014 under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, but delayed and then eventually ditched under David Cameron.

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[Coronavirus] NHS and social care staff to get coronavirus antibody tests from next week

NHS and social care staff will be given antibody tests revealing whether they have had coronavirus from next week, ministers are to announce on Thursday.

In a move designed to reduce frontline workers’ anxiety and provide data on how many people have had Covid-19, hundreds of thousands of workers will be offered access to the blood tests, which must be processed in laboratories.

Public Health England (PHE) validated two laboratory-based antibody tests from Swiss-based Roche and US-based Abbott last week, and another – from the Welsh firm Ortho Clinical Diagnostics – this week.

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus forces two million people to fall behind on council tax bills

Two million people face debt collectors and hardship after falling on their council tax bills due to the impact of coronavirus, charities have warned.

Citizens Advice, the Money Advice Trust and StepChange Debt Charity said action is needed to prevent households being pushed over a council tax enforcement "cliff-edge".

The three charities welcomed the Government's temporary ban on bailiff visits to enforce debts during Covid-19 restrictions, and said its measures to protect people's finances during the crisis have been a lifeline.

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[Coronavirus] Up to 1,000 care homes could go bust in wake of Covid crisis

Up to 1,000 care homes are predicted to close as financial pressures heaped on the sector by coronavirus could soon make business unsustainable, experts have said.

At least two homes have already shut their doors temporarily. The closures are expected to trigger a domino effect across the long-term care sector, which employs more people than the NHS and is estimated to be worth about £31bn.

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[Coronavirus] Benefit claims fraud could be £1.5bn

Benefit officials have told the BBC they fear that as much as £1.5bn may have been lost in fraudulent claims for Universal Credit in recent weeks.

Huge demand for the benefit has seen some processes relaxed to ensure the majority of claims are paid quickly but officials believe that some organised crime groups - as well as individuals - may have taken advantage of the system.

While officials are keen to emphasise that the vast majority of claims came from genuine applicants, especially in the initial surge, they fear the looser checks have opened the door to individuals and some organised crime groups exploiting the system.

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[Coronavirus] Councils create own local outbreak plans amid lack of clarity from centre

Directors of public health are drawing up their own local outbreak plans to manage sporadic local Covid-19 surges as the economy is reignited, amid frustration at a lack of a national agreement on how local outbreaks should be managed.

LGC understands that discussions are taking place in Whitehall on what form local outbreak management plans, which outline the measures needed to get future localised outbreaks under control, should take.

One source described councils as being "stuck in a catch 22 position" - "trying to influence what shape of their role will be while waiting for national directive". "It is hard to operate in that context".

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[Coronavirus] Cost of government Covid-19 measures revealed

Covering the government’s response until 4 May, as well as any commitments of at least £500m made until 15 May, the NAO found £111.3bn has been spent on grants and payments, £5bn on loans and £8bn on increases to benefits.

The spending commitments included £82.2bn for businesses, including through the job retention scheme as well as loans and grants, and £6.6bn for health and social care measures.

“The scale and nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and government’s response is unprecedented in recent history,” said Gareth Davies, head of the NAO.

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[Coronavirus] Government increases large business loan scheme

The government has announced it will quadruple the size of loans available through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £50m to £200m.

The CLBILS was launched last month, and allowed firms with turnover of more than £250m to borrow up to £50m from lenders, with an 80% guarantee from the government.

Those using the scheme will now be able to borrow up to 25% of their turnover, up to a maximum of £200m.

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[Coronavirus] New 'on the spot' COVID-19 swab test being trialled

A coronavirus test that can give results in 20 minutes is being trialled, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The swab test, which will tell people if they currently have coronavirus, has proved effective in clinical settings and does not need to be sent to a laboratory to be processed.

The trial is beginning in Hampshire and will be rolled out in a number of settings, including A&E departments without access to laboratories, GP coronavirus testing hubs and care homes.

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[Coronavirus] Majority of Cabinet want Boris Johnson to ease coronavirus lockdown

Boris Johnson is under pressure to ease the lockdown restrictions causing "massive damage" to the economy, with the majority of the Cabinet understood to support a major "back to work" drive next month.

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is among ministers who have expressed concerns about the long-term "scarring" to the economy being caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Provided there is no unexpected increase in the rate of virus infections over the next 10 days, they want the Prime Minister to allow as many businesses as possible to reopen in order to get the country moving again.

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NHS fees to be scrapped for overseas health staff and care workers

NHS staff and care workers from overseas will no longer have to pay an extra charge towards the health service after mounting pressure from MPs.

Boris Johnson's spokesman said the PM had asked the Home Office and Department for Health to exempt NHS and care workers "as soon as possible".

Mr Johnson himself stood by the charge on Wednesday, telling MPs he "understood the difficulties faced by our amazing NHS staff", but said the government "must look at the realities" of funding the NHS.

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New rules would see councils warn ministers before a s114

Finance directors would need to warn the government before they issued a Section 114 notice during the coronavirus pandemic, if new rules get the go-ahead.

Under existing rules, which would remain in place, section 151 officers must give a warning to the council cabinet and the external auditor if they are going to freeze spending while they try to balance the budget.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) are now in talks with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to include the warning to ministers – which would give the government the opportunity to intervene if they wished.

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[Coronavirus] Most apprentices losing work and learning opportunities amid Covid-19

Apprentices are being furloughed or made redundant by firms due to the Covid-19 crisis – and the majority are missing out on work experience or learning opportunities, a survey suggests.

The pandemic is having a significant effect on apprenticeships, according to a Sutton Trust report, which warns that a fall in apprenticeship starts is likely to be exacerbated by the crisis.

A YouGov poll of 156 employers suggests that more than three in five (61%) say their apprentices have lost out on learning or work experience as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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[Coronavirus] Directors of public health fear ‘shambles’ over contact tracing

Some senior directors of public health have told LGC they are still being kept in the dark on how government plans for track and tracing will be rolled out nationally, and have raised fears it will result in a “shambles” on the same scale as personal protective equipment (PPE) and Covid-19 testing.

They also expressed concern that DPHs have been described as "co designing" the track and testing programme in Whitehall press briefings when in fact their role is more minimal. "We are inputting our perspective and sharing our knowledge, but that is not the same as co-designing," one source said.

The government announced this week that it has employed 21,000 contact tracers, many of whom have been recruited as call handlers by Serco, and there has been criticism of the training that Public Health England is providing to undertake contract tracing work.

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[Coronavirus] Thirty ways Covid will change how councils work: Nos 1-10 [opinion]

Following two months during which home working took off and social care’s plight finally became universally known, local government will never be the same again. Here, experts from around the sector – in no specific order – map the new landscape.

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[Coronavirus] Ministers row back on 1 June schools opening as councils voice concerns

The body that represents local authorities across England has set out serious concerns over proposals to reopen primary schools on 1 June, as ministers appeared to row back on the idea after sustained criticism from councils and school leaders.

With just 11 days until the government’s schools deadline, the Local Government Association, which represents most local authorities in England, said councils should be given access to local coronavirus testing data in order to safely reopen schools.

The government had said it wanted children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 to begin a phased return to schools from 1 June, with other years following soon after, so that primary children have a month of school before the summer holidays.

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Government to review TfL finances following Covid-19

A review into Transport for London’s funding and finances is to begin immediately, transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced, following the agreement of a controversial £1.6bn rescue package last week.

TfL’s main sources of funding are fares, commercial activity, the congestion charge, grants from the Greater London Authority, borrowing and existing cash reserves.

The largest source is from fares, with the body’s 2020-21 budget forecasting £5.1bn of its total £9.7bn of funding coming from passengers.

Since the lockdown, income has dropped by 90% according to a report published by TfL last week, and the operator now predicts a £4bn drop in revenue this year – adding that it will need £3.2bn to balance a proposed emergency budget.

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[Coronavirus] Over 20 care homes warn council there may be 'imminent' collapse in sector

More than 20 care homes in the northeast of England have sent a legal warning to their local council over fears of a collapse in the sector, Sky News can reveal.

In the letter the care homes have declared what is called "force majeure", or a major incident.

Sky News obtained a leaked copy sent to North Tyneside Council which warns that if action isn't taken to provide funding and support within five days the care market in that area will start to collapse.

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[Coronavirus] UK records lowest increase in COVID-19 deaths since lockdown began

The UK has recorded its lowest daily coronavirus fatality figure since the nationwide lockdown began, with 160 further deaths.

The increase - the lowest recorded by the Department of Health since 24 March - takes the total to 34,796.

On Sunday, the UK had recorded its lowest daily number of deaths in 53 days, as 170 new deaths were announced, although today's figure marks another small drop.

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[Coronavirus] Regional lifting of lockdown needed to prevent coronavirus flare-ups, new modelling suggests

A regional lifting of the lockdown is necessary in order to prevent coronavirus from growing in some areas, new analysis suggests.

The Tony Blair Institute has developed a model that compares the mobility of people in different parts of the UK to how fast the virus is spreading in order to work out whether there is room for lifting restrictions.

It shows that, across England, the movement of people in shops and workplaces and on transport has dropped to around 40 per cent since lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Jobless claims surge by record 856,500 in April to highest level since 1996

Official figures have shown a surge of 856,500 people submitting benefit claims last month as the coronavirus crisis took its toll on jobs.

The update from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the so-called claimant count, measured through Universal Credit applications, at its highest level since 1996 at 2.1 million in total.

Shortly after the ONS data was released, the Treasury confirmed it was expanding the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) to enable larger firms to access up to £200m from next week - up from £50m.

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[Coronavirus] Luton Borough Council faced with 'stark' savings

A council which is facing a £49m black hole in its finances is set to make £22m cuts in an emergency budget.

Luton Borough Council said it was in response to financial pressures brought on by the coronavirus crisis. The authority expects to lose out on £37m revenues from Luton Airport due to a huge drop in passenger numbers.

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[Coronavirus] 'Desperate' care homes plea with council for 'immediate financial support' after struggling to get government cash

Care homes in Sheffield have written to their council saying they are "in desperate need of immediate financial support", ITV News has learned.

Palms Row Healthcare, which owns three homes in Sheffield, complains that the local authority has only offered a 5% increase in funding to deal with the costs of Covid-19.

So far the government has promised a total of £3.2bn in additional funding for councils, with a further £600m earmarked specifically for infection control in care homes.

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[Coronavirus] London councils launch procurement partnership as care homes face PPE challenges

A care home manager has described the difficulties in sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) as a new London-wide procurement scheme is launched to provide kit for frontline workers at risk from coronavirus.

The partnership among all of the capital’s councils aims to distribute more than 48 million items of PPE kit in the next 12 weeks.

The emergency supplies, which began being delivered last week, will be prioritised for the under pressure social care sector.

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[Coronavirus] Data delay left care homes ‘fighting losing battle’

Care homes in England were planning their response to the coronavirus pandemic "with their hands tied" because data about outbreaks in the sector were not published until the end of April, an industry body has said.

Public Health England had counted more than 4,500 Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes before it issued its findings, figures reveal.

The National Care Forum voiced concerns at the data not being shared but PHE said it was used by health protection teams and to brief ministers.

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Ministers pile pressure on councils over business grants

Business secretary Alok Sharma has expressed concerns that some councils have paid out less than 80% of their grants to small firms.

Mr Sharma has written to those councils that are languishing towards the bottom of a performance league table, asking them to explain the reasons that have prevented them from paying out a greater proportion of grants and the further steps they are taking to address this.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) recently confirmed that it will be accountable for any support grants paid out in error or due to fraud as long as councils have ‘done what is reasonable and practicable to have avoided this in the first place and then having exhausted all reasonable and practicable steps to recover any over-payments’.

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Raise taxes for those who live near parks, report says

People who live near parks should pay higher taxes to help maintain them, a report recommends.

The NHS should also be given a role in maintaining parks and creating new ones because they are vital in improving physical and mental health, according to the Social Market Foundation (SMF) think tank.

It recommends copying the system used in some US cities, where authorities have the power to charge homeowners a levy for the upkeep of local parks. In Seattle, the tax is about £6 a month for a home worth £410,000.

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[Coronavirus] Better-off children 'studying more than poorer pupils'

A survey of families in England suggests better-off children will have studied for around seven days more than their poorer peers by next month.

Children in the highest-income families spend six hours a day on education, but the poorest spend four and a half.

Paul Whiteman, head of the National Association of Head Teachers, said teachers want to see pupils back in class - but they want to understand the scientific reasons as to why the government has said it is safe to return.

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Charities call for 'vital' early intervention funding to safeguard children

Funding cuts to children's services have left councils unable to cope with the current crisis, charities have warned today.

New analysis by the Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, Action for Children, NSPCC and the National Children’s Bureau shows that councils can only afford to help children when they reach crisis point and need costly interventions.

The research shows that funding for children’s services has fallen by £2.2bn in the past decade, with late intervention now accounting for 58% of local authority spending on children and young people’s services.

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[Coronavirus] Meeting with Leeds Council leaders to discuss C-19 recovery

Council chiefs and leaders in Leeds are set to discuss the latest coronavirus response report and recovery plans in an online meeting tomorrow (Tues 19).

The executive board of Leeds City Council will analyse and consider the work being done to support recovery in the city as well as planning the delivery of work still to be done as lockdown measures start to ease.

The council’s response so far has included tens of thousands of free meals and food parcels for the most vulnerable in communities, over 5,000 active volunteers, who have answered more than 11,000 helpline calls, 6 million items of PPE delivered to care settings and £128m in grants to Leeds businesses.

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[Coronavirus] Government considers bypassing councils to get cash to care providers

The Government is considering bypassing local authorities and channelling extra funding directly to care providers to ease cash flow concerns. It comes after ministers told councils to pass on government funding to care providers amid concerns about funding not reaching care homes dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced £600m of funding would be allocated to local authorities for infection control in care homes.

Martin Green, chief executive officer of Care England, which represents providers, said not enough of the money so far had reached his members and called for the latest £600m to go directly to the frontline.

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[Coronavirus] £5bn needed to stop local cuts say county councils

English councils have called on the government to provide a £5bn "income guarantee" to prevent local authorities from having to cut services as the coronavirus hits finances.

The County Councils Network has warned councils could lose £2.4bn as income from tax and business rates fall. The group said councils would have "no choice" but to suspend non-essential expenditure and cut services.

Cllr Richard Watts, who chairs the Local Government Association's resources board, said: "Some councils have warned that they will soon face the prospect of Section 114 reports - this would lead to spending blocks and in-year cuts to the vital local services that are supporting communities through this crisis and the national effort to beat this deadly disease."

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Councils' bets on property market 'battered' by Covid-19 closures

Councils who borrowed billions to make risky investments in offices and retail parks have taken a “battering” during the coronavirus pandemic as tenants default on rent. The shortfall could put frontline services at risk, as some councils depend on commercial rents for the majority of those budgets, the Bureau can reveal.

The Bureau has previously shown how local authorities borrowed money to gamble on property investments in the hope rents would make up for major cuts in Westminster funding. The sudden fall in commercial rents, along with a slump in traditional forms of revenue such as business rates and council tax caused by the pandemic, has left councils in a double bind.

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[Coronavirus] Councils call for 'higher risk' schools to be allowed to decide whether to reopen

Schools should be allowed to make their own decisions about reopening – especially in areas where there is a higher proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic residents, council leaders have said.

It comes ahead of Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, and the government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance, meeting teaching unions to discuss schools in England reopening.

The LGA wants councils to be given more powers to close schools if testing indicates clusters of new Covid-19 cases – and it says the Government should urgently publish the scientific evidence underpinning the decision to reopen England’s schools to more pupils from June 1.

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[Coronavirus] ONS survey estimates 148,000 coronavirus cases

An estimated 148,000 people in England are infected with coronavirus, according to the most comprehensive national survey yet.

Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said that the figures, which came from a long-awaited Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey and exclude care homes and hospitals, represented “quite a low level of infection in the community”.

The household survey, which excluded care homes and hospitals, calculated that on average about 0.27 per cent of the population were infected at any point between April 27 and last Sunday. Those working on the front line in health or social care were much more likely to be infected than those in other professions, at 1.33 per cent against 0.22 per cent.

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[Coronavirus] Homeless people put up in hotels amid pandemic face being kicked out, leaked report says

Hundreds of homeless people face being back out on the streets during the lockdown after a scheme was quietly scrapped, according to a leaked report.

The Government has pulled funding for Manchester's 'Everyone In' scheme, which has been putting up homeless people in hotels and hostels.

In Manchester alone almost 1,600 homeless people with nowhere to self-isolate had been sheltered in emergency accommodation.

A report seen by the Manchester Evening News from the Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government (MCHLG) to the region's combined authority announced the programme would no longer be funded.

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[Coronavirus] Councils resist government's changed 'stay alert' message

Areas with higher coronavirus rates have urged residents to stay at home amid fears the Government’s change of message to ‘stay alert’ was confusing.

Local authorities in Merseyside, which has a ‘significantly higher’ death rate than England and the rest of the north-west, warned that the region was not ‘through the worst of this’ while the message in the north-east, which has the highest rate of coronavirus infection in the country, continues to be for people to stay home.

The comments come amid first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, refusing to adopt the Government’s stay alert slogan.

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Homeless will not be turfed out, says Casey

Reports the Government is planning to let hundreds of rough sleepers return to the streets have been denied by Number 10’s homeless adviser.

The Government’s ‘Everyone in’ scheme saw more than 1,600 rough sleepers taken off the streets amid the coronavirus crisis. Now the Manchester Evening News (MEN) has reported that leaked documents reveal plans to scrap the system.

But homeless adviser Dame Louise Casey has told The MJ, that plans were afoot to rehome people, as the scheme moves on to the next phase.

‘We need to move people out of commercial hotels and into better options than that,’ Dame Louise said.

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Ministers facing renewed pressure over push to reopen schools

Education unions are meeting the chief medical officer and other experts today to discuss the government's push to reopen schools in England amid mounting criticism of the approach.

Unions and the Local Government Association (LGA) have expressed concerns as ministers push for a gradual reopening of classrooms from June 1.

But the teaching unions have faced their own backlash over their approach, with former Labour education secretary Lord Blunkett saying: "I am being deeply critical of the attitude.

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Councils in England fear they will have to make cuts of 20%

Councils in England fear they will have to make budget cuts of 20% and face a social care funding shortfall of £3.5bn due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour claims local authorities are facing a £10bn black hole as they encounter spiralling costs while revenue streams such as parking charges dry up amid the lockdown.

Cuts of up to 21% could be needed to balance the books, according to the analysis by Labour, seen by the Guardian. They could see a shortfall of up to £3.5bn across the local government social care sector, with 225,000 adult social care places put at risk within this financial year, it says.

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Birmingham City Council 'was sent PPE six years out of date'

A council has asked for government reassurance that a supply of personal protective equipment for staff on the front line against Covid-19 is safe, despite being six years out of date.

Birmingham City Council said it received a delivery in April of about 4,000 masks with 2014 use-by dates.

The authority claims a further supply was sent to it with plain stickers covering the 2014 date with a 2019 one.

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[Coronavirus] New £600m funding to support care home ‘lockdown’

The £600m adult social care infection control fund announced by the prime minister yesterday is to be used to help “lockdown” care homes by paying staff not to work in more than one setting.

Details of the fund, announced by Boris Johnson at prime minister’s question time yesterday, were sent to council chief executives and other senior officers this lunchtime by the Department of Health & Social Care.

The letter, from care minister Helen Whately and seen by LGC, confirms the cash will be handed to councils and receipt of it by adult social care providers will be “conditional” on compliance with information reporting requirements set by the government.

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[Coronavirus] Inquiry over Covid-19 patients sent to care homes

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is considering whether human rights laws were breached by hospitals discharging older patients into care homes, The Telegraph understands.

Shortly after the lockdown began on March 23, Government guidelines encouraged care homes to accept discharged patients if they were asymptomatic, without testing. The guidance was abolished last month – but care providers warned that it was too late and "the damage was already done".

According to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, deaths in care homes made up 40.4 per cent of overall coronavirus fatalities across England and Wales in the week to May 1.

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[Coronavirus] Government considers free parking in town centres to keep workers off public transport

Free parking could be laid on in town centres to encourage people to use their cars rather than public transport to get to work, Grant Shapps has hinted.

The Transport Secretary said he was in talks with local authorities about making it easier for motorists to park near their workplace to help minimise crowding on trains and buses.

He is also in discussions with cinemas and other entertainment venues that are currently closed about opening their car parks for workers.

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Impact on UK GDP becomes clearer

The ONS said the economy contracted by 2% in the three months to March, following zero growth in the final quarter of 2019 – the largest quarter-on-quarter reduction since the final quarter of 2008.

The decline was due in large part to a 5.8% fall in March, the biggest monthly fall since the ONS measurement began in 1997 – and that only reflected the first full week of lockdown.

The fall included a 1.9% drop in services output – including retailers, travel agents and hotels – and a 2.6% reduction in construction sector output during the quarter.

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Public sector pay freeze ‘dangerously demoralising’

According to a Treasury assessment reported by the Telegraph newspaper, the UK’s deficit could reach £337bn this year, and a pay freeze for public sector workers could be implemented to help fill the funding gap.

The document warned that a ‘policy package’ of tax increases and spending reductions, as well as an end to the triple lock on pensions, could be deployed to help offset the financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is a huge own goal by the government. Public sector workers are on the front line, saving lives, keeping people safe and maintaining the economy,” Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said.

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[Coronavirus] Care-home resources ‘should be allocated at local level’

Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced plans to allocate an extra £600m to help infection control within care homes.

The government is yet to publish details on exactly how the additional funds will be allocated, but the move was welcomed by the Local Government Association.

“This extra funding for infection control in care homes is good news and will help councils’ public health teams in their efforts to reduce and prevent coronavirus outbreaks,” said Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

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Councils face £10bn funding 'black hole'

Councils could be forced to cut billions from social care services due to a £10bn 'coronavirus black hole,' Labour has warned today. The analysis, based on 2019/20 budget estimates, warned that local authorities may need to cut adult social care by £3.5bn.

There would also have to be £2bn cuts to children's social care and £700m cuts from public health budgets, Labour said.

Labour’s shadow local government secretary, Steve Reed, said: 'Local authorities are the biggest funders of social care in England so when the Government promised to stand behind councils through this crisis Labour supported them.

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[Coronavirus] GDP down 2% as UK economy struggles with pandemic

The UK economy shrank by 2% in the three months to the end of March - the first official look at the financial effects of the lockdown.

The fall was the biggest since 2008 and included a contraction of 5.8% in March GDP alone - the biggest monthly fall on record.

The UK went into lockdown near the end of the quarter in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, so the GDP figure is only a partial representation of the lockdown's financial impact.

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Ministers were warned two years ago of care homes' exposure to pandemics

Ministers faced fresh allegations on Wednesday of failing to prepare care homes for a pandemic, as it emerged that Covid-19 may have killed 22,000 residents in England and Wales – more than twice the official toll.

Council social care directors in England warned the government two years ago, in a series of detailed reports, about care homes’ exposure to a pandemic, the Guardian has learned.

They called for better supply plans for personal protective equipment – warning that “demand for PPE could rapidly outstrip supply” – plus improved infection control and a system to enlist volunteers to help services expected to be stretched to breaking point.

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[Coronavirus] First coronavirus antibody test given approval by Public Health England

A coronavirus antibody test kit has been approved by Public Health England (PHE), The Telegraph has learned, in a breakthrough that could be key to easing the UK's lockdown restrictions.

The Telegraph understands that the Department of Health is in negotiations with the Swiss healthcare company Roche to buy millions of the kits.

The accuracy of the test was given approval by experts at PHE’s Porton Down facility last week.

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[Coronavirus] Chancellor Rishi Sunak warns of 'significant recession'

The chancellor has said it is "very likely" the UK is in a "significant recession", as figures show the economy contracting at the fastest pace since the financial crisis.

The economy shrank by 2% in the first three months of 2020, as coronavirus forced the country into lockdown.

Rishi Sunak told the BBC that just "a few days of impact from the virus" in March pushed the economy into decline.

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Jenrick warned of ‘massive cuts’ as treasurers prepare Covid returns

Councils serving some of the most deprived communities will be left with no choice but to make massive cuts or declare themselves bankrupt, the communities secretary has been warned.

In a letter to Robert Jenrick, sent ahead of the submission of the second round of returns on the financial impact of Covid-19 to government on Friday, Sir Stephen Houghton, chair of the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities says members face a shortfall of £1.4bn as a result of the pandemic. This is even after their £842m share of the £3.2bn coronavirus funding is taken into account.

Highlighting figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that death rates from coronavirus are almost twice as high in the poorest parts of the country than the wealthiest, Sir Stephen says additional funding for councils must consider the impact of deprivation and the costs of social care, which he describes as “the most immediate cost-pressure our councils face”.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes faced funding cut if they didn't take in COVID-19 patients

Several councils threatened to withhold funding to help care homes deal with the coronavirus outbreak if they didn't agree to take in COVID-19 patients, Sky News can reveal.

It comes as dozens of care homes fear a government policy allowing the transfer of coronavirus-positive or untested patients is a "major factor" in why COVID-19 deaths are so high.

The policy was changed in the middle of April but some care homes believe the damage had already been done by then.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes to get extra help from NHS

All care homes across England will be given enhanced clinical support by local hospitals and GPs from Friday to shore up the sector against the coronavirus as criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis increases.

The National Care Association said government advisers should apologise for being too slow to act, for not testing staff and residents in homes and diverting protective equipment to the NHS while patients with Covid-19 were sent out of hospitals into care homes.

All nursing and residential homes will have a named clinician, either a local GP or other specialist, to support the medical needs of residents. Homes will be given equipment, such as pulse oximeters, to help monitor patients remotely with plans for regular “virtual wards” to help teams of specialists assess each patient.

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[Coronavirus] NHS shielding letters miss thousands of cancer patients

Tens of thousands of cancer patients have not yet received letters advising them to “shield” themselves from the coronavirus threat, The Times has learnt.

Peter Johnson, national clinical director for cancer, has written to charities asking for their help in tracing the missing patients and alerting them to the need to take stringent self-protection measures against infection.

His appeal comes as the government increased by one million its estimate of the number of people at greatest risk of severe illness should they contract Covid-19.

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[Coronavirus] Bus firms face struggle as lockdown eases

Bus operators face a challenge to restore services for returning workers amid union claims lockdown easing plans had caused "chaos and panic".

With fewer passengers allowed on each bus and the government encouraging people to avoid public transport, firms say fares will not cover their costs.

Unions are also concerned about safety amid reports of higher death rates linked to Covid-19 among male drivers.

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[Coronavirus] Rishi Sunak extends furlough scheme to OCTOBER and government will STILL cover 80 per cent of pay with staff able to come back part-time

Rishi Sunak today extended the government's massive coronavirus bailout to October.

The Chancellor said the multi-billion pound subsidy, which had been due to end next month, will stay in place for four more months, and it will still cover 80 per cent of wages up to a ceiling of £2,500 a month.

With concerns the scheme is costing £14billion a month - roughly equivalent to the NHS budget - Mr Sunak also told the Commons that from July it will be available for workers who go back part-time, in a bid to 'wean' businesses off the support.

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Finance chiefs say Government could underwrite tax losses for councils

The Government could protect councils from financial collapse by underwriting the potential loss of council tax and business rates, finance chiefs have claimed.

Councils reeling from the cost of the coronavirus and are increasingly concerned that they will not be able to balance their budgets.

Despite early reassurances of financial assistance, Robert Jenrick back-tracked last week and said the Government would only pay for the services it had requested.

While the funding so far has eased cashflow issues, the longer-term financial stability for councils is at risk if they can’t collect council tax and business rates in a post-COVID recession.

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‘Honour your promises’, cash-strapped Lancs leaders tell ministers

Lancashire’s 15 council leaders have jointly signed a letter to ministers demanding that promises are honoured to fully reimburse local government for the cost of responding to Covid-19.

This comes as 25 MPs have signed a separate letter demanding a “sufficient and long-term funding settlement for councils as a matter of urgency”, acknowledging the sector needs more funding to cover its costs and income losses resulting from coronavirus.

The Lancashire leaders, including Conservative leader of Lancashire CC Geoff Driver, expressed dismay that the councils’ collective share of the second tranche of £1.6bn funding from the government fell by £6m in comparison to the first.

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Whiteman: ‘We want to avoid the risk of a public negotiation’ on funding

The 2021-22 budget setting round will be the “toughest ever” faced by local government, MPs have been told, with councils also finding it “harder and harder” to hold off making in year cuts as a result of the financial impact of coronavirus.

Giving evidence to the public accounts committee on Monday, Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy chief executive Rob Whiteman said councils did not yet know how much the cost of wages and personal protective equipment will go up in social care or how much their income will plunge by. They were also anticipating a spike in care for vulnerable children, he warned.

He said planned savings in social care were “not now going to be deliverable in the new economy post covid” but it would be “a disaster” if chief finance officers were forced to freeze expenditure while emergency actions are being deployed.

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[Coronavirus] Care home deaths 'starting to decline'

The number of coronavirus deaths in care homes across the UK has started to fall, figures show.

A review of death certificates showed there were 2,800 deaths linked to the virus in the most recent week - down 12% on the week before.

It brings the virus death toll in care homes to more than 9,700. The data also showed that between mid-March and early May more than 50,000 more deaths have been recorded than would be expected during this period.

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[Coronavirus] Testing for coronavirus in UK care homes a ‘complete system failure’

Care home operators have accused the UK government of “a complete system failure” over testing for Covid-19 after officials repeatedly deflected responsibility for the task and left vulnerable residents unchecked.

As ministers admitted it will be more than three weeks before all homes are offered tests, care home managers said lives have been put at risk and conditions for dementia sufferers worsened because of the government’s failure so far to test hundreds of thousands of staff and residents.

The programme was announced by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, two weeks ago but only tens of thousands of people have been tested.

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[Coronavirus] Dementia patients three times more likely to get severe coronavirus, study finds

Dementia patients are three times more likely to develop severe coronavirus, the first study of the issue has shown, with experts saying they should be added to the shielded list.

The analysis, by the University of Exeter and the University of Connecticut in the US, looked at which conditions put people at the greatest risk from the virus.

It was already known that some conditions, such as diabetes and lung disease, exacerbate Covid-19, but it is the first time dementia has been found to be a major risk factor.

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[Coronavirus] Councils face losing tens of millions of pounds in coronavirus crisis

Councils across the region face losing tens of millions of pounds as a result of the coronavirus crisis, raising serious concerns about whether vital services could be cut.

Bath & North East Somerset Council and Bristol City Council are just two local authorities calling for more financial support from central Government.

They warn they could be forced to make "tough decisions" in the months ahead as they try to protect frontline services for the most vulnerable.

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[Coronavirus] Public advised to wear face coverings in PM's 50-page plan for lifting lockdown

In a new 50-page blueprint for lifting the lockdown in England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants all primary school children to have at least a month's teaching before the summer holidays and some hairdressers and beauty salons back in business at some point in late summer.

The document, called "Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government's COVID-19 recovery strategy", sets out the three-phase approach, starting this week with further lockdown loosening at the start of June and further changes potentially from 4 July.

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[Coronavirus] Furloughed workers set to be allowed back part-time

Furloughed staff who go back to work part-time may have their wages subsidised by the taxpayer as ministers battle to prevent as many as 1.2 million redundancies when the economy reopens.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under pressure to set out plans to extend the taxpayer-backed furlough scheme and make it more flexible amid bleak forecasts suggesting that many workers hoping to head back in will be laid off due to the economic downturn.

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[Coronavirus] School classes to have 15 pupil limit, Government's new coronavirus guidance says

Class sizes should be split in half with a 15 pupil limit and corridors should operate a “one way” system, the Government’s new coronavirus guidance for schools says.

When primary schools begin their phased reopening next month, the beginning and end of the day will be staggered to avoid congestion at the gates, according to advice published on Monday by the Department for Education.

Children will be expected to spend their break times and lunch with the other children in their class, to ensure that they are only mixing within their group of 15 pupils plus their teacher.

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Warning over coronavirus and commercial investment cocktail

Worried finance chiefs have warned some councils that invested in commercial property have been put at increased risk by the coronavirus pandemic.

MPs on the Public Accounts Committee this week heard that councils had spent £6.6bn on commercial property between 2016 and 2019 – 14 times more than in the previous three years.

Mr Whiteman criticised the £1bn borrowed by Spelthorne BC for commercial investment, adding: ‘You don’t have to be accountant of the year to know that’s quite a lot of excessive leverage and commercial risk.

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Unite expected to urge pay offer rejection

Trade union Unite is expected to recommend that its members reject the employers ‘final’ 2.75% pay offer at a national committee meeting later this week.

Unions have hit back at local government employers’ attempts to close down talks on pay.

The unions have lodged a formal request to join with the Local Government Association, Welsh Local Government Association and Northern Ireland Local Government Association in approaching Whitehall to fund a bonus to employees in recognition of their response to the COVID-19 emergency.

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Chiefs to develop care home resilience plans

Council chief executives will be put in charge of developing and reviewing council-level care home resilience plans.

The move by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) aims to help the Government better understand the care sector’s resilience.

Under the new regime, local partners will have to collectively rate their confidence across a range of measures designed to support care homes, highlighting any areas of concern.

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Shielding improvements on agenda for LGA and Whitehall

The Local Government Association is working with Whitehall to improve the support system for the more than two million people being shielded from coronavirus.

Provision of better data about the clinically vulnerable is among the issues that have been highlighted after the sector raised a number of concerns about the sharing of information.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is understood to be in touch with a range of councils to look at ongoing issues with data and food deliveries.

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[Coronavirus] PM unveils 'conditional plan' to reopen society

Boris Johnson has unveiled a "conditional plan" to reopen society, allowing people in England to spend more time outdoors from Wednesday. The PM also said people who could not work from home should return to the workplace - but avoid public transport.

He said a new Covid Alert System with five levels would govern how quickly lockdown restrictions could be eased.

He hoped the next step "at the earliest by 1 June" would be for some primary pupils to return to school in England.

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[Coronavirus] Businesses want 'clear guidance' on return to work

Business groups have called for clarity on what will need to change in the workplace as Boris Johnson unveils a "conditional plan" to reopen society.

"Businesses need their practical questions answered so they can plan to restart, rebuild and renew," said the British Chambers of Commerce.

The prime minister said those who could not work from home should be "actively encouraged to go to work" in England.

Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said businesses were "keen to open and get the economy back on its feet". "But they also know putting health first is the only sustainable route to economic recovery. The message of continued vigilance is right," she said.

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[Coronavirus] PM to review lockdown restrictions with cabinet

Boris Johnson will review the coronavirus lockdown in England with his cabinet later, after suggesting some rules could be eased from Monday.

By law the government must review the restrictions every three weeks, and Thursday marks the latest deadline. The prime minister will address the nation on Sunday to outline plans for the next stage of the lockdown.

The "stay at home" message is expected to be scrapped, with ministers keen to restart the economy.

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[Coronavirus] Care home crisis is a bitter regret, admits Johnson

Boris Johnson has expressed “bitter regret” at the epidemic of infections in care homes as questions mount over whether a decision to speed hospital discharges helped to start outbreaks.

The prime minster was told to “get a grip” as he was pressed by Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, over the latest figures showing that deaths in care homes were still rising.

Mr Johnson insisted there had been a “palpable improvement” in the death rate in recent days and said that “tens of thousands of people” had been working to get more personal protective equipment into care homes.

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[Coronavirus] Bank of England scenario sees biggest annual slump in GDP since 1706

The Bank released its first work on the potential impact of the lockdown measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 as its monetary policy committee left interest rates unchanged at their record low level of 0.1%.

The expectation of a 14% decline in economic growth this year would be the worst since 1706.

It said the figure was also dependent on significant support from both the Bank and government with cash currently available from a range of schemes to support businesses, employment and wages.

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Colchester becomes latest council to furlough staff

Colchester Borough Council has become the latest of around 20 authorities to furlough some staff in a bid to offset the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The council expects the crisis will leave it with a £10m shortfall this year – government funding notwithstanding – and has become the latest of a swathe of authorities to turn to the job retention scheme.

Furloughed staff will continue to receive full pay, with the council topping up the 80% contributed by central government. Those employees will be asked to return to a role within the council as quickly as possible, when opportunities arise, the authority said.

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Many children with special educational needs ‘failed’ by system – report

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) are seeing their education, well-being and life chances “damaged” by failings in the system, MPs have warned.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said education, health and care plans (EHCPs) have become a “golden ticket” that parents fight for to secure support for their children.

Children with Send who do not have a plan risk missing out on the provision they need, especially in mainstream schools that are under financial pressure, according to the findings.

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Coronavirus: Social workers brace for a surge in child protection referrals when schools re-open

Social workers are bracing for a surge in referrals of vulnerable children when schools re-open again as abuse and neglect suffered by youngsters in their homes goes unnoticed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Children’s Commissioner said resources would be needed for councils and schools to meet the needs of thousands of pupils who are facing heightened risk during the UK's lockdown, which she warned could have a long-term impact on both their mental wellbeing and education.

Local authorities warned they would struggle to cope with the expected surge in demand without additional support from central government.

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[Coronavirus] Jenrick: Councils so far receiving more Covid funding than they say they need


Councils are currently getting more money from the government for their Covid-19 response than they say they need, the communities secretary has said.

Robert Jenrick also told Wednesday’s 10 Downing Street briefing that Whitehall would “take into consideration” extra costs faced by councils as the result of action they have been required to take by the government.

The briefing saw regional journalists press the communities secretary on the shortfalls councils are reporting between the impact of Covid-19 on their finances and the money pledged by the government.

Mr Jenrick said his message to council leaders was “we will stand behind them and ensure they have the resources that they need to carry out the absolutely critical functions that they are playing in our national response to the coronavirus”.

It comes after Mr Jenrick’s appearance at the Commons housing, communities & local government committee on Monday caused widespread concern.

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[Coronavirus] 'Abandoned' care homes warn councils of legal action

Care home managers have questioned whether local authorities should face corporate manslaughter charges over their response to coronavirus.

Councils have been accused of failing to hand over extra funds from the Government, leading one manager to accuse local authorities of “sitting on your hands, watching people die”.

The Government has given councils an extra £3.2 billion to cover the costs of coronavirus and last week told them to spend up to 10 per cent more on social care.

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Business rates revaluation postponed

A revaluation of business rates will no longer take place in 2021 to help reduce uncertainty for firms affected by the impacts of coronavirus.

Legislation had been introduced to bring the next revaluation forward by one year from 2022 to 2021, but following the recent economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic ministers want to ensure businesses have more certainty during this difficult time.

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Jenrick spending pledge ‘backtracking’ sparks widespread dismay

Senior council leaders have reacted with shock and anger to news that central government will not commit to footing the whole bill for their Covid-19 spending.

On Monday, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said councils should not “labour under a false impression” that Covid-19-related costs over and above what government set out it expected of them will be reimbursed.

Council leaders have accused him of backtracking on previous commitments, made on March 16, to “give councils the support they need” to contribute to the national effort to tackle coronavirus.

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DfE urged to get a ‘grip’ of SEND system

The Department for Education lacks “grip” of the education system for children with special educational needs and disabilities, MPs on the Commons’ public accounts committee have found.

In a report published today, the committee says the department acknowledges the current system is inadequately funded and considers the “difficult position” of many councils and schools “helps to explain” why half of local authority areas have been found not to meet expected standards.

The Department for Education lacks “grip” of the education system for children with special educational needs and disabilities, MPs on the Commons’ public accounts committee have found.

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[Opinion] Tony Travers: Councils face multitude of dilemmas as they plan for recovery

The UK, in common with most countries, has been transformed by many weeks of social and economic disruption. Life as we knew it is unlikely to return to normal till the middle of 2021 at the earliest, and the economy will not fully recover till 2023 or 2024. Councils now have to turn to the step-by-step move away from lockdown, thinking through policies that allow local businesses to return, as far as possible, to a degree of normality.

Alok Sharma, the business secretary, has been working with officials and industry representatives on steps to shift from a full lockdown to a partial one with social distancing. Local authorities will need to take account of guidance issued from Whitehall but also to think through policies which are sensitive to their particular circumstances.

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Jenrick warns not all costs will be covered and brands lost income estimates ‘highly speculative’

Councils should not “labour under a false impression” that Covid-19-related costs above and beyond what had been expected of them will be reimbursed, communities secretary Robert Jenrick has warned.

Giving evidence to the Commons' housing, communities and local government committee on Monday, Mr Jenrick also said the second £1.6bn of grant funding for local government as a result of the pandemic had been intended to compensate district councils for income losses as well as direct costs arising from the crisis. However, he cautioned the government would not bail out councils as a result of "unwise investments".

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Jenrick insists local government will have input into contact tracing

Local government will play an “important role” in designing the contact tracing system crucial to the next phase of the response to Covid-19, communities secretary Robert Jenrick has said.

Speaking at the Commons housing, communities and local government committee on Monday, Mr Jenrick refuted the suggestion that the sector would not have an input into the scheme following reports that the bulk of the work will be contracted out nationally to at least two companies providing 15,000 call centre staff.

Mr Jenrick said bodies such as the Association of Directors of Public Health will be "important in designing the model". “Local authorities will be asked to contribute staff, some of whom have huge experience to bring to that,” he said.

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[Coronavirus] Teachers warn of early school return 'spike'

Teaching unions across the UK and Ireland are warning national leaders not to reopen schools too early.

The British Irish Group of Teacher Unions has written to the education ministers of all five nations in which the million staff it represents work.

Its letter warns the ministers of the "very real risk of creating a spike in the transmission of the virus by a premature opening of schools".

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[Coronavirus] Firms need up to three weeks to exit lockdown, government warned

The government is being warned that businesses will need up to three weeks to resume activity once the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) urged ministers to maintain financial support and deliver clear instructions in the coming days, to give firms time to prepare themselves as supply chains remain limp and staff away from the workplace.

It issued the plea as the prime minister prepares to update the nation on the state of play this weekend as the UK continues to make progress in bringing down infection and death rates from COVID-19.

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[Coronavirus] 'Segment and shield' way to lift UK lockdown now

Strengthening protection for people shielding, while easing restrictions for everyone else, is the only immediate way to safely lift the UK's coronavirus lockdown, researchers say.

They say people could be sorted into three groups by risk - the most vulnerable, those caring for or living with them and everyone else.

It is not pain-free or perfect, they say, but could lift curbs for many yet still protect the NHS and save lives.

Their unpublished work uses modelling.

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[Coronavirus] Treasury rolls out small business 'bounce back' loans

Businesses will be able to apply for loans of up to £50,000 from Monday in a scheme backed by the Treasury.

The new scheme, dubbed bounce back loans, will offer smaller amounts than the existing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

But the Treasury says they will be quicker and easier to apply for and will have a 2.5% interest rate. The form will be seven questions long and the loan is 100% guaranteed by the government.

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[Coronavirus] Antibody tests could be approved by Public Health England this week

A first coronavirus antibody test could be approved by Public Health England (PHE) this week, with hundreds of thousands available each week if officials give the green light.

Government scientists are currently evaluating the accuracy of a test made by Roche, which was cleared for use by the US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday.

They are expected to report their findings by the end of the week, the Swiss manufacturer said last night.

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[Coronavirus] The eight-year-old carer looking after her mum and sisters in lockdown

Large numbers of young carers are struggling to cope with looking after their loved ones by themselves during the lockdown.

Many who look after a parent or help care for a brother or sister face the risk of mental health problems because support they would normally receive has been removed due to coronavirus restrictions.

Under regulations set by the government to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, many of the obligations on local authorities to ensure those in need are cared for have been relaxed.

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[Coronavirus] Launch of PPE delivery system for care home staff hit by delays

A planned Amazon-style delivery system for personal protective equipment to care workers will not be nationally available for at least another fortnight, the housing and communities secretary has told MPs, before weekly figures for deaths in care and nursing homes which are on course to rise by more than 2,000.

Robert Jenrick told the housing, communities and local government select committee on Monday that the logistics system for PPE could take three more weeks to launch.

Jenrick told the committee he wanted the Clipper system to be brought online “as quickly as we possibly can” but said it was still being piloted.

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Robert Jenrick pledges more than £76m for charities to help domestic abuse and trafficking victims in England

The government has pledged more than £76m in a new funding for charities to help survivors of domestic and sexual abuse and victims of modern slavery in England.

Speaking at the government's daily coronavirus briefing at Number 10, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that the Domestic Abuse Bill going through parliament will ensure victims "get the priority need status that they need to access to local housing services much more easily".

Mr Jenrick said it will be fully-funded - ensuring that no one has to choose between staying somewhere they know is unsafe or becoming homeless.

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[Coronavirus] Council bosses 'short-changed' by government fund

Leaders from the larger local authorities fear the second round of emergency funding will still fail to cover their costs during the pandemic.

Whitehall has confirmed how it will allocate the second £1.6bn package to support councils. Smaller district and borough councils will receive a greater proportion of the funding this time around.

Council bosses faced with a rising social care bill say the fund does not address their pressures. One leader in the North East told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the area had been left "short-changed" by the latest round.

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[Coronavirus] Calls for clarity as tips due to reopen

Households in parts of England may be able to take their extra rubbish to their local tip this weekend but despite a government plea, some councils have said further measures are needed before refuse sites reopen.

Those authorities say they will only reopen with sufficient staffing, proper protective equipment for workers and assistance from police forces.

On Tuesday, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick told the Commons he expected tips to reopen "within weeks". Some areas have reported a rise in fly-tipping since the coronavirus restrictions came into force.

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[Coronavirus] Care home coronavirus deaths could be four times higher than official figures suggest

Care home deaths could be four times worse than official figures suggest, with new analysis showing that more than 17,000 deaths in homes across the UK are linked to coronavirus.

At Wednesday's Downing Street briefing, the Government unveiled its improved daily reporting system, which includes clinically confirmed virus deaths in care homes and the community as well as hospitals, for the first time.

The additional 3,811 deaths confirmed between March 2 and April 28 meant the total UK coronavirus death toll stood at 26,711 on Thursday.

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Pothole-related breakdowns up 64% in first three months of 2020, figures suggest

Vehicle breakdowns caused by potholes increased by nearly two-thirds during the first three months of 2020, new figures suggest.

The RAC received 3,426 call-outs for problems such as distorted wheels, broken suspension springs and damaged shock absorbers between January and March. This was up 64% on the previous three months and 5% on the same period in 2019.

“In his Budget in March, the Chancellor committed to funding our local roads and it is clear that the economic recovery as the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic will need to be built on solid infrastructure – which of course needs to include good quality roads.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson says UK is past the peak of outbreak

PM Boris Johnson said he will set out a "comprehensive plan" next week on how to restart the economy, reopen schools and help people travel to work following the coronavirus lockdown.

He said the UK was "past the peak" of the virus outbreak, but stressed the country must not "risk a second spike". Mr Johnson said face masks will be "useful" as part of the strategy for coming out of lockdown.

More than 81,000 coronavirus tests were carried out on Wednesday, still short of the Downing Street's target of 100,000 by the end of April. Mr Johnson insisted: "We're massively ramping up testing."

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Fair Funding Review delayed further

The delay to the review was confirmed by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, as it announced the allocation for the latest round of coronavirus funding.

The review will set a new baseline funding allocation for local authorities based on up-to-date needs and resources – but was initially delayed in September 2019 with a consultation then set to take place this summer.

The department said the delay would “allow councils to focus on meeting the immediate public health challenge posed by the pandemic”.

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Coronavirus: County councils say non-essential spending at risk

County councils in England have warned they may have to suspend non-essential spending because of what they say is a £600m shortfall in their budgets.

They said they faced tough choices after getting less than expected in an emergency government coronavirus fund.

They suggested ministers had favoured smaller district councils despite the fact they and unitary authorities were responsible for social care provision.

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Coronavirus: County councils say non-essential spending at risk

County councils in England have warned they may have to suspend non-essential spending because of what they say is a £600m shortfall in their budgets.

They said they faced tough choices after getting less than expected in an emergency government coronavirus fund.

They suggested ministers had favoured smaller district councils despite the fact they and unitary authorities were responsible for social care provision.

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[Coronavirus] Councils vying for emergency virus cash

Ministers are facing competing demands from councils across England for a £1.6bn emergency coronavirus fund.

County councils and unitary authorities, which are legally responsible for providing care for the elderly in their areas, say they ought to be prioritised as they are facing an added £1.3bn financial burden,

The County Councils Network, which represents 36 county councils and unitary authorities, has warned already stretched social care budgets could come under further strain if funding mechanisms are "dramatically altered".

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[Coronavirus] UK failed to stockpile crucial PPE

The government failed to buy crucial protective equipment to cope with a pandemic, a BBC investigation has found. There were no gowns, visors, swabs or body bags in the government's pandemic stockpile when Covid-19 reached the UK.

NHS staff say they are being put at risk because of the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). The government said it has taken the right steps and is doing everything it can to increase stocks.

The investigation by BBC Panorama found that vital items were left out of the stockpile when it was set up in 2009 and that the government subsequently ignored a warning from its own advisers to buy missing equipment.

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[Coronavirus: Lockdown] exit must take domestic abuse rise into account - May

The government must consider the impact of the lockdown on domestic abuse and mental health as it plans its exit strategy, Theresa May has said.

The former prime minister said measures to tackle coronavirus must not do "more damage than the disease itself".

She spoke as MPs debated the Domestic Abuse Bill, amid evidence of rising violence during the lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Contact tracing can’t be run by Westminster, experts warn

Ministers must relinquish their top-down control of the coronavirus epidemic after the lockdown to allow millions of people potentially infected with Covid-19 to be traced and supported by local teams in their own communities, say experts.

Urgent discussions have begun between central government, local authorities and public health officials about the 18,000-strong army promised on Friday by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to help trace the contacts of people who test positive or have symptoms of the coronavirus.

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Local dumps to reopen for your rubbish - but only if you book an appointment and bring ID

Council-run tips might reopen as early next week but householders could be asked to book appointments and produce proof of identification before throwing away their rubbish.

In one of the first indications that the coronavirus lockdown is starting to be relaxed, Robert Jenrick, the Local Government secretary, said he wanted town halls to draw up plans to reopen local tips.

However the experience of visiting the tip for many is likely to be different from normal with householders being asked to book time slots online and produce a bank statement to show where they live to gain access.

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Government confirms allocations of £1.6 billion funding boost for councils

Individual councils in England have had their funding allocations confirmed following Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick’s announcement of £1.6 billion in additional funding.

The £1.6 billion funding, recently announced, means councils in England will be provided with over £3.2 billion to deal with the immediate impacts of coronavirus.

During the pandemic, councils are playing a crucial role and this extra funding will help them to continue to deliver frontline services and support to those who need it most, as well as meeting new pressures.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson back at Downing Street to lead response

Boris Johnson has returned to Downing Street to take charge of the UK's response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The prime minister will chair the regular morning cabinet meeting on Covid-19 before holding talks with senior ministers and officials.

He arrived back at No 10 on Sunday evening amid mounting pressure from Tory MPs to begin lifting the lockdown but Health Minister Edward Argar said "now is not the time to ease up" even if people were feeling frustrated.

The latest official figures bring the total number of deaths in UK hospitals to 20,732, after a further 413 were announced on Sunday.

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[Coronavirus] Bosses appeal to the government for a lockdown exit plan

The government must set out its lockdown exit plans to restore confidence among British businesses that have become increasingly bleak about the economy’s future, a leading employers’ group has warned.

The Institute of Directors said its 28,000 members were “clamouring” for information so they could start drawing up return-to-work plans. Jon Geldart, its director general, said it was in everyone’s interests to kickstart the economy again once it is safe to do so.

“Directors from all parts of the UK need to make plans for riding out this tempest, but they can’t get very far if they have no idea what will be happening in a few weeks’ time,” Geldart said.

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[Coronavirus] Councils need 'rock solid' financial support as homelessness rises during outbreak

Council leaders have told Sky News they will need "rock solid" financial support from the government if they're to deal with the social challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Charities have said they are already starting to see a rise in homelessness among some of the most vulnerable in society.

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[Coronavirus] £3.2bn cash for councils may not stop 'uncontrollable' second wave

Britain's public health sector has told the Government that the emergency £3.2 billion support package for local authorities may not be enough to avoid an "uncontrollable" second wave of coronavirus.

A letter sent to Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, and Professor John Newton, the official in charge of testing, also suggests a national "one-size-fits-all" strategy cannot beat lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes face weeks of delay for vital protective kit

Staff at care homes, GP surgeries and hospices will have to wait at least a month for government-supplied personal protective equipment, prompting criticism that they are being treated as second-class citizens.

An online portal allowing primary and social care providers to order PPE, which had been due to start operating early this month, is now not expected to be in full operation for another five weeks, The Times can reveal.

Police forces have also been told to expect no deliveries of PPE for community use to local “resilience forums” — an alliance of blue light services, NHS and local authorities that respond to emergencies — until the end of May.

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Contact tracing costs could ‘place more pressure’ on council budgets

Concern is emerging that ministers expect thousands of council staff to be redeployed to trace the contacts of those who could have Covid-19, without extra funding being provided to undertake the mammoth task.

The government is now recruiting 18,000 people, including council workers, to undertake the task, as well as developing a smartphone app to identify people who are newly infected and rapidly warn those they have come into contact with that they could be at risk.

But no extra funding for the new burden has been announced and it has been implied that councils will be expected to use the additional £1.6bn they were promised last Saturday to carry out the new duty.

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[Coronvirus] Covid-19 should be game changing for social care [Opinion]

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting every aspect of life, across all sections of society. But it’s also clear that the burden is falling more heavily on some groups than others. Four groups seem at particular risk: the elderly, BAME communities, those with pre-existing health conditions, and the people on the frontline caring for them.

The adult social care system, with its central role in caring for the elderly and vulnerable, is critical in the fight against Covid-19. Managing this outbreak raises some huge challenges for social care: how to keep staff and service users safe, how to ensure that there are enough staff to care, and how to work effectively across NHS and care providers so that patients who have been in hospital can be discharged quickly.

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Five councils start bypassing Care Act duties amid Covid pressures

A number of councils have taken advantage of new legal provisions which allow them to suspend their duties to provide elements of adult social care in order to redirect resources towards coronavirus support, LGC has learnt.

The 'easements' to the Care Act 2014 remove the legal duty to meet certain care needs unless it would breach human rights to do so - however, concern has already been expressed about lack of transparency in some cases, and about the impact on potentially vulnerable service users.

Adult social care directors at Birmingham and Sunderland city councils, Warwickshire CC, Solihull MBC and Middlesbrough Council have implemented the ‘easements’ to the Care Act 2014 which were created under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to help the care system manage rapidly growing pressures.

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Government confirms extension to accounts deadline

The publication date for final audited accounts will move from 31 July for category one authorities and 30 September for category two authorities – to 30 November 2020 for all local authority bodies.

The letter stated: “Draft accounts must be approved by 31 August 2020 at the latest. However, they may be approved earlier, and we would encourage councils to do so wherever possible, to help manage overall pressure on audit firms towards the end of the year.”

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Hackney funding gap ‘could hit services’

Hackney mayor Philip Glanville has called for further government support after forecasts suggested existing funding would cover less than half of frontline services.

The borough is expected to receive £17m from the government’s emergency support fund, but emergency measures in areas including adult social care and education, and the maintenance of measures including refuse disposal, could reach £36m over the next three months alone.

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[Coronavirus] Coastal and ex-industrial towns 'most economically at risk'

Coastal and ex-industrial towns are most economically at risk from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research.

Sky News analysis of the data for England and Wales shows that although some high-risk towns also suffer already high levels of social and economic deprivation, there is no clear correlation between deprived towns and towns hard hit by lockdown.

The research conducted by the Centre For Towns and the University of Southampton, and seen exclusively by Sky News, also indicates that Wales is worst affected, while the South East is faring best.

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[Coronavirus] Heads say 1 June earliest realistic school opening

The earliest "realistic" point at which schools in England could start re-opening would be 1 June, head teachers' leader Geoff Barton has said.

"We cannot see any realistic way that schools could be re-opened to more pupils before the second half of the summer term," he said and "planning would need to begin very soon" in order to meet a 1 June target.

Schools closed their doors to all except vulnerable children and those of key workers over a month ago.

If schools are to maintain social distancing, they could not run at full capacity, meaning a phased return, such as starting with a few year groups or pupils rotating between studying at home and school.

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[Coronavirus] Government confirms extension to council accounts deadline

Councils will be given more time to publish their audited accounts due to the increasing demands of dealing with Covid-19.

The Government has written to all council chief executives, outlining plans to move the deadline for publishing final, audited accounts to 30 November 2020. This is an extension from 31 July for Category 1 authorities and 1 September for Category 2 authorities.

The requirement for the public inspection period to include the first 10 working days of June or July has also been removed.

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New national recruitment campaign for adult social care launched

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Care Minister Helen Whately have launched the campaign today to boost the sector by encouraging the right people with the right values to work in adult social care.

The recently launched CARE brand is included in the campaign with the aim to raise the profile of the care sector and give them the same appreciation given to NHS workers.

Free e-learning courses and webinars are being developed for local authority and care provider staff to ensure good care is given throughout this crisis. With main focuses on safeguarding, person-centrered care, dementia, Mental Capacity Act, infection control and supporting care at home.

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children’s social care referrals down by up to half

Referrals to children’s social care have fallen by as much as half since the Covid-19 lockdown, the new president of the Association of the Directors of Children’s Services has warned.

Jenny Coles, who takes on the role today, told LGC that reported increases in referrals for domestic violence showed there was “pressure in the system” but disruption to schools and other services for children and young people meant referrals were in “abeyance”.

“We are worried. To have a 50% drop in social care referrals is significant and that's happened within weeks of lockdown. We want families to still seek help.”

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Hackney mayor ‘couldn’t rule out’ s114 without extra funding

Hackney LBC’s mayor has told LGC the council could not rule out issuing a section 114 notice in a year’s time unless it receives extra funding from the government.

Philip Glanville (Lab) spoke to LGC this morning after his council revealed it expects a £19m shortfall in the next three months alone due to its Covid-19 costs exceeding government funding.

The council anticipates its budget to be hit by £36m as a result of the crisis over this period but to receive just £17m in government funding. This includes a predicted £7m from the extra support announced by communities secretary Robert Jenrick at the weekend, on top of the £10m it gained from the first tranche of government coronavirus support last month. Hackney has £15m in unallocated reserves.

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David Williams: We can’t lead recovery with one hand tied behind our backs

The extra government funding for councils announced on Saturday should be distributed in a similar way to the previous £1.6bn, writes the chair of the County Councils Network.

In the past few weeks, we have all had to adapt to a new normal of remote working, the suspension of key services, and changing the way we operate. But on top of this sea change, it is the determination to go one step further in the national effort that has shown the tenacity of local government.

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[Coronavirus] Crisis should spark social care reform - report

The Government has been urged to use the coronavirus crisis to undertake long-term social care reform.

A new report by the Policy Exchange think-tank said the COVID-19 crisis had revealed the ‘stark contrast’ between the NHS and social care.

The report argued the pandemic should be used to remove the historic funding barrier between the two sectors.

The report called for new measures to be introduced in the tax system to make social care ‘largely free’ at point of use for older and working age people who require long-term chronic care.

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[Coronavirus] Pandemic is making ‘inadequate funding baseline’ worse, says new ADCS president

The incoming president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) says she wants ‘unprecedented levels of investment in our children’s futures, please’, in response to the pandemic.

In her inaugural address, director of children’s services at Hertfordshire CC Jenny Coles said that before the pandemic, children’s services were ‘woefully underfunded and stretched to the limit’.

She added that the current crisis is significantly exacerbating the ‘inadequate baseline of funding’, and the resources needed during the nation’s recovery from the pandemic will be ‘eye-wateringly large’.

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[Coronavirus] Some authorities could become ‘financially unsustainable’ due to pandemic

The leaders of all six Oxfordshire councils have warned that the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could leave some “financially unsustainable” – and urged the government to provide more funding.

In a joint letter to the government and the county’s MPs, the council leaders welcomed the additional £1.6bn allocated to local authorities earlier this week, but warned that without extra funding to cover shortfalls, authorities across Oxfordshire will struggle to cope and some could be “unable to set a legal budget” for 2021/22. They predict county costs resulting from coronavirus could reach £100m.

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Government borrowing could top £300bn

The think-tank estimates that £127bn will be borrowed in direct bailouts and an additional £119bn incurred in indirect costs such as lower tax revenue, based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s scenario of a three-month lockdown followed by three months of looser restrictions.

When added to the £55bn of borrowing already forecast for this financial year, the figure rises to a deficit of £301bn, representing approximately 15% of GDP – and broadly equivalent to double the UK’s current level of healthcare spending over the past two years, the think-tank said.

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Wales to maintain free school meals through summer break

Education Minister Kirsty Williams confirmed each eligible child will receive the equivalent of £19.50 a week.

Last month, the Welsh government allocated £7m to local authorities to provide arrangements for free school meals, which has now been extended to run until schools re-open or until the end of August.

The Welsh government has also outlined three options for providing the free school meals – a separate voucher system, delivery of food direct to families of pupils and the transfer of money to the bank accounts of eligible families.

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[Coronavirus] Council warns additional funding might not cover Covid costs

Dundee City Council has warned that additional government funding to cover costs incurred as a result of the coronavirus crisis may not be sufficient.

The council also said it is reviewing the UK Government Job Retention Scheme, as it looks into the possibility of furloughing a “limited number of employees”. The report stated that the scheme may be appropriate for some staff “in a small number of cases.”

Dundee City Council has received more than £3.3m in additional funding from the Scottish Government.

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[Coronavirus] Councils warn government bailout cash 'gone now'

Councils in England say they have to plug funding gaps worth hundreds of millions of pounds within weeks to avoid "significant" cuts.

The coronavirus pandemic has increased councils' costs while income has been lost from services like parking.

Leaders say funding already allocated is "not even close" to covering costs or money that has already been spent.

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[Coronavirus] Essential workers in England to get tests

All essential workers in England - and members of their household - are now eligible for coronavirus tests, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

About 10 million key workers who need to book a test to see whether they have the virus will be able to do so on the government's website from Friday.

The Welsh government previously outlined plans to expand testing to key workers, such as teachers and food delivery drivers, and Northern Ireland's health minister has announced the nation's testing programme is being expanded to include front-line workers in the private sector.

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[Coronavirus] Only a quarter of care workers are being tested for COVID-19

Carers have criticised the government's roll out of COVID-19 tests after many workers were told to travel long distances to access them.

Last week Health Secretary Matt Hancock said all those in social care who needed a test would be able to get one after the sector said it was struggling to cope.

Since then, a handful of drive-thru sites have opened around big cities.

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[Coronavirus] 'Disgusting' fly-tipping soars during lockdown

Fly-tipping has soared since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, according to an app created to combat the illegal dumping of rubbish.

Millionaire businessman Martin Montague says his ClearWaste app is being bombarded daily with hundreds of photographs from across the UK.

He said: "In the first week of the lockdown we saw a rise of 54% nationwide compared with the figure for the previous week. By Easter fly-tipping reported to us was up by 75%.

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[Coronavirus] MPs and peers call for universal basic income

A group of more than 100 opposition politicians have called on the government to implement a universal basic income, in a bid to help ease finances post-coronavirus.

In a letter sent to chancellor Rishi Sunak, organised by the Basic Income Conversation, a new initiative supported by think-tank Compass, a group of 110 cross-party MPs and peers argued that Universal Credit is struggling to cope with current demands and that job retention schemes are “unsustainable” in the long term.

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[Coronavirus] Virus grants are postcode lottery for small firms with some councils paying just one in ten eligible companies

Desperate firms scrambling for emergency grants to survive the pandemic face a 'postcode lottery', with some councils paying as few as one in ten companies eligible for the lifeline.

Latest figures show councils have handed out £6.1billion, almost half the £12.3billion they received from Government this month.

Grants of up to £25,000 have been received by 491,725 small businesses, including shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes. Under the small business grants fund, firms qualify for cash payments of £10,000.

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[Coronavirus] Social restrictions 'to remain for rest of year'

The UK will have to live with some disruptive social measures for at least the rest of the year, the government's chief medical adviser has said.

Prof Chris Whitty said it was "wholly unrealistic" to expect life would suddenly return to normal soon. He said "in the long run" the ideal way out would be via a "highly effective vaccine" or drugs to treat the disease. But he warned that the chance of having those within the next calendar year was "incredibly small".

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[Coronavirus] Hard to prevent care home deaths, says Chris Whitty

Chris Whitty said it was hard to prevent deaths in care homes "sadly because this is a very vulnerable group". Current statistics were likely to be an "underestimate", he added.

It came as new figures suggested deaths have increased significantly in recent days.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Tuesday 1,000 people died in care homes in the week to 10 April but now the health regulator said the five days after that could have seen another 1,000 deaths.

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[Coronavirus] Recycling centres remain closed despite minister’s plea to open

More than 90% of household waste recycling centres are still closed, despite local government minister Simon Clarke urging councils to keep them open.

A survey of more than 250 local authorities by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) found that 92% of household waste recycling centres are closed with the remainder suffering high levels of disruption.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has recommended councils keep their waste recycling centres open, stating that it should be regarded a medium priority to reduce fly-tipping.

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[Coronavirus] Scale of districts’ Covid-19 income challenge revealed

Lost income as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus lockdown accounts for more than 90% of associated budget pressures in district councils, LGC analysis suggests.

In returns to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government setting out the impact of the outbreak, seen by LGC, districts warned income streams from theatre and cultural venues as well as car parking were all being hit.

While assumptions varied about the impact on council tax and business rate collections rates throughout the year, all warned of some impact with many saying they would face serious cashflow difficulties by June without action from ministers. This would have knock-on impacts on county councils.

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Business to receive almost £10 billion in rates relief

Businesses are expected to receive almost £10 billion in business rate relief as part of the government’s comprehensive package of support for the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

New statistics published today (22 April 2020) by the government show the business rate relief predicted by councils for businesses across England in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector.

It means that those which may be the hardest hit by the pandemic, such as eligible shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs will pay no business rates whatsoever this financial year.

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[Coronavirus] Facemasks for public ‘risk NHS shortage’

Ministers have been warned by NHS bosses that advising people to wear facemasks to slow the spread of coronavirus risks jeopardising critical supplies to the health service.

Government scientists will examine the evidence about masks today before making a formal recommendation on whether the public should wear them.

The World Health Organisation is understood to be ready to issue fresh guidance on wearing masks in shops, on public transport and in other crowded spaces as part of measures to exit the lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Millions of pieces of PPE are being shipped from Britain to Europe despite NHS shortages

Millions of pieces of vital protective equipment are being shipped from British warehouses to Germany, Spain and Italy despite severe shortages in this country, The Telegraph can disclose.

Lorries are being packed with masks, respirators and other PPE kit before heading back to supply hospitals in the EU, it has emerged.

On Monday night, UK firms said they had “no choice” but to keep selling the lifesaving gear abroad because their offers of help had been repeatedly ignored by the Government.

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[Coronavirus] New working arrangements for MPs as Commons returns

The House of Commons has been trying out its new working arrangements in preparation for MPs' return later.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle led a rehearsal on Monday in which ministers faced questions via video link. Screens have been installed in the chamber to allow MPs to speak remotely while the limited number attending in person will be signposted where to sit.

They are part of a raft of changes designed to allow Parliament to continue to operate during the coronavirus outbreak, including reduced sitting hours, virtual committee meetings and strict social distancing measures within the Palace of Westminster.

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Councils burn recycling amid virus-linked rise in waste and staff absence

Councils are burning household recycling after being hit by a massive surge in domestic waste and coronavirus-related staff absences during the pandemic, the Guardian has learned.

Councils in Cardiff, St Helens and Inverclyde confirmed they were temporarily incinerating recycling, while those in Oldham, Redbridge and West Dunbartonshire also said they had stepped down their recycling services for the time being. A further six authorities have stopped collecting glass or cardboard.

Cardiff city council said it was continuing to collect recycled material as usual and was asking residents to rinse out their recycling and sort items in the correct bags even though the materials would be incinerated for the near future.

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Councils warned over delay to emergency grants for business

Councils that have failed to distribute billions of pounds of emergency grants have been accused of “inexcusable” delays that are putting companies’ survival at risk.

Figures show that some local authorities have managed to deliver only about a tenth of the funds meant to provide a cash lifeline to businesses hit by the fallout from coronavirus.

The data shows that of the £12.3 billion distributed to councils in England, £6.1 billion had been passed to businesses as of Monday. Some local authorities redeployed staff to make sure that money was paid quickly and have managed to pass on all, or the vast majority, of their allocation.

However, many councils are yet to provide the lion’s share of the money. Some of the worst offenders had released only 11 per cent of funds.

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[Coronavirus] Pub sector faces 'bloodbath' over rents

The UK pub sector could be hit by a "bloodbath" if they are not given breaks in rent payments, an industry expert has claimed.

Chief executive of UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls, called for government intervention "as a matter of urgency".

She told the Treasury Select Committee some landlords were facing legal action over not being able to pay their rent.

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[Coronavirus] Rushanara Ali MP calls for urgent action to help workers left out of the coronavirus job retention scheme

On 15 April 2020, the Government changed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme by extending the eligibility date to 19 March 2020, which means that anyone reported on payroll by 19 March is now eligible to be furloughed. However, the Government also announced that employers have to have logged RTI submissions with HMRC and added employees to payroll by this date, a practice that commonly falls to the end of each month.

On Tuesday 21 April at the Treasury Select Committee, MPs on the committee put questions regarding the gaps in the Government’s support measures to Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality and Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at the Association of Independent Professionals & Self-Employed (IPSE).

Rushanara Ali MP highlighted the hundreds of thousands of people who are still not meeting the requirements to receive 80% of their salary under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, as they moved to new PAYE employment after 28 February 2020, and were added to payroll after the 19 March. The answers to Rushanara’s questions revealed that between 350,000 and 500,000 people in the hospitality industry alone may not be eligible for the scheme. There are many more in other sectors too.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson resists easing of coronavirus lockdown

Boris Johnson has told colleagues that he is very cautious about easing lockdown restrictions and that his “overriding concern” is avoiding a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The prime minister, who is recovering from Covid-19 at Chequers after several nights in intensive care, held a two-hour meeting on Friday with Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, Dominic Cummings, his most senior adviser, and Lee Cain, his director of communications.

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[Coronavirus] Mortuaries to be expanded by 30,000 spaces

The government says it is to provide an extra 30,000 temporary mortuary places during the coronavirus pandemic. The move is a precaution rather than a prediction, say ministers.

Local government minister Simon Clarke said the government did not want to alarm people but had to ensure capacity for the worst possible outcome.

"We all hope these contingencies will not be needed... that requires everyone to play their part in the national effort," said Mr Clarke.

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[Coronavirus] Schools stay shut until June as two in three pupils ignore online classes

Schools are not expected to reopen until June at the earliest after concerns that Britain could face a second wave of the coronavirus.

At the weekend it was reported that plans have been drawn up with three dates for schools to reopen: May 11, June 1 or the start of September.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, insisted that no date had been set. A government source told The Times that the earliest date for schools to open was likely to be after half-term at the end of May.

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[Coronavirus] Government unveils £1.3bn scheme to help start-ups

The government has announced a £1.25bn package to support innovative new companies that are not eligible for existing coronavirus rescue schemes.

It will match up to £250m of private investment and add £550m to an existing loan and grant scheme for smaller firms that focus on research and development.

Adding it up, that totals £800m of new money to support fledgling firms. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said start-ups would help power the UK's growth after the coronavirus crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Emergency appeal to help millions of unpaid carers during pandemic

An emergency appeal has been launched to help millions of unpaid carers who are supporting family and friends during the Covid-19 crisis.

Carers Trust says there are around seven million unpaid carers in the UK, with hundreds of thousands suffering from isolation and health issues as they work around the clock.

The charity’s emergency fund will provide grants of any amount up to £300 directly to carers who are struggling.

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[Coronavirus] Care home residents told they are 'unlikely' to be offered ventilators

ITV News has been passed a letter sent by GP surgeries to dozens of care homes warning that residents are unlikely to be put on a ventilator if they are admitted to hospital with Covid-19.

The letter, sent by a chain of GP surgeries across the East of England, states that anyone "frail enough to require full-time care" is "unlikely to benefit from mechanical ventilation" and therefore is unlikely to be offered the treatment in hospital.

The two page letter was sent to thousands of residents, including to one care home which looks after adults with learning disabilities.

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[Coronavirus] Furlough scheme: 140,000 firms apply for help to pay a million workers

More than 140,000 firms have applied for the government's job retention scheme since it launched on Monday morning, the chancellor has said.

He told the press conference: "We don't have an estimate of take up yet - it's just the first day the scheme is open and I expect those numbers to continue to increase over the coming days."

The Bank of England has said the approval of coronavirus business interruption loans would be sped up if the government agreed to guarantee 100% of the loans - instead of the current 80% limit.

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Unitary chief: ‘no confidence’ s114 notice can be avoided

A unitary council chief has revealed his authority last week informed the government it was poised to issue a section 114 notice, which would effectively signal its bankruptcy, as it reels from the financial impact of Covid-19.

Although Windsor & Maidenhead RBC’s warning to ministers that it was set to issue the notice within three months came before councils were told they would receive an additional £1.6bn, the council’s managing director Duncan Sharkey this morning told LGC the council’s financial survival beyond the end of the year remained uncertain.

Mr Sharkey predicted the Covid-19 pandemic would cost his council £14m as a result of extra service costs and, in particular, the loss of income. At the start of the financial year it had just £6m in reserves.

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[Coronavirus] MPs to investigate Covid-19 impact on council finances

The influential Commons public accounts committee is calling for evidence on the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak on council finances as part of a new inquiry.

The committee will question officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities, & Local Government about its response to the crisis, as well the impact on councils, on 11 May.

The inquiry comes in response to the National Audit Office’s February report on ‘Local authority commercial investment’ which found councils had spent £6.6bn on commercial property investments between 2016-17 and 2018-19, compared to £460m during the preceding three years.

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[Coronavirus] Social care staff from Norfolk told to travel to Sheffield to get tested for Covid-19

Some care workers who require Covid-19 testing are having to travel hundreds of miles in order to attend drive-thru facilities, the chairman of the National Care Association has warned.

The government has pledged to make testing available to all symptomatic adult social care staff, their family members and care home residents.

But logistical problems with the roll out mean many workers in the social care sector remain uncertain whether it is safe for them to be at work.

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[Coronavirus] Hospital leaders hit out at government as PPE shortage row escalates

Hospital leaders have directly attacked the government for the first time during the coronavirus crisis over the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) after a desperately needed consignment of surgical gowns that had been announced by ministers failed to arrive.

Trust leaders privately admit that they are desperate to acquire more full-length waterproof surgical gowns.

Hospitals have expressed gratitude to local vets, fire brigades, police forces, councils, DIY shops and builders’ merchants after being forced to ask them to hand over their stocks of gowns. One received 2,000 from a nearby veterinary supply firm.

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[Coronavirus] Care home deaths 'far higher' than official figures

The National Care Forum (NCF) estimates that more than 4,000 elderly and disabled people have died across all residential and nursing homes.

Its report comes amid calls for accurate data on virus-linked deaths. Only 217 such care home deaths have been officially recorded in England and Wales up to 3 April.

The NCF, which represents not-for-profit care providers, said its findings highlight significant flaws in the official reporting of coronavirus-related death statistics.

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[Coronavirus] Councils in England given an extra £1.6bn to tackle COVID-19 crisis

Councils across England are to be given an extra £1.6bn in funding to deal with the coronavirus emergency after complaints from local authorities that services could suffer.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said the extra money will boost the backing councils have received to cope with the pandemic to £3.2bn.

An extra £300m will go to devolved administrations, with Scotland getting £155m, Wales £95m, and Northern Ireland £50m.

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[Coronavirus] Fly-tipping rise prompts plea to reopen tips

Rubbish tips should reopen to curb an increase in fly-tipping during the coronavirus lockdown, politicians have said.

Many waste facilities closed in March after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people should stay at home, except for “essential travel”.

MPs and councillors are calling for tips to be accessible again, but with measures to allow social distancing.

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Council tax holiday: Huge pressure mounts for freeze on levy, two weeks after rates hiked

They are calling for a temporary nationwide halt on payments to ease the financial burden for hard-pressed households.

A three-month “council tax holiday” would give people a short-term reprieve on their outgoings at a time when millions of jobs are under threat and businesses are battling to stay afloat, they argue.

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: “All councils are putting in place measures to help residents who are facing financial hardship as a consequence of the virus.''

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[Coronavirus] Delayed supply system rollout causing critical PPE shortages

The delayed rollout of the new dedicated national supply channel for personal protective equipment is leading to shortages of critical supplies for councils, with at least one fearing it will run out of certain items completely.

Birmingham City Council’s supply of personal protective equipment is running so low that it says it could run out of protective masks within two weeks.

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Unions slam 'woefully low' council pay offer

The Government should provide extra funding to give council workers a 'proper' pay rise during the pandemic crisis, trade unions have said.

Unison, Unite and GMB have branded the 2.75% pay offer from the National Employers as 'woefully low' arguing it fails to recognise the efforts of local government staff in delivering frontline services during the lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Social care concerns revealed in leaked letter

A leaked letter seen by the BBC has revealed an extensive list of concerns about how the social care sector is coping with the coronavirus crisis.

The letter raises fears about funding, testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and the shielding scheme for vulnerable people.

Written on Saturday, to a senior official at the Department of Health and Social Care by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), it says mixed messages from the government have created "confusion and additional workload".

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[Coronavirus] Local pharmacies face cash crisis

"The last month has been the hardest of my 35 years in pharmacy," said Dai Williams.

He runs two pharmacies in Rhondda in South Wales and while demand has increased massively since the lockdown, that's not been good for business.

That's because the wholesale price of medicine has shot up, cutting margins and putting financial pressures on.

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[Coronavirus] 'Urgent studies needed' into mental health impact of coronavirus

Rapid and rigorous research into the impact of Covid-19 on mental health is needed to limit the impact of the pandemic, researchers have said.

Experts say newly conducted polls and emerging studies into Covid-19 together with lessons from past outbreaks suggest that the pandemic could have profound and potentially long-term impacts on mental health.

The team say it is now crucial to begin a thorough and coordinated programme of research to delve into the impact of the coronavirus itself, as well as policies like lockdown..

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[Coronavirus] Councils given greater financial relief against cash flow pressures

New measures to help ease immediate financial pressures faced by councils in England due to the coronavirus outbreak have been announced by the government today (16 April 2020).

Councils will be allowed to defer £2.6 billion in business rates payments to central government, and £850 million in social care grants will be paid up front this month in a move aimed at helping to ease immediate pressures on local authority cash flows.

Councils are doing crucial work to help vulnerable people and the wider communities get through this crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Andy Norman: Covid-19 to hit economies in Midlands and North West worst

The economic impact of coronavirus will vary significantly across the country, according to an analysis we have carried out, building on the latest figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

According to its analysis of the likely impact of the coronavirus crisis on the UK economy, published earlier this week, the OBR expects real GDP to fall by 35% in the second quarter of this year.

This is calculated as an average of the likely impact on different sectors, weighted according to the size of each sector in the national economy.

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Pay offer for council staff increased to 2.75%

Council employees have been offered an improved pay increase of 2.75%, with an extra day’s annual leave.

In February, unions rejected a previous 2% pay offer as “more than disappointing”.

The National Employers, who negotiate pay on behalf of 350 local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, described this afternoon’s announcement as the “final offer”.

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[Coronavirus] LGC survey: Government crisis response given benefit of the doubt

The government’s overall handling of the response to the coronavirus crisis has largely been rated positively by LGC readers.

Asked to rate the response on a scale of one (very poor) to five (excellent), most (41%) opted for average or good (34%). Fewer than a fifth (18%) rated it very poor or poor but only 7% went for excellent. Ratings were slightly higher among senior respondents with 88% of chief executives, directors and senior managers giving a rating of three or more compared to 82% overall.

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[Coronavirus] Counties urge s114 change as coronavirus costs soar

County councils have called for a suspension of Section 114 and a relaxation of the rules so authorities can borrow to fund revenue spending.

The call comes with many councils raising concerns about the huge challenges facing their finances as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including increased costs, income loss and cash flow issues.

A letter to ministers, seen by The MJ, from chairman of the County Councils’ Network, Cllr David Williams, warned his members faced ‘enormous financial liabilities’.

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Deficit ‘could reach 12% of GDP’ this year

The UK government deficit could rise to as high as £260bn – about 12% of GDP – this financial year, as a result of the measures taken amid the coronavirus pandemic, economists at PwC have predicted.

An estimated £60bn-£80bn of direct fiscal stimulus, added to the effects of slower economic growth in the wake of the crisis, could cause the deficit to leap to between £180bn and £260bn in 2020-21, PwC’s report said.

The Office for Budgetary Responsibility forecast, pre-coronavirus, was that the deficit would be £55bn.

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[Coronavirus] UK lockdown extended for 'at least' three weeks

Lockdown restrictions in the UK will continue for "at least" another three weeks as it tackles the coronavirus outbreak, Dominic Raab has said.

The foreign secretary told the daily No 10 briefing that a review had concluded relaxing the measures now would risk harming public health and the economy.

"We still don't have the infection rate down as far as we need to," he said.

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Signs that more families missing out on first choice primary school

Smaller proportions of children are gaining places at their first choice of primary school in many areas of England, a survey suggests.

Hundreds of thousands of families across England are finding out what primary school they will be joining this autumn, on what is commonly known as National Offer Day.

Findings from a PA survey of local authorities show that, of the 67 councils that gave comparable data, 36 (54%) have seen a fall in the proportion of pupils getting their first choice compared to last year, while 25 (37%) have seen a rise and six (9%) have seen no change.

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[Coronavirus] Treasury backs loans to bigger businesses

Loans to all medium-to-large firms will now be included in the government's £330bn coronavirus support package for the economy, the Treasury has said.

All viable companies with a turnover of more than £45m will be able to apply for government-backed support, including those which take in more than £500m.

Businesses with turnovers of more than £500m were not originally going to be eligible for the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which will be launched on Monday.

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[Coronavirus] NHS volunteer army of 750,000 has been given fewer than 20,000 tasks, data reveals

An army of 750,000 NHS volunteers recruited to help vulnerable people get through the coronavirus crisis has been given fewer than 20,000 tasks to perform across the country, according to data seen by The Telegraph.

The NHS Volunteer Responder scheme has so far helped a maximum of around 3,500 people every day since its launch, figures have revealed.

Last month, three quarters of a million people signed up in less than a week in response to a call by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, for volunteers to help the 1.5 million people told to stay indoors for at least 12 weeks.

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[Coronavirus] Firefighters begin moving bodies after ‘considerable number’ of coronavirus deaths in Midlands

Firefighters have been drafted in to move the bodies of coronavirus victims in one of the UK’s most badly hit regions.

As rising casualties further strain emergency services, West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) crews have begun to retrieve bodies from hospitals, care homes and homes.

In the week ending 3 April, the West Midlands recorded 1,812 deaths – more than any year since records began in 2005, according to Office for National Statistics data. Nearly one in four were attributed to coronavirus.

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UK’s highest earning council official received pay package of more than £600,000

The UK’s highest earning council official received a pay package of more than £600,000, nearly four times what the Prime Minister earns, the latest 'Town Hall Rich List' has found.

Janice Hewitt, formerly the chief officer for health and social care integration at the Labour run North Lanarkshire council, was the highest-remunerated local official in the UK, the latest figures between 2018 and 2019 from the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has shown.

Ms Hewitt received a total remuneration package of £615,550, which included a salary of £146,033, £350,116 added to her pension pot and compensation for loss of office of £119,401 when she left the role.

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[Coronavirus] More tests promised for care homes

All care home residents and staff with Covid-19 symptoms will be tested for coronavirus as laboratory capacity increases, the government has promised.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was "determined" to ensure everyone who needed a test had access to one.

Labour welcomed the pledge but said the social care sector needed more support.

Care providers have been calling for more testing for weeks, with charities saying the virus is "running wild" amid outbreaks at more than 2,000 homes.

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Solace savages ‘inane’ and ‘crass’ Taxpayers’ Alliance ‘rich list’

Chief executives have condemned the Taxpayers' Alliance’s annual attack on local government pay as “inane and distasteful”, particularly in light of the work councils are doing in the Covid-19 outbreak.

Graeme McDonald, managing director of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers also called the alliance’s report “innumerate” and “crass”.

The alliance - which operates as a limited company - has published the list for 13 years and targets what it believes is profligate pay levels in councils.

It said: “The country is facing a profound challenge and the response of workers from the public, private and voluntary sectors has been laudable. But accountability still matters and taxpayers deserve to know if they are getting value for their hard-earned money.”

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Public sector borrowing set to hit record high

Public sector borrowing as a result of the coronavirus lockdown is set to hit a record 14% of GDP this year but then decline rapidly to the levels predicted in the March Budget, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The OBR says borrowing as a result of the virus could hit £218bn this year, making total borrowing £273bn or 14% of GDP, the largest deficit in a single year since the Second World War and almost half as much again as the 10% deficit in 2010. Once the crisis has passed and ‘the policy interventions’ have unwound the deficit will then fall back to the Budget forecast of around 2% of GDP.

Total public spending is set to hit 52% of GDP this year, also the highest since the Second World War. Total public sector net debt would hit 100% of GDP this year before falling back to 95%. By 2024/5 it would still be £260bn higher than the Budget forecast, or 10% of GDP.

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[Coronavirus] Care home charity having to source face masks privately at five times usual cost

A care home provider said it is paying five times the usual amount for face masks, while local authorities continue to struggle to get enough protective equipment.

Methodist Homes (MHA) said it was forced to spend £200,000 on face masks from a trusted private supplier because it cannot depend on the Government’s allocation processes.

This works out at roughly 97 pence per mask, when usually they would spend 17 pence when sourcing through the Government.

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[Coronavirus] 'Too many homeless still sleeping rough'

There are still “far too many” homeless people on the streets unable to follow government guidance on coronavirus, charities have warned.

The government said last month it wanted to see all rough sleepers housed within a weekend.

In London, more than 1,000 rough sleepers have been put up in hotels but it is estimated there are still about 900 on streets or in shared facilities.

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Hall loses local government post

Local government minister Luke Hall has been quietly moved aside, with Simon Clarke taking over his role.

Mr Clarke, who was appointed minister of state in February after seven months at the Treasury, has now been handed the regional growth and local government portfolio while Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former deputy as London mayor, Stephen Greenhalgh, was last month made a life peer to serve as an unpaid minister of state jointly at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and Home Office.

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[Coronavirus] More PPE promised for social care

Health secretary Matt Hancock has promised to increase supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to social care.

Announcing a social care action plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Hancock announced a new online delivery system for social care settings and said kit would be shipped directly to social care providers.

Care providers have repeatedly reported difficulties in accessing PPE stock from their normal suppliers.

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[Coronavirus] Older people being 'airbrushed' out of virus figures

Many older people are being "airbrushed" out of coronavirus figures in the UK, charities have warned.

The official death toll has been criticised for only covering people who die in hospital - but not those in care homes or in their own houses.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told the BBC the daily figure was based on hospital deaths because "it's accurate and quick".

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[Coronavirus] Pressure mounts to re-open primary schools by May half term after catastrophic economic forecast

The government is coming under mounting pressure to re-open primary schools before the May half term, as catastrophic Office for Budget Responsibility figures forecast the economy will shrink by 35 per cent due to the coronavirus lockdown.

A number of ministers are understood to be agitating for younger pupils to return to the classroom as soon as May 11 amid fears the restrictions cannot feasibly be relaxed until workers' children are back in full-time education.

It had previously been suggested that at the earliest, pupils would not be back until after the Whitsun half term, which begins on May 25, the late Spring bank holiday.

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[Coronavirus] Chancellor Rishi Sunak warns of more 'tough times' during COVID-19 outbreak

The chancellor has repeated his warning that the government will not be able to protect every business and household during the coronavirus outbreak, admitting: "These are tough times and there will be more to come."

Rishi Sunak told the government's daily coronavirus news conference that the UK economy was "fundamentally sound" and he was confident there would be a "bounceback in growth" once the crisis has passed.

It comes after the Office for Budget Responsibility, the independent fiscal watchdog, said Britain's economy could shrink by 35% in the second quarter and see unemployment jump by two million because of COVID-19.

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[Coronavirus] Ministers urged to raise pay for care home staff during Covid-19 crisis

Workers in care homes need an urgent pay rise and more robust protection against the coronavirus, union leaders and employers have told government ministers.

Many care home networks are operating with absence rates of about 10% as staff self-isolate. This is stretching already strained rotas because even before the epidemic, there were about 122,000 vacancies in the sector.

There are also fears that, as death tolls in care homes rise and reports of shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) continue, new recruits will be deterred from joining up.

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[Coronavirus] Call for testing of firefighters as 3,000 isolate

Around 12% of firefighters and control room staff in some areas are self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic, says the firefighters' union.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says nearly 3,000 fire and rescue staff across the UK are in isolation.

It has called on the government to provide urgent coronavirus testing of its members so they can return to work. A government spokesman said it is working with fire chiefs to ensure they have the support they need.

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[Coronavirus] UK triples coronavirus response fund for NHS and public services

The government’s coronavirus emergency response fund, set up during last month’s budget to provide financial assistance to public services, has been almost tripled to more than £14bn, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced.

The move comes as the government faces mounting criticism of its response to the pandemic, amid concerns that frontline health workers have not received sufficient protective equipment and that hospitals urgently require more ventilators.

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[Coronavirus] Householders face up to five years in prison if they burn recycling during collection cutbacks

Householders are being warned that they face up to five years in prison if they burn recycling because councils have cut back their regular bin collections.

Some councils have already started to cut back collections to focus on rubbish destined for landfill. More services are expected to be cut this coming week as the coronavirus lockdown continues.

Last week the Government said in official guidance that councils could start to cut back on kerbside collections of recycled waste or garden waste to focus on picking up black bin rubbish and food waste due to staff shortages.

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[Coronavirus] UK Parliament still set to return on 21 April

Parliament is still on course to return on 21 April to debate coronavirus measures and authorise spending on the UK's pandemic response.

It will not be business as usual for MPs, with social distancing measures still likely to be in place.

The government needs to pass its Finance Bill, enacting measures in the Budget, which is due to get its second reading on 22 April.

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[Coronavirus] Loosen rules to let councils borrow for day-to-day spending, says IFS

The Government is being urged to “loosen the rules” to allow councils to borrow in order to fund day-to-day spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the Government announced a £1.6 billion funding package for English councils to help them respond to additional pressures caused by the virus.

However, a new briefing published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggests that there are big differences in the allocations being received across the country.

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[Coronavirus] England care providers say 10% council fee rise is ‘too little, too late’

Care providers struggling to maintain services during the coronavirus crisis have reacted angrily to an offer by English council chiefs of a temporary increase of 10% in the fees they pay the care homes, to cover their additional costs.

Councils have been given an emergency £1.6bn by the government for extra spending prompted by the crisis. They say that while a “substantial part” of the fund was always destined for social care, they face other exceptional costs and cannot immediately commit to a fee increase beyond the end of this month.

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[Coronavirus] Social distancing measures may need to remain in place 'indefinitely', government experts believe

Social distancing measures may need to remain in place "indefinitely", government experts believe under plans being drawn up in Whitehall which could see Britain begin to emerge from lockdown next month.

Officials are considering a plan to lift the lockdown "in reverse" with schools the first to open potentially from the beginning of June, followed by all shops but larger social gatherings delayed until last. The elderly and vulnerable would be asked to stay at home for longer.

However, it is understood that Britons will be asked to consider whether social interactions - such as going to an office or visiting relatives - are necessary as part of a plan to live with the virus for many months, or even years.

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[Coronavirus] UK restrictions set to be reviewed at special 'lockdown summit'

Senior ministers are gathering for a "lockdown summit" that is expected to result in restrictions on movement being extended until May at the earliest.

Ahead of the COBRA meeting, hopes of an end to the shutdown of pubs, restaurants, shops and other businesses were all but dashed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and other senior politicians.

Some ministers believe a decision to lift the ban will not be taken until the prime minister returns to work - and as this could be several weeks away, there is no end to the COVID-19 lockdown in sight.

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[Coronavirus] Chancellor announces aid for charities

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £750m package to keep struggling charities afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

The move follows concern that some charities are facing collapse, with income shrinking because of enforced shop closures.

Bigger charities such as Oxfam and Age UK have furloughed two-thirds of staff. The measures involve cash grants direct to charities providing key services during the crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes and prisons are next to receive coronavirus test kits

Tests for coronavirus could soon be given to care home workers and prison officers, with capacity about to increase “very substantially”, MPs have been told.

John Newton, the government’s testing expert, told a select committee hearing that “we’re not far off offering tests to all NHS staff that need them”.

“I think the real priority is to get the test out to other core services,” he said, suggesting that care home staff and care workers who visit elderly or vulnerable people in their homes would be the next to benefit.

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[Coronavirus] Crisis cash on its way for NI councils

Councils in Northern Ireland have finally been handed extra funding to deal with the coronavirus crisis, bringing them in line with the rest of the UK.

Earlier this week the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) and Solace called for Stormont to give financial support to councils hit by increased costs and falling income, ‘mirroring the actions already taken in England, Scotland and Wales’.

Now the minister for communities as activated emergency assistance to help cover some of the costs.

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[Coronavirus] Think tank calls for benefit cap to be suspended to protect renters

Social housing tenants are the most likely to be affected by the current economic crisis, a new report has found today.

The think tank is calling on the Government to suspend the benefit cap, which it says isn’t practical in a period of rapidly rising unemployment.

Lindsay Judge, principal research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: 'While many homeowners are relatively well-protected in the current crisis via low interest rates and mortgage holiday options, private renters are exposed to rent arrears and even evictions should they lose their jobs.

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[Coronavirus] Treasury agrees extension to emergency overdraft

The government plans to draw from the Ways and Means facility. The facility is a long-established overdraft facility between the Bank of England and the Treasury, which allows for cash advances at times of crisis.

It has not been used since the financial crisis of 2008, when £19.9bn was borrowed.

The Government said whatever sum is borrowed will be repaid to the Bank by the end of the year. It has also stressed that the markets would still be the primary source of financing, and its response to coronavirus would be fully funded by additional borrowing through normal debt management operations.

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[Coronavirus] Scotland's economy expected to shrink because of Covid-19 lockdown

Scottish GDP could contract by up to a quarter if coronavirus restrictions remain in place for three months, economists have warned.

Although many of the effects of the shutdown would be temporary, the extent to which some sectors would be able to bounce back was unknown, it said in an economic commentary.

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[Coronavirus] Dominic Raab says UK 'must keep going' with lockdown measures

Dominic Raab has said the UK "must keep going" with lockdown measures as he warned against giving coronavirus "a second chance to kill more people".

The foreign secretary, speaking at Downing Street's daily briefing, said the government did not expect to be able to give more details on when coronavirus lockdown measures might be lifted until the end of next week.

He urged people to stay home over the Easter weekend, saying social distancing "will have to stay in place" until there was evidence that "clearly shows we've moved beyond the peak" of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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[Coronavirus] Hundreds of UK care home deaths not added to official coronavirus toll

Hundreds of people are dying in care homes from confirmed or suspected coronavirus without yet being officially counted, the Guardian has learned.

More than 120 residents of the UK’s largest charitable provider of care homes are thought to have died from the virus in the last three weeks, while another network of care homes is reported to have recorded 88 deaths.

Care England, the industry body, estimated that the death toll is likely to be close to 1,000, despite the only available official figure for care home fatalities being dramatically lower.

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[Coronavirus] Few UK firms getting coronavirus funds as wider costs mount

Only a small fraction of British companies have successfully accessed financial help from the government to withstand the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, while many more have failed so far, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said 1% of companies had received funds from the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, while 8% said their application had been unsuccessful.

Another 7% received government grants for small businesses, but double that proportion applied unsuccessfully.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson spends night in intensive care after symptoms worsen

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent the night in intensive care at a central London hospital after his coronavirus symptoms worsened. Downing Street said he was moved to the unit on the advice of his medical team and was receiving "excellent care".

Mr Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputise "where necessary", a spokesman added. The prime minister, 55, was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital with "persistent symptoms" on Sunday evening.

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[Coronavirus] NHS volunteers to start receiving tasks today - here's how they will help

NHS volunteers will begin receiving their first tasks today as they come to the aid of 2.5 million people at risk because of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 750,000 people - three times the original target - signed up to join the "volunteer army" in the war against the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK.

The Royal Voluntary Service, the charity spearheading the effort, will have completed checks for the high volume of applications by the end of Tuesday.

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Birmingham asks Sunak for short term loan to ease cash flow problems

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward (Lab) has written to the the chancellor asking for local authorities to be given short term loans to support cashflow through the coronavirus crisis.

Birmingham received £38.7m from the £1.6bn grant allocated to councils to fund additional services required as a result of the crisis, but claims it has already spent that twice over.

Speaking to LGC on Monday, leader Ian Ward (Lab) told LGC the council wrote to Rishi Sunak at the end of last month asking him to facilitate easy access to funding and also revealed the coronavirus crisis was delaying the introduction of the city's clean air zone and threatening the city's readiness to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

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Bid to relax accounts code ‘not acceptable’ to auditors and regulators

Plans to relax reporting requirements on councils' 2019-20 accounts have been roundly rejected, with auditors, regulators and the Treasury raising concerns about the plans.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy and Local Authority (Scotland) Accounts Advisory Committee local authority code board wrote to the Treasury last week to propose a simplified and streamlined version of the accounting code due to be applied to last financial year’s accounts.

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[Coronavirus] Cabinet Office moves to further protect suppliers after coronavirus

A new Procurement Policy Note (PPN) has been published by the Cabinet Office to further protect suppliers during and after the coronavirus outbreak.

Under this new PPN, contracting authorities must take action with immediate effect to ensure suppliers at risk can continue normal operations once the outbreak is over.

Suppliers at risk will continue to be paid as normal according to this PPN, even if the service is disrupted or temporarily suspended, until the end of June at the earliest.

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[Coronavirus] Hundreds of thousands to benefit from 'council tax holiday' during coronavirus pandemic

Councils are looking at plans to ensure people struggling to pay the bills could pay nothing until June during the coronavirus lockdown. Authorities are considering the idea of a council tax “holiday” which would mean people can delay their first installment of council tax for the 2020/21 year until May or June.

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[Coronavirus] U-Turn on free school meals means families will get extra supermarket vouchers

Families eligible for free school meals will continue to receive supermarket vouchers over the Easter holidays, the Government has announced.

The initiative, which was previously introduced to cover term time meals, has now been extended to cover the two-week seasonal holiday.

It means qualifying families will be able to claim additional shopping vouchers of £15 a week per child to help cover their grocery bills.

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[Coronavirus] Allow young people out of lockdown early to get country moving, say business experts

Allowing young people aged between 20 and 30 out of lockdown early could help get Britain moving again and avoid an "extraordinary recession", business experts have said.

As the Government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, told the daily press conference that the epidemic curve appeared to be "flattening off", speculation is growing as to how the UK can escape from its lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Concerns over Autumn budgeting after regulators reject Accounting Code simplifications

Plans outlined by the CIPFA/LASAAC Local Authority Code Board– sought to replace the 2019-20 Accounting Code with a simplified alternative, to “relieve the burden on finance professionals” during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the plan has been rejected by auditors and regulators, and the institute has confirmed the 2019-20 accounting code will now be used in full – with CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman concerned about the impact that will have on the sector.

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[Coronavirus] Natwest struggling with calls for emergency loans

Britain's biggest business lender has told the BBC that it is receiving nearly 10 times as many calls as usual from firms wanting to take out emergency loans.

Despite the Chancellor's announcement of an unprecedented package of £330bn in 80%-government-backed loans, there is little evidence that the support is hitting the target yet.

Alison Rose, Chief Executive of Natwest Group (formerly known as RBS), the biggest lender to UK businesses by far, said that although some of the money was beginning to get through, they were facing operational challenges in delivering these unprecedented financial assistance programmes.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson admitted to hospital over virus symptoms

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for tests, 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus, Downing Street has said.

He was taken to a London hospital on Sunday evening with "persistent symptoms" - including a temperature. It is said to be a "precautionary step" taken on the advice of his doctor.

The prime minister remains in charge of the government, but the foreign secretary is expected to chair a coronavirus meeting on Monday morning.

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[Coronavirus] Town halls consider council tax payment help

Vulnerable people and those most affected by the coronavirus outbreak are being offered help to pay their council tax. Support ranges from deferred payments to discounts for those on low incomes.

A petition on the Parliament website calling for council tax to be scrapped during the duration of the crisis has attracted almost 100,000 signatures. One council said it would be impossible to keep public services going if relief was applied "across the board".

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[Coronavirus] UK councils face lawsuits over access to education in lockdown

The UK government must ensure pupils from poor backgrounds have computers and internet connections during the coronavirus lockdown or face legal action for depriving children of their education, according to a group of legal activists.

The Good Law Project argues that the widespread reliance on online learning during the lockdown is illegally disadvantaging state school pupils who lack access to tablets, laptops or adequate broadband. It says it will sue local authorities to try to push the government into action.

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[Coronavirus] Residential homes 'desperate' for PPE, as two care workers die

The first two coronavirus deaths among care workers in England were announced, as industry leaders hit out at chronic shortages of protective equipment and urged the government to start treating social care as “a second front line”.

Carol Jamabo, 56, a community carer for Cherish Elderly Care in Bury in Greater Manchester, died last Wednesday.

Another carer died in a home run by MHA, the UK’s largest charitable social care provider, which said it was unclear where she contracted the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Free school meal vouchers to continue over Easter holidays

Teachers' unions have welcomed a government decision that means families eligible for free school meals (FSM) will continue to receive financial help to buy food over the Easter holidays.

Last week ministers said qualifying families could claim shopping vouchers of £15 a week per child in term time.

Now the scheme will be extended in England over the two-week holiday.

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[Coronavirus] Most councils still providing normal waste collections, survey reveals

The majority of councils have been able to provide a normal waste and recycling collection service, a new survey has revealed.

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) found 85% of councils are still able to provide a normal collection for general domestic waste.

Three-quarters of councils have also maintained their normal recycling services, the survey found.

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[Coronavirus] Military distributing 30 million PPE items for community frontline

More than 30 million items of personal protective equipment are to be distributed to local resilience forums this week for use in adult social care and other frontline services outside hospitals, LGC has learned.

The emergency drop off, which is being handled by the military, follows widespread concern amongst councils about access to the vital equipment for staff working in care homes and domiciliary care and the publication late last week of guidance on the correct use of PPE.

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Steve Reed named shadow communities secretary

Former Lambeth LBC leader Steve Reed has been appointed shadow communities and local government secretary by new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

However, he does not have the housing role, with Labour continuing to split its shadowing of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government between two MPs.

Mr Reed replaces Andrew Gwynne, who earlier today said he chose to return to the back benches.

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[Coronavirus] Libraries see new online memberships soar amid lockdown

New online library memberships have rocketed by up to 770% in some parts of the country, as the nation turns to books for solace during the Covid-19 outbreak.

With strict instructions to stay at home to prevent the spread of Covid-19, e-and-audio books are being increasingly sought to help soothe anxious minds, the Local Government Association (LGA) said. Despite all council-owned library buildings closing amid the pandemic, services have seen a surge in requests for digital resources.

Hampshire County Council has seen a 770% increase in new digital users, Cornwall Council a 630% increase and Hertfordshire County Council an increase of 332%.

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[Coronavirus] Councils in UK struggle to house homeless despite Government calls to accommodate them during pandemic

Homeless people seeking accommodation have been turned away by local councils for failing to meet complicated bureaucratic requirements, a London charity has said.

According to Glass Door, others have been waiting for days on the streets due to a backlog in accommodation.

The news comes after the Government gave local councils 48 hours to house 100 per cent of England’s rough sleepers in efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus. That deadline passed last Sunday.

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New Labour leader Keir Starmer vows to lead party into 'new era'

Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to lead Labour "into a new era with confidence and hope" after decisively winning the contest to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

The 57-year old defeated Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey in a ballot of party members and other supporters.

The lawyer, who became an MP in 2015, won on the first round of voting, with more than 50% of ballots cast.

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[Coronavirus] Government bails out bus firms to keep routes open

The government will cover the losses of bus companies in England over the next three months to ensure that services can still run.

The UK's bus industry says passenger numbers have "fallen off a cliff" since the government advised people against all non-essential travel. That caused bus firms to cut services.

A new £167m fund will ensure that bus companies can cover their costs on essential services so that key workers, such as NHS staff, can get to work.

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[Coronavirus] New PPE guidance welcomed but concerns remain over shortages

New guidance on the types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is needed in different circumstances for those on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis has been published by the government and NHS leaders.

The updated guidance comes after widespread concern and uncertainty about when PPE was required amid a national shortage of equipment.

The guidance has been agreed by the four chief medical officers, chief nursing officers and chief dental officers, and reflects the fact that coronavirus is now widespread in the community.

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[Coronavirus] Distribution of £12bn business grants gets underway

Councils have begun distributing grants to small- and medium-sized businesses forced to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than £12.3bn was transferred to council bank accounts by the government on Wednesday to redistribute in grants of either £10,000 or £25,000 to businesses in the retail, leisure or hospitality sectors with a rateable value of £51,000 or less.

Cornwall Council received the largest sum, at £281m, followed by Birmingham and Leeds city councils which are the largest English authorities with business rates administration responsibilities. Council of the Isles of Scilly and Oadby & Wigston BC received the lowest amount at £4.2m and £10.2m respectively, while on average councils received £29.3m.

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[Coronavirus] New PPE guidance welcomed but concerns remain over shortages

New guidance on the types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is needed in different circumstances for those on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis has been published by the government and NHS leaders.

The updated guidance comes after widespread concern and uncertainty about when PPE was required amid a national shortage of equipment.

The guidance has been agreed by the four chief medical officers, chief nursing officers and chief dental officers, and reflects the fact that coronavirus is now widespread in the community.

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[Coronavirus] Crematorium attendance halted in West Yorkshire

A third West Yorkshire council has confirmed it will take no further bookings for funerals at crematoria, in a move its leader said had been taken "with a heavy heart" following new government guidance.

Kirklees Metropolitan Council said yesterday it has followed Bradford City MBC and Leeds City Council in opting to only provide ‘direct cremations’, which are without mourners and involve no service. Calderdale MBC has adopted a similar policy but a spokesperson for Wakefield MDC said an end to attendance at crematorium funerals was not being considered at the moment.

Kirklees will stop taking bookings at its two crematoria for funeral services on Monday, while graveside burials will continue with a reduced maximum of 10 people permitted to attend.

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[Coronavirus] North East care homes 'need more help' to cope with coronavirus outbreak and protect staff

A body representing North East care homes says staff are frightened as they face the growing threat from coronavirus. Care North East, which represents around eighty care providers, says its members need more help in coping with the outbreak in order to safeguard staff and residents.

The association says it has several key concerns:

- a shortage of personal protective equipment and basic supplies.

- shortages of staff because some are self isolating.

- It's demanding more coronavirus testing for residents and workers.

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[Coronavirus] Downing Street warns: defy the lockdown and we'll introduce more restrictions

The coronavirus lockdown could be tightened if the public flouts social-distancing rules with a warm weekend expected, Government sources have warned.

With temperatures expected to hit almost 20 degrees Celsius, ministers including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, warned that the warm weather was not an excuse to break the lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Councils' pandemic fight is hampered by central micromanagement

NHS and care workers have gripped public attention as the country responds to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the one million people who work in local government have also been working flat-out – work that will continue well past the present crisis, that has been made much harder by 10 years of austerity, and that is not being helped by some parts of Whitehall trying to micromanage the local response.

As councils cope with a huge wave of demand on every front, from social care to refuse collection, they are taking daily instructions from ministers and officials across Whitehall, themselves under pressure and struggling to keep pace with directions from Downing Street.

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[Coronavirus] Government revamps emergency loan scheme for business

The government loans scheme for businesses struggling with finances due to the coronavirus pandemic has been revamped following criticism from industry bodies and unions.

The changes to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme include banning lenders from requesting personal guarantees on loans under £250,000, and extending the scheme to include companies regardless of whether they have been turned down for funding via other routes.

Previously, government-backed loans for small businesses were only available to firms that had been turned down for a commercial loan from their bank.

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Video conferencing first at council meeting

A council used software to help decide key planning applications in what is believed to be the first meeting of its kind in the country.

Councillors on Waltham Forest LBC’s planning committee met in a room where they could maintain social distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus, but all other participation was done using a video conferencing facility.

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[Coronavirus] Councils start to pay out business grants

Thousands of small firms have begun to receive £25,000 cash grants from councils as part of a £22bn government package in response to COVID-19.

Leader of Westminster City Council, Cllr Rachael Robathan, said: ‘We are proud to play our part in the Government’s scheme to ensure that businesses are getting the financial assistance that they need.

‘The first 300 grants worth more than £3m have now gone to some of the borough’s small businesses and we are working as fast as we can to process others.’

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[Coronavirus] Scottish unions blast 'inconsistent' way councils are handling coronavirus

Trade unions in Scotland have criticised the ‘inconsistent’ approach to protecting council staff from coronavirus.

In a letter to first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, three trade unions have warned a lack of ‘urgency and consistency’ by some local authorities is putting council workers and services users at risk.

UNISON, Unite and GMB highlight a lack of Personal Protective Equipment for workers, no strategy for testing frontline workers, and concerns that some workers are unable to practice social distancing.

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Councils warn of ‘wave of waste’

There will be a spike in household rubbish due to the coronavirus lockdown, district councils have warned today.

The District Councils’ Network (DCN) said families are likely to generate more waste while staying at home, at the same time as some councils have been forced to reduce certain waste services.

It also issued a plea for residents not to burn rubbish on bonfires, following a spate of incidents across the country.

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Launch of new Buckinghamshire Council

The new unitary authority for Buckinghamshire has been launched, bringing together five district and county councils.

Leader of the new Buckinghamshire Council, Martin Tett, said it was ready to meet the challenges of the current coronavirus crisis.

Mr Tett said: ‘Over the course of the last year or so, specialists from all five councils have been working closely together as one team to prepare for the new Buckinghamshire Council.

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[Coronavirus] Government urged to take action after spike in Universal Credit applications

The government has been urged to get Universal Credit ‘battle ready’ for an unemployment ‘crisis’, after nearly one million people applied to receive UC benefits in just two weeks.

The Department for Work and Pensions confirmed 950,000 successful applications for UC were made in the two weeks from 16 March.

In light of the surge in applications, the Resolution Foundation think-tank has called for the removal of ‘capital rules tests’ that reduce support for those with savings over £6,000 and to ‘disentitle’ those with savings of more than £16,000.

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[Coronavirus] Government to waive duties on some medical imports

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed the government is to waive duties and VAT on medical imports from outside the EU, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

NHS suppliers will no longer have to pay customs duty and import VAT on specific medical goods coming from outside the EU, including ventilators, coronavirus testing kits and protective clothing.

The removal of the tariffs, which can be up to 12% on the price of such goods, is intended to speed up supplies into the UK during the crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Small businesses struggle to get bailout grants as well as bank loans

Thousands of Britain’s smallest businesses face missing out on the £10,000 grants earmarked to help them through the coronavirus recession because councils cannot get in touch to send cash.

The handouts are being distributed through the business rates system because it is simpler and quicker to use existing processes than to create new operations from scratch.

However, councils typically do not have financial information on businesses that have never paid rates.

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[Coronavirus] Councils' plea for residents to avoid 'spiralling waste' during coronavirus outbreak

District councils have issued a plea to residents minimise their household rubbish over concerns that the coronavirus pandemic will cause a "spiralling of waste".

The District Councils Network, which represents district authorities across the country, said it fears the pandemic will lead to a "wave of waste" in the coming weeks with families staying at home.

It added that, while it was pleased that people are staying safe at home, residents should work with local councils to manage bin collections.

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[Coronavirus] UK care home bosses threaten to quit over return of coronavirus patients

Care home managers have threatened to resign over new government guidelines that state they have to accept residents who have coronavirus.

The guidance also says hospitals will not routinely test residents entering care homes, meaning managers will not know if returning residents are infectious but asymptomatic.

“Some [returning] patients may have Covid-19, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic,” the guidance says. “All of these patients can be safely cared for in a care home if this guidance is followed.”

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[Coronavirus] Matt Hancock sets aim of 100,000 tests a day by end of April

The government is aiming to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day in England by the end of April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, as he announced a "five-pillar" testing plan. It comes as the government was criticised for not increasing the number of tests more quickly.

Currently, there are around 10,000 tests being carried out a day. The new target includes swab tests, which are already in use, and blood tests, which are yet to be launched.

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[Coronavirus] A fifth of smaller UK firms 'will run out of cash'

Nearly a fifth of all small and medium-sized businesses in the UK are unlikely to get the cash they need to survive the next four weeks, in spite of unprecedented government support.

That's according to research published today, which suggests that between 800,000 and a million businesses nationwide may soon have to close.

Many firms have told the BBC that banks have refused them emergency loans.

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[Coronavirus] Virus-hit charities 'need substantial support'

Charities are expecting to lose around a third of their income over the next three months due to the coronavirus outbreak, MPs have been told.

Karl Wilding, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said his group has been “inundated with calls for help”.

MPs heard voluntary organisations needed “substantial” government support to shore up their finances.

PM Boris Johnson has promised a “package of measures” for the sector.

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[Coronavirus] England's children commissioner calls for volunteer social workers

The children’s commissioner for England has called for an army of volunteers to help support children’s social care during the coronavirus crisis in an effort to stop the most vulnerable falling through the gaps and disappearing from view.

Just as doctors and nurses who left the NHS have responded to calls to return to work to help save lives, Anne Longfield would like to see retired social workers and a range of school, nursery and care staff who have been furloughed as a result of the crisis join forces to help keep at-risk children safe.

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus threatens the future of public transport, councils warn

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed the government is working on a support package for bus services after a warning they are at risk of collapse without emergency rescue funding.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, said bus companies may not be able to survive the COVID-19 crisis because of falling passenger numbers.

In some parts of the country the number of people using buses has fallen by more than 75% in a month.

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[Coronavirus] Nearly a million universal credit claims in past two weeks

Nearly a million people have applied for universal credit benefits in the past fortnight as the coronavirus pandemic has worsened.

The Department for Work and Pensions said 950,000 successful applications for the payment were made between 16 March, when people were advised to work from home, and the end of the month.

The department would normally expect 100,000 claims in a two week period. Officials said they were working "flat out" to help people get support.

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[Coronavirus] Renters threatened with eviction 'should stay put'

People living in rented accommodation in England and Wales who have received an eviction notice have been urged not to move out.

The government announced a three month ban on evictions as part of emergency coronavirus legislation but the ban only covered new eviction proceedings, not people already in the court system.

Last week, ministers caved in to pressure from Labour and charities and announced a complete ban on evictions.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes refusing patients due to lack of PPE

Shortages of personal protective equipment and a lack of coronavirus testing for social care staff are threatening the ability of the system to cope, it has been claimed, with care homes not willing or able to accept patients being discharged from hospital as a result.

The government says that 170 million items of PPE have been delivered to hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacies over the last two weeks amid concerns over frontline NHS staff getting sick.

But there is concern that much less is getting through to the care sector, prompting senior figures in local government and the care sector to warn the NHS could be overwhelmed if more is not done to support care homes.

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[Coronavirus] Government seeks urgent PPE audit amid widespread shortages

The government has ordered an urgent national audit of personal protective equipment, body bags, swabs and infection control products.

Local resilience forum planners were earlier this week asked to share stock levels and daily consumption rates of the items at ambulance, acute trusts and in primary care and other services by 9pm on Tuesday.

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Naylor to be Birmingham chief for a year

Birmingham City Council’s long wait for a chief executive eased this morning when it was announced Barking & Dagenham LBC’s chief executive Chris Naylor is to fill the role on a 12-month secondment.

Mr Naylor, who has held the role with the east London borough for five years, this morning told LGC that Birmingham was “coming through” a period of difficulty, describing the role as “a huge job” at “the largest city council in Europe”.

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[Coronavirus] Free school meals children to get food vouchers

Families with children eligible for free school meals in England will be able to claim weekly shopping vouchers while schools are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, say ministers.

The scheme will allow schools to issue vouchers worth £15 a week per child.

Headteachers have warned that even with the vouchers, some parents will struggle to feed their children.

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[Coronavirus] Thousands of council staff moved to the frontline

Tens of thousands of UK council staff are set to be redeployed in "critical" roles during the coronavirus crisis.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the closure of hundreds of local authority-run facilities from gyms to historic bath houses.

Council bosses are now carrying out skills surveys to see whether they can move those employees into social care, crematoriums and waste collection.

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[Coronavirus] 20,000 former NHS staff return to fight virus, PM says

Some 20,000 former NHS staff have returned to work to help the fight against coronavirus, Boris Johnson has revealed in a video posted online.

The prime minister, who is self-isolating after testing positive for the virus, said the country would get through the crisis "together".

It comes after England's deputy chief medical officer said it could be six months before life returns to "normal".

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus forecast to cut UK economic output by 15%

The coronavirus pandemic could cause UK economic output to plunge by an unprecedented 15% in the second quarter of the year and unemployment to more than double, according to dire forecasts.

The deepest recession since the financial crisis is now all but unavoidable, according to analysts at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), after businesses shut up shop and consumer spending fell dramatically as a result of lockdown restrictions.

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[Coronavirus] UK unemployment set to double as GDP collapses

Unemployment in Britain is expected to more than double in coming months, as economists warn that the impending rise will be even sharper than during the 2008 financial crisis.

Investment bank Nomura predicts an unemployment rate of 8% in the April-June quarter, rising to 8.5% in the following three months. In January, the figure was 3.9%

It says the effects of the pandemic will be an economic hit “multiple times that of the global financial crisis”, despite government efforts to stabilise the economy with huge stimulus pledges.

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New permanent secretary at MHCLG announced

Jeremy Pocklington has been named as the new permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

He succeeds Dame Melanie Dawes, who left the civil service to lead Ofcom in February. He has been acting permanent secretary since her departure.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: "He is a highly talented and dedicated senior civil servant who has been a great support to me since I became secretary of state and most recently as we work intensively to respond to Covid.

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[Coronavirus] Thousands of rough sleepers still unhoused in England, say charities

Thousands of rough sleepers in England are thought to remain unhoused despite an unprecedented government request to local authorities to find housing for those on the streets by Sunday evening to avert the spread of Covid-19.

After the unfunded request from the government last week, which also called for the closure of night shelters and street encampments, homelessness charities questioned whether fulfilling it would be feasible.

On Monday, charities were keen to stress that considerable progress had been made in a short space of time, with the national homelessness charity Crisis estimating that about 4,200 had been rehoused in England within a few weeks.

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[Coronavirus] Care home calls for camper vans to help staff stay on site

A care home where three quarters of elderly residents have been infected has appealed to the public for a camper van or caravan so that its staff can stay on site and not pass on the virus at home.

Families of residents at Oaklands care home in Hove said the virus had spread rapidly through the home despite staff “doing everything right” to contain it.

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[Coronavirus] Homeless people 'scared and hungry' on streets despite promise to house them over weekend

Homeless people are “scared, hungry and desperate” as they continue to survive on the streets during the coronavirus pandemic despite a government order for local authorities to place rough sleepers in hotels or other accommodation over the weekend, charities have warned.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) wrote to local councils in England on Friday saying they must find accommodation for all rough sleepers by the weekend, as part of efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus restrictions ‘likely to last six months’

Life in Britain will not return to normal for six months, England’s deputy chief medical officer has warned, as ministers begin preparing the public for an extended period of lockdown.

At the government’s daily press conference, Jenny Harries said that strict social distancing rules may have to be in place for between two and three months.

But she added that it would be a further three months before all restrictions were lifted, and even then there were likely to be “bumps” as new clusters of cases of coronavirus were identified.

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[Coronavirus] Birmingham and Manchester temporary hospitals announced

Two new temporary hospitals will be set up to help cope with the coronavirus crisis, the head of the NHS in England has said.

Sir Simon Stevens said the new hospitals will be built at Birmingham's NEC and the Manchester conference centre and will be ready next month.

A hospital being set up in London's ExCeL centre will be available for use next week, it was announced.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson, 55, has coronavirus: PM tests positive for disease as crisis grips the UK

Boris Johnson today dramatically announced he is suffering from coronavirus.

The Prime Minister said he had tested positive for the disease, after being advised by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty to get checked as the outbreak spreads across the country.

The 55-year-old insisted he has 'mild' symptoms', and will be continuing to lead the national response over video-conference.

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[Coronavirus] Non essential services slashed as focus diverted to coronavirus crisis

Waste collection services are being cut to the bare minimum, libraries closed and road repairs postponed as councils redeploy staff to the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.

This week, county councils began to set aside hundreds of millions to purchase thousands of new beds to ensure that those requiring social care are released quickly from hospital, to free up more space for coronavirus patients, including Buckinghamshire CC, which is taking over a hotel to use its beds to free up hospital wards.

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[Coronavirus] Confusion over local responsibility for ‘NHS’ volunteers

Leading local government voices are calling for clarity over how the national ‘NHS’ scheme to recruit volunteers will join up with the local volunteer schemes being coordinated by councils through specially designated hubs.

The NHS Volunteer Responders scheme, which was launched nationally on Tuesday, has already seen more than 670,000 members of the public apply centrally to carry out tasks to assist those self isolating at home. They will be made up of community response volunteers collecting and delivering supplies, patient transport volunteers to transport those discharged from hospital, NHS transport volunteers to deliver medical supplies and medication and check-in and chat volunteers to support residents over the phone.

Separately, councils have been told by government to organise themselves into ‘local authority hubs’ to help coordinate community volunteers at a local level.

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[Coronavirus] DPH’s call for access to NHS 111 data to track coronavirus spread

Directors of public health are urgently calling on NHS England to share detailed local coronavirus data collected by NHS 111 with councils.

NHS England has been collecting postcode data on the suspected spread of the virus based on callers who ring NHS111 to report Covid-19 symptoms. But so far this crucial information has not been shared with councils, leading to growing frustration among local public health leaders.

Dominic Harrison, public health director for Blackburn with Darwen BC, said that the deaths and confirmed cases data councils are basing their planning on is two to three weeks behind the infection.

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[Coronavirus] Eleanor Kelly: PPE ‘absolutely paramount’ for coronavirus shielding effort

Efforts to free up hospital beds and shield the most vulnerable from coronavirus will struggle without more personal protective equipment for social care staff, a council chief executive overseeing the capital’s emergency response has warned.

Southwark LBC chief executive Eleanor Kelly is one of the four senior public service figures on the strategic coordinating group leading London’s efforts to manage the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The group is chaired by City of London Corporation chief executive John Barradell and Ms Kelly is co-chair with responsibility for tactical arrangements.

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Borrowing still forecast to be lower than 2009 peak

Government borrowing is forecast to be as high £177bn in 2020-21, but still lower than in 2009, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The IFS predicts that the government could borrow an additional £120bn to ease disruption caused the coronavirus pandemic, more than tripling the amount forecast in the Budget.

At around 8% of national income, national debt would be more than in 2008–09 but some way below the peak of 10.2% of national income in the 2009-10, according to the institute.

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[Coronavirus] Government to subsidise up to 80% profits for the self-employed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that self-employed people are to receive subsidies of up to 80% of profits up to £2,500 per month, in a bid keep businesses running during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new grant, which goes live in April, will be available to self-employed people who posted profits of less than £50,000 for the last financial year, or if their average trading profit for the last three years, is less than £50,000.

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Fury as millions of council tax payers face inflation-busting 3.9 per cent average rise to above £2,000 a year despite coronavirus crisis

Millions of householders will receive council tax bills in excess of £2,000 next week as town halls put up their charges by twice the rate of inflation.

Ministers revealed last night that bills will increase by 3.9 per cent on average, equivalent to £68 on the average Band D bill or £136 on the top Band H bill.

In no fewer than 36 districts across the country, the Band D bill exceed £2,000. Last year, only seven districts charged more than that.

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[Coronavirus] Council bodies accept Spending Review delay decision

Local government organisations have expressed understanding at the government’s decision to postpone the upcoming Spending Review.

Reacting to the news of the delay, Joanne Pitt, CIPFA local government policy manager, said: ‘’During this time of increased uncertainty and strain on public services, it is understandable that the spending review has been postponed to focus efforts on combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.

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[Coronavirus] Scotland passes Covid-19 business rates compensation law

Legislation to compensate Scottish councils for the loss of business rates revenue in the light of the coronavirus pandemic has been approved by the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs backed an order on Tuesday afternoon which will see the general revenue grant allocated to councils boosted to offset the fall in revenue which will follow the government’s guarantee of total rates relief for businesses worst hit by the spread of the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Social care faces 'complete emergency', Commons committee told

The social care system is in a "complete emergency" and will require a funding top-up to deal with the impact of coronavirus, MPs have heard.

Experts from the sector warned that "we're going to have to pay our way out of trouble" as the virus puts additional pressure on both carers and vulnerable Britons.

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[Coronavirus] UK government unveils aid for self-employed

Self-employed workers can apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits to help them cope with the financial impact of coronavirus, the chancellor has announced.

The money - up to a maximum of £2,500 a month - will be paid in a single lump sum, but will not begin to arrive until the start of June at the earliest.

Rishi Sunak told the self-employed: "You have not been forgotten."

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[Coronavirus] Universal credit 'almost impossible' to complete claim as more than 500,000 apply

Workers attempting to apply for universal credit after being laid off during the coronavirus crisis have described how it is almost impossible to complete a claim.

More than 500,000 people have applied for the vital payments in the last nine days, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed on Wednesday.

However, benefits experts have warned that only a fraction of them will have succeeded because the service is swamped and it is currently almost impossible to talk to anyone at the DWP.

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[Coronavirus] Forces raise concern over resilience plans for elderly through LRFs

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse has been urged to escalate to central government concerns raised by members of some local resilience forums (LRFs) that councils haven’t got the measures in place to lead with support for vulnerable people during the lock down.

The leading charity for older people warned it was vital that “national and local support mechanisms” were operating within days.

But concerns have been raised that some councils have not taken decisions fast enough to be ready. Contacts outside of gold groups were described by one official as “patchy”.

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[Coronavirus] COVID-19 to send almost all G20 countries into a recession

Following the coronavirus outbreak, we have revised our growth forecasts for all countries across the world. The results paint a bleak picture. Across the G20, all but three countries will register a recession this year. The global economy will contract by 2.2%.

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[Coronavirus] £1.6bn for social care ‘unlikely to be enough’ for coronavirus crisis response

The social care sector will have to “pay it's way out of trouble” in order to cover the mounting costs of the coronavirus crisis, the co-chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services James Bullion has warned.

Speaking at a session of the Commons health and social care committee, held remotely on Thursday to hear evidence on preparations for coronavirus, Mr Bullion warned that the unringfenced £1.6bn promised by the government to support social care, which is due to arrive in council bank accounts on Friday, is “unlikely to be enough”.

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[Coronavirus] Sarah Norman: ‘The demands on us are enormous’

The government’s “battle rhythm” of holding early evening press conferences is adding to pressure on staff delivering the local response to the coronavirus crisis, a leading council chief executive has warned.

Speaking to LGC about how Barnsley MBC is working to protect residents and businesses through the outbreak, chief executive Sarah Norman stressed she did not want to be overly critical of the government but said the practice over the past week of making significant announcements late in the day was unhelpful.

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[Coronavirus] Free parking for all frontline coronavirus workers

NHS staff are to be given free car parking with immediate effect at hospitals and other medical facilities for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Social care staff and health service volunteers will also be exempt from parking charges.

NHS Trusts set their own parking charges, but the Government will cover the cost of any income lost from daily fees paid by staff, the Department of Health said.

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[Coronavirus] Councils coronavirus Q&A with Andy Burns, CIPFA

Council finance officers around the UK are joining the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. PF talks to CIPFA associate director Andy Burns about the challenges they are facing.

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[Coronavirus] Cambridge to lead £20m fight against spread of coronavirus

The University of Cambridge will be taking a major role in the fight against the coronavirus spread after it was announced that a £20m investment will allow for large-scale investigation into the cause of the virus.

The national effort to understand and restrict the novel coronavirus infection is set for a boost as the Government and the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser announced the role of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium.

Included in this collaboration is the NHS, Public Health Agencies, UK Research and Innovation, Wellcome Sanger Institute and numerous academic institutions, who will work to map the cause of the disease with a view to share that data with hospitals, NHS centres and the Government.

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[Coronavirus] Retired social care workers urged to return to help during coronavirus outbreak

Retired care workers are being urged to return to help the social care sector through the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, has written to care providers saying the sector will need the “support of the nation” if it is to continue helping vulnerable people.

He is calling for retired staff to join the national effort, as well as employees, particularly those from the catering, hospitality and air travel industries, who may be without work.

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[Coronavirus] Retired social care workers urged to return to help during coronavirus outbreak

Retired care workers are being urged to return to help the social care sector through the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, has written to care providers saying the sector will need the “support of the nation” if it is to continue helping vulnerable people.

He is calling for retired staff to join the national effort, as well as employees, particularly those from the catering, hospitality and air travel industries, who may be without work.

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[Coronavirus] Care home staff are being left with no protective equipment and told to self-isolate at work if they test positive for coronavirus

Care home staff are being told to self-isolate at work if they test positive for the deadly coronavirus, a union has claimed.

The GMB claimed many care workers were not being given proper personal protection equipment (PPE), leaving them vulnerable to falling ill with the virus which has infected more than 9,500 people in the UK.

Many carers have also been left without any childcare outside of school hours because of the unsociable hours they work, the union added.

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[Coronavirus] Parliament shuts down for a month

Parliament has shut down until 21 April at the earliest to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Emergency laws to deal with the pandemic have been rushed through both Houses and were given Royal Assent earlier on Wednesday.

MPs voted to plan for a managed return to work on Tuesday 21 April, to deal with Budget legislation.

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[Coronavirus] UK coronavirus home testing to be made available to millions

Millions of 15-minute home coronavirus tests are set to be available on the high street or for Amazon delivery to people self-isolating, according to Public Health England (PHE), in a move that could restore many people’s lives to a semblance of pre-lockdown normality.

The UK government has bought 3.5m tests – which reveal whether someone has had the virus and is therefore thought to have some immunity – and is ordering millions more, it has said.

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[Coronavirus] DWP swamped with half a million universal credit claims in nine days

Almost half a million people have made new claims for universal credit since the coronavirus epidemic took hold in Britain, creating long delays as checks are made before payments are approved.

Dawn Butler, the Labour MP, tweeted a screenshot of one claimant’s computer screen with a message saying there were 76,628 people in the queue ahead of them.

Other MPs said people had described waiting on the telephone for hours to have claims approved, only to be told to ring back the next day.

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PWLB lending limit to be raised £115bn

The Public Works Loan Board lending limit is to be raised from £95bn to £115bn under measures in the Finance Act 2020.

Alongside the rise, which will increase the cumulative maximum councils can borrow from PWLB fromn the current £95m, the act will give the Treasury powers to increase the lending limit further, to a maximum of £135bn.

The Act is still making its way through Parliament, which is set to close early for Easter from today, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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[Coronavirus] Jenrick brings forward payment of £3.4bn in corona crisis cash

Local government should get £3.4bn in its bank accounts by this Friday after ministers acted to bring forward planned cash payments in response to the coronavirus outbreak, LGC has learned.

Robert Jenrick made the announcement on a call to chiefs yesterday afternoon. It will consist of £1.6bn from the Covid-19 response fund which had originally been planned to be paid on 3 April and £1.8bn in section 31 grants in lieu of lost business rates as a result of the major exemptions of business rates.

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Bradford and Kirklees give go-ahead to progress devo deal

Bradford City MBC’s executive and Kirklees Metropolitan Council’s cabinet have both overcome social isolation restrictions to signal the go ahead for the West Yorkshire devolution deal to move forward to its next stage.

As councils are unable to meet in full due to social restrictions put in place by the government to tackle the coronavirus, Bradford’s executive provided their views to the council’s chief executive Kersten England in this morning’s meeting which was held by teleconference. Ms England will take the decision under delegated powers tomorrow.

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[Coronavirus] Now is not the time for Westminster to tighten its centralising grip

In midst of what will perhaps be the biggest crisis of the 21st century, local councils across the UK are being called upon to act in unprecedented ways to support communities, protect the vulnerable – while at the same time taking steps to implement social distancing.

But this requires Westminster to loosen the reins of power and to trust decision-makers in local and combined authorities to know what is right for their communities.

In addition, as COVID-19 spreads, the way the Government acts and responds to the changing context of governance is important.

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[Coronavirus] NHS account deadline delayed due to pandemic disruption

Coronavirus disruption has led officials to push back the deadline for NHS accounts, and delay the implementation of an IFRS accounting standard for a year.

Draft accounts will now not be due until 11 May if provider organisations (foundations and trusts) choose to extend the deadline - currently 27 April - and audited accounts will not be due until 25 June.

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[Coronavirus] York Council leader warns of £20m shortfall due to coronavirus

City of York Council leader Keith Aspden has warned his council faces a £20m shortfall in funding due to rising costs in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

He has called for government to allocate more funds to the council, which he said is expected to receive less than £5m of emergency coronavirus funds.

Aspen made his intervention in a letter sent to Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, Simon Clarke, Northern Powerhouse minister, and Vicky Ford, parliamentary undersecretary of state for children and families.

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Council Tax levels set by local authorities in England 2020 to 2021

Information on Council Tax levels set by local authorities in England and associated information for the financial year 2020 to 2021.

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[Coronavirus] UK brings in strict curbs on life to fight virus

Boris Johnson has outlined strict new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people.

He said people should leave home only to exercise once a day, travel to and from work where "absolutely necessary", shop for essential items and to fulfil any medical or care needs.

He also ordered the immediate closure of shops selling non-essential goods.

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[Coronavirus] Home care business to recruit 10,000 new staff as demand soars

A London-based home care firm, Cera Care, is seeking 10,000 new staff across its UK business, in an effort to fight the Covid-19 crisis.

Cera Care hopes to train and certify workers as qualified carers and put them to work in as little as 10 days.

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Fewer potholes being repaired in England and Wales

The number of potholes repaired in England and Wales has fallen by a fifth in the past 12 months amid a decline in road maintenance budgets, figures show.

Local authorities filled 1.5m potholes in the 2019-20 financial year compared with 1.9m during the previous 12 months, according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

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[Coronavirus] Communities secretary handed power to order virtual council meetings

MPs have backed emergency legislation which paves the way for council meetings to be held remotely.

Government amendments to the Coronavirus Bill, which completed its fast tracked passage through the Commons last night, allow for the communities secretary to specify the frequency, location and manner in which council meetings must be held, including a provision that meetings can be held without any or all of the participants being in the same place.

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[Coronavirus and CSR] Spending review outlining government plans for next three years to be delayed over Covid-19, chancellor says

The comprehensive spending review setting out government expenditure plans for the next three years will be delayed from July because of the coronavirus outbreak, chancellor Rishi Sunak has told cabinet.

No new date was given for the CSR, with ministers told only that it will come "in due course".

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Chancellor's package of support could cost ‘several billion pounds’ per month

Rishi Sunak’s support package for workers could cost several billion pounds per month, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The new package, announced last week, will see the government cover 80% of employees’ wages for up to £2,500 per month, if they are unable to work.

The IFS predicts that if 10% of employees are affected, this could cost up to £10bn over the next three months. If more take advantage of the support then the cost will be “proportionally higher”.

IFS director Paul Johnson said: “The chancellor has announced a huge package of support aimed at keeping people in employment. The cost of the wage subsidy package is unknowable at present but will run into several billion pounds per month that it is in operation.

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[Coronavirus] Government confirms it will plough £500million into an emergency hardship fund to cover council tax bills for vulnerable people worst affected by coronavirus

Families at most risk of financial hardship as a result of the economic collapse caused by coronavirus will be able to get help with their council tax payments after the Government confirmed set up a £500million hardship fund,.

The money for councils to give tax relief to vulnerable people and households, first announced in the Budget, was confirmed by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick this morning.

The money will go to local authorities in England to enable them to reduce the 2020/21 council tax bills of working-age people who receive local council tax support, he said.

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[Coronavirus] Council procurement innovates around Covid-19 restrictions

As the country, and indeed the world cease operations to tackle this pandemic, public services must continue, and arguably now more than ever - so must public procurement.

Last week, the government made it easier than ever to facilitate the procurement of goods and services in order to allow emergency contracts to be awarded without the delay of red tape.

Paul Meigh, Head of Procurement at Central Bedfordshire Council spoke to PSE about the additional challenges this virus has posed on public procurement.

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[Coronavirus] Councils put at heart of coronavirus response

Councils will be put at the heart of the response to coronavirus by delivering a national network of support to people at very high risk.

The Government has high expectations of the role that councils will need to play in supporting vulnerable people to get the support they need.

New hubs, which will focus on providing access to food, medicines and other supplies, will provide targeted support after 1.5m people deemed clinically vulnerable were asked to stay at home for three months.

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[Coronavirus] People who ignore government advice 'selfish'

People who have ignored government advice aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic are "very selfish", says the health secretary.

Matt Hancock said the government was willing to take "more action" if needed to stop the virus from spreading.

Over the weekend, photos emerged showing crowds of people visiting open spaces across many parts of the UK.

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[Coronavirus] Army to distribute masks and protective suits to frontline NHS staff

The Army will be brought in to help get deliveries of protective equipment to frontline NHS staff who are battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Hospital trusts have been told they will be receiving deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons and protective suits "around the clock" during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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[Coronavirus] Million undocumented migrants could go hungry, say charities

Approximately a million undocumented migrants living under the radar in the UK could be at risk not only of contracting Covid-19 but also of starvation because of the crisis created by the pandemic, charities have warned.

Nobody knows exactly how many of these migrants are currently in the UK, as the Home Office does not have comprehensive records of their whereabouts.

This group includes asylum seekers whose claims the Home Office has rejected but who are fearful of returning to their home countries and temporary workers whose visas have expired.

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[Coronavirus] What's in the emergency Coronavirus legislation?

What does the legislation include?

The bill gives the government wide-ranging powers, unlike any other recent legislation.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has stressed that the powers in the bill would only be used "when strictly necessary" and would remain in force only for as long as required to respond to the crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Landlords barred from evicting firms that fail to pay rent

Thousands of retail, hospitality and leisure firms have been given a last-minute reprieve allow them to suspend rent payments to landlords for at least three months.

Landlords will be banned from evicting commercial tenants during the period as part of the latest government support for businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

The move comes as a major relief for thousands of firms amid a pending quarterly rental payment due to landlords on Wednesday.

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[Coronvirus] Rishi Sunak faces legal action from gig economy workers

Pressure is mounting on Rishi Sunak to extend his coronavirus bailout to the UK’s five million self-employed people, with gig workers threatening legal action against the chancellor’s current “discriminatory” policy and a survey suggesting half would keep working if they had symptoms.

On Friday, Sunak said self-employed workers could access £94.25 a week in universal credit, but he gave a far more generous deal to employees of 80% of salaries, capped at £2,500 per month.

He is being lobbied to go further in coming days or risk public health by incentivising self-employed taxi-drivers, couriers and other gig economy workers and zero-hours contractors to keep working while ill.

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[Coronavirus] Fraudsters impersonating officials are targeting the elderly

Fraudsters are knocking on the doors of the elderly and scamming them out of their savings by impersonating officials during the coronavirus crisis, a body has warned.

Exploitative criminals are committing burglary or fraud by pretending to be Government, council or medical officers, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson announces closure of all UK pubs and restaurants

Boris Johnson took the extraordinary step of ordering pubs, clubs and restaurants across the UK to close on Friday, and announced an unprecedented wage-support scheme to try to prevent a tsunami of job losses.

Announcing the decision in the fight against the coronavirus, the prime minister said that he realised it went against what he called “the inalienable free-born right of people born in England to go to the pub”.

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[Coronavirus] Jenrick in coronavirus cash flow appeal

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick has urged councils experiencing cash flow issues as a result of coronavirus to get in touch.

Some local authorities have decided not to take any April direct debit payments, which will have a significant impact on cash flow.

The Local Government Association is currently collating the financial pressures the sector is experiencing.

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[Coronavirus] Race to implement economic support package

Council finance officials and civil servants have raced to work out how to implement the Government’s enhanced package of economic support for coronavirus-affected businesses.

The Government pledged grant funding of £10,000 for all firms in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief and grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure firms with property that has a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000.

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[Coronvirus] Chancellor prepares wage package rescue plan

The chancellor is set to announce an employment and wage subsidy package to try to protect millions of jobs.

Talks went on into the night with business groups and union leaders, who urged the government to help pay wages amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Many firms are warning of collapse, wiping out thousands of jobs, as life in the UK is largely put on hold.

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[Coronavirus] Tens of thousands of retired medics asked to return to NHS

Letters are being sent to more than 65,000 retired doctors and nurses in England and Wales asking them to return to the NHS to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

Senior officials say the ex-employees are needed to boost frontline services.

It comes after the government pledged to ensure that all hospitals have enough protective gear and ventilators.

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[Coronavirus] (COVID-19): guidance for local government

In the Budget on 11 March 2020, the Chancellor announced a package of measures to provide support for public services, individuals and businesses to ensure the impact of coronavirus is minimised.

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[Coronavirus] Whiteman: virus spend could lead to s114s unless borrowing rules eased

Councils battling coronavirus could be forced into effective bankruptcy unless ministers relax restrictions which prevent borrowing to fund services, Rob Whiteman has said.

The chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy spoke to LGC to demand government support for councils on a par with that given to the NHS and business, as well as to predict a new era of state intervention to support businesses and individuals.

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[Coronavirus] Stop going to the pub or I'll BAN you: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says human rights should be 'infringed' as he slams people for still going to bars and using public transport

The Mayor of London has hit out at people who continue to go to pubs and use public transport, warning he will 'infringe' their human rights if necessary.

Sadiq Khan said 'liberties and human rights need to be changed, curtailed, infringed' in order to protect people and prevent further coronavirus deaths.

He threatened to ban people from going to the pub and cafés in his stark address to the London Assembly last night.

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[Coronavirus] Waste operators call for ‘performance penalty’ relief to keep services running

Waste operators have asked to be excused from performance penalties from the councils they have contracts with as part of the effort to keep services running during the pandemic.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), the voice of the UK’s recycling and waste management industry, yesterday called on the Government to help keep vital waste services moving.

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[Coronavirus] Clive Betts: Ministers must answer key council questions on coronavirus

Last week’s Budget left a series of answered questions for local government, writes the chair of the Commons housing, communities and local government select committee.

Though delivered only a week ago, the government’s Budget for this parliament already feels like a distant memory. The outbreak of covid-19 has overtaken events. There are now some very serious concerns about public service preparedness for the pandemic.

Coronavirus poses some substantial challenges for local government. Take, for instance, social care – where there are already 120,000 vacancies in the workforce.

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[Coronavirus] PM’s lock down plans came ‘as surprise’ to London’s police and politicians

Government must share its plans for tackling coronavirus in the capital with London local government ahead of making announcements to avoid more of the "confusions and panic" created by suggestions the capital could be put into lock down, senior figures have warned.

The prime minister “set hares running” among the capital's local government leaders when he raised the possibility on national television during his press conference on Wednesday.

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[Coronavirus] Politics latest news: Boris Johnson expected to announce London shutdown today, with pubs and restaurants to close

Boris Johnson is expected to announce the shut down of London today with bars, clubs, pubs, restaurants and cafes all ordered to close.

Shops considered ‘non-essential’ such as clothing stores are also likely to be forced to shut their doors in an attempt to curb coronavirus in the capital.

Well-placed sources said the Prime Minister would make the announcement at his afternoon press conference. London’s mayor Sadiq Khan is expected to make a separate statement.

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[Coronavirus] Universal Credit to be raised by £1,000 a year in £7bn rescue deal

Universal Credit will be raised by £1,000 a year as part of a £7billion coronavirus welfare rescue package.

The "standard allowance" - £323.22 a month for single people and £507.37 a month for couples - will be raised for the next 12 months. Working Tax Credit will be raised by the same amount.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the move would "benefit 4million of our most vulnerable households".

The government will also suspend the minimum income floor in Universal Credit "for everyone effected by the economic impact of coronavirus".

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[Coronavirus] Take your own rubbish to the tip, families told as bin collections cancelled in crisis

FAMILIES have today been told to take their rubbish to the tip as bin collections will be cancelled during the coronavirus outbreak.

Councils across the country have scaled back household bin collections and people have been told take their own waste to the dump rather than wait for lorries.

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[Coronavirus] Government to pay up to 80% of workers' wages

The government will pay the wages of employees unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic, in a radical move aimed at protecting people's jobs.

It will pay 80% of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.

The "unprecedented" measures will stop workers being laid off due to the crisis, chancellor Rishi Sunak said.

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[Coronavirus] Buoyant tax income ahead of coronavirus crisis

The last set of public finance figures before the Government’s £350bn injection to combat coronavirus’ economic impact shows a buoyant month for tax income.

However, the long-term impact of small businesses and self-employed traders shutting down for many weeks will inevitably hit future tax revenues.

Borrowing in February was £300m, half the amount for the same month last year.

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[Coronavirus] Social workers call for clarity on carrying out statutory duties

Social workers are concerned they will be unable to safeguard families and carry out their statutory duties in the face of mass isolation.

They are calling for more information on the implications for registration if they are unable to meet duties, timescales or usual legal compliance during this crisis.

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Universal Credit advances fraud could have cost £150m

Universal Credit ‘advances fraud’ is estimated to have cost the Department for Work and Pensions up to £150m in the 18 months to December 2019, according to the National Audit Office.

Advance payments were introduced by the DWP to help claimants who were struggling with the potential five-week wait for their first Universal Credit payment. However, the NAO estimates the DWP has seen 100,000 fraudulent claims in the 18 months since.

A number of illegal practices were identified, including providing false information to boost the value of the advance and fraudulently using the personal identification details of third parties, either knowingly or without their consent.

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[Coronavirus] Local authorities to receive £1.6bn from Response Fund

Councils are set to receive £1.6bn of funding to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, as part of the government’s £5bn coronavirus fund announced during the Budget.

The money has been allocated to help local authorities respond to the increased strain on services, including support for adult social care services and helping the most vulnerable, including homeless people.

The money forms part of the £2.9bn of funding allocated to help local authorities and health services with the pandemic.

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[Coronavirus] Emergency laws will give powers to close airports and detain and quarantine people

The government will today outline details of new emergency powers to contain the spread of COVID-19 when it publishes the Emergency Coronavirus Bill.

It is expected to include details for shutting down the UK's ports and airports and giving police powers to detain people suspected of having coronavirus.

It follows significant economic measures introduced by Chancellor RIshi Sunak

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[Coronavirus] Up to 20,000 troops on standby to help deal with COVID-19 outbreak

Up to 20,000 service personnel will be put on standby to help combat the coronavirus, with troops gearing up to drive oxygen tankers, support the police and boost hospital capacity.

On Thursday, reservists will be put on notice to mobilise if required as part of a war-like effort to prepare the armed forces in case the government calls upon them in large numbers.

But the military must also deal with the threat posed by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

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[Coronavirus] 40 London Underground stations to be closed

Up to 40 stations on the London Underground network are to be shut as the city attempts to reduce the effect of the coronavirus outbreak.

Transport for London (TfL) announced there would be a partial shutdown of the network from Thursday morning.

Additionally, there will be no night Tube and bus services will also be reduced, it said.

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Council tax reform would help 'level up' north of England

More than 10m households would benefit from lower council tax bills if the government reformed the “arbitrary and unfair” annual property charge to reflect the growing divide between London and the south-east and the rest of England.

Council tax bills would fall by 56% in Blackpool, 57% in Stoke-on-Trent and 60% in Kingston upon Hull, the tax and spending watchdog said, ending decades of punishing tax rates in many of Britain’s most deprived areas.

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[Coronavirus] Business grant commitment sparks major cashflow concerns

Councils will be struggling with cashflow in “a matter of months” unless the government provides funding for the cash grants and rates relief it has promised businesses to mitigate the impacts of coronavirus, finance directors are warning.

On Tuesday, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced no businesses in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors would pay business rates in 2020-21. He also said that businesses in those sectors with a rateable value of less than £51,000 would be eligible for cash grants of up to £25,000, administered by councils.

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Devon CC’s children’s services criticised for ‘serious failures’

Ofsted has found ‘serious failures’ in services for young people in Devon as they discovered a minority of care leavers had been living in tents.

Devon County Council’s children’s services have been rated ‘inadequate’ after an Ofsted inspection in January.

The inspectors’ report said that senior leaders did not know about the extent of the failures to protect some of the most vulnerable children and young people from harm.

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[Coronavirus] Tenants protected from eviction during coronavirus outbreak

Council leaders have welcomed measures to protect renters from being evicted due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Government has announced emergency legislation to ban new evictions from social or private rented accommodation during the pandemic.

Under the measures, landlords will be unable to start court proceedings for at least three months. During this time, landlords will be given a three month mortgage payment holiday.

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[Coronavirus] Schools shut down to stop spread of Covid-19

All schools, colleges and early years settings will be closed as of next week as part of the effort to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

Starting next Monday, children will have to remain at home with their families as schools close down in response to the spread of Covid-19.

The children of key workers, such as NHS staff, police, and supermarket delivery people, as well as vulnerable children, will still be able to attend school.

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[Coronavirus] UK interest rates cut to lowest level ever

The Bank of England has cut interest rates again in an emergency move as it tries to support the UK economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the second cut in interest rates in just over a week, bringing them down to 0.1% from 0.25%.

Interest rates are now at the lowest ever in the Bank's 325-year history.

The Bank said it would also increase its holdings of UK government and corporate bonds by £200bn with an effort to lower the cost of borrowing.

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[Coronavirus] £2.9bn provided to free up hospital beds for coronavirus patients

Local authorities will get more than half of a £2.9bn pot of emergency funding to sort out – at least for now – the long-running problem of elderly and vulnerable people stuck in hospital because the social care they need is not available.

The announcement came as the NHS launched an appeal to 65,000 retired doctors and nurses to come back to help with the coronavirus epidemic, under the slogan evocative of wartime: “Your NHS needs you.” Majority of retired NHS staff don't want to return to tackle Covid-19 crisis

The beds occupied by elderly and vulnerable people who have recovered from illness but need care in the community are now urgently needed for the expected influx of severely ill coronavirus patients.

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[Coronavirus] Volunteers mobilise to ensure children get fed during school closures

The government has said that low-income families whose children are ordinarily eligible for the meals will be offered vouchers, food or meals, even if they are no longer attending school because of coronavirus closures coming into force from Friday.

Around 1.3 million children in England who come from the most disadvantaged families currently benefit from a free school lunch.

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[Coronavirus] ‘No excuses for slacking’ as councils work ‘as one team’ to fight virus

The prime minister has given his personal commitment to senior members of the sector that councils can be “safe in the knowledge” they will have what they need to tackle the coronavirus.

In a meeting yesterday between senior local government representatives and ministers including health secretary Matt Hancock and communities secretary Robert Jenrick, Boris Johnson gave his “personal commitment he will back us” according to John Fuller, chair of the District Councils Network (DCN). “That’s good enough for me,” he said.

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[Coronavirus] £3bn bed blocking coronavirus cash injection

Almost £3bn of the Government’s £5bn Covid-19 funding will go towards freeing up at least 15,000 English hospital beds by the end of next week, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.

It comes after the Local Government Association called for targets on delayed transfers of care, which reached record levels last month, to be relaxed amid the coronavirus crisis.

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Coronavirus: Care companies fear bankruptcy

Coronavirus has left companies which support older and disabled people in their own homes struggling to cope, says their professional association.

The UK Home Care Association says the firms need more protective equipment for staff and clearer guidance on protecting clients.

The virus has put care companies which were already financially vulnerable under additional pressure, says UKHCA.

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Ofsted slams county after care leavers found living in tents

Care leavers were discovered sleeping in tents on the streets while children suffering from chronic neglect and emotional abuse are being left with their families for too long, a damning Ofsted report on Devon CC’s children’s services has found.

Published on Tuesday, the report downgraded the county’s services from requires improvement to inadequate and said the council had repeatedly failed to address issues raised by the regulator over the past seven years.

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Coronavirus bill to suspend Care Act entitlements

Entitlements under the Care Act 2014 will be suspended so councils are not required to meet all adult social care needs and could opt to delay assessments to prioritise “the most urgent and serious” cases, under measures in the proposed emergency coronavirus bill.

A summary of the bill published yesterday includes wide ranging legislative changes aimed at giving public bodies the “tools and powers” to respond effectively to the outbreak.

The government said the proposed amendments to the Care Act would not remove councils’ duties of care to those at risk of serious neglect or harm, with an expectation they would continue to do all they can to meet needs.

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Fears for democracy amid widespread coronavirus meeting cancellations

Senior local government figures have raised the alarm over consequences for scrutiny and governance as growing numbers of councils cancel meetings.

In Hampshire, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases by local authority area with 69, Eastleigh BC has cancelled all meetings until May and New Forest DC has cancelled some meetings.

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Councils to be fully funded for coronavirus costs

Councils in England will be fully funded for implementing measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the chancellor has confirmed.

Speaking yesterday, Rishi Sunak said local authorities will be fully compensated for the new measures, with the devolved administrations receiving at least £3.5bn in additional funding.

Mr Sunak also unveiled a package of ‘unprecedented’ support for businesses with £330bn of guarantees.

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[Coronavirus] Schools in Wales all closing by Friday

All schools in Wales will close by Friday at the latest in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Welsh Government has announced.

The country's Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she was bringing forward the Easter break.

It comes as Scotland took similar steps with all schools and nurseries there closing from the end of the week and may not reopen before summer.

There is an estimated 200,000 cases of coronavirus across the globe.

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[Coronavirus] Government launches voucher scheme to cover free school meals during closures

The Government is to launch a voucher scheme to ensure children eligible for free school meals will continue to have access to hot food while schools shut down for the foreseeable future.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced in the Commons on Wednesday schools in England would close from Friday to all children except those of “key workers” and vulnerable children due to the coronavirus crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Call to lift benefits to help renters

A top benefit advice charity has called for action to protect people who rent their homes.

Turn2Us said universal credit should be increased to help renters who are affected by the coronavirus.

The charity also wants tenants to be shielded from having to return advance benefit payments.

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[Coronavirus] NHS staff 'at risk' over lack of protective gear

NHS staff say they are being put at risk during the coronavirus outbreak because of a lack of protective gear.

One doctor told the BBC that frontline healthcare workers felt like "cannon fodder" as they do not have access to equipment such as face masks.

Health workers also expressed concerns that not enough of them were being tested for the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Andy Burnham calls for volunteers to help councils support the vulnerable

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for the mobilisation of a people's army in the region to help councils support vulnerable people as the Covid-19 pandemic worsens.

The former Health Secretary has called for volunteers in the region of 2.8m people to sign up to support council officials in providing food, medicines and care for those in need.

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[Coronavirus] Treasury delays Implementation of IR35 tax until 2021

The government’s implementation of the controversial IR-35 tax rules has been postponed until April 2021, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Chief secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay announced the delay to Commons yesterday, less than a week after the Budget confirmed that tax was to go live next month.

"I can also this evening announce the government is postponing the reforms to the off-payroll working rules, IR35, from April 2020 to April 6, 2021”, Barclay said to Commons.

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[Coronavirus] Cratus creates coronavirus hotline

Cratus Communications has created a hotline service for council leaders and chief executives to help them through the Covid-19 crisis.

The hotline number has been created as a sounding board for advice, allowing them to discuss issues they are facing with Cratus’ team - many of whom have held leadership positions in local authorities.

Cratus will also ask its private sector clients to support councils by sharing their resources and expertise.

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Coronavirus: UK businesses feel impact of latest measures

Britons and UK businesses are feeling the impact of unprecedented coronavirus measures, as the chancellor prepares to unveil plans to help the economy.

Retailer Laura Ashley filed for administration as venues across the UK closed their doors, and airports warned they could shut down "within weeks".

It comes after the government outlined new advice to avoid unnecessary travel and contact with others.

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Coronavirus: Hotels and empty offices should be used to let homeless self-isolate, ministers told

The government has been urged to use vacant buildings such as hotels and offices to provide “safe spaces” for the homeless during the coronavirus crisis.

Campaigners said ministers should block-book hotel rooms to provide “field hospitals” for rough-sleepers to self-isolate as the disease spreads rapidly across the UK.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran suggested offices vacated by home-working staff could also be deployed to offer “a sanitised place to eat, drink water and use the toilet”.

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The need for a social care plan is more urgent than ever [opinion]

In Wednesday’s budget announcement, one word dominated – coronavirus. We are in a public health emergency, and resources rightly need to be spent dealing with it.

Unfortunately, the state of our social care, already at breaking point, will be made worse by the current pandemic. Coronavirus has the most severe impact on older and vulnerable groups and with 95 per cent of people living with dementia over 65, we need to consider the devastating impact this virus could have on them.

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Clean air for all: Lampposts to charge electric cars

An “electric avenue” has been developed where lampposts have been converted into chargers for battery-powered cars.

In what is thought to be the first of its kind, a street in the capital has been transformed into a hub for the vehicles to promote their use in residential areas. Twenty-four lampposts over a half-mile stretch of Sutherland Avenue in Maida Vale, northwest London, have been converted to contain chargepoints, allowing residents without driveways to power up electric vehicles overnight.

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Online political ads should be labelled, says Law Commission

Online political adverts should be labelled or “imprinted” to show who is paying for them, according to the Law Commission, which warns that there is a “very real risk of the electoral process losing credibility”.

The Law Commission’s review is aimed at modernising ballot rules and bringing them together in a single, consistent legislative framework. Other changes proposed include simplifying the nomination process.

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Public health gets above inflation rise but cuts ‘hit coronavirus capacity’

The public health grant will increase by 4.8% next year in a move government says is intended to cover the costs of wage increases for NHS staff working in organisations commissioned by councils.

The overall grant for 2020-21 was finally confirmed this morning as £3.28bn compared to £3.13bn this year. This is 3 percentage points above inflation which stood at 1.8% in January.

However, the grant is still 5.5% (£190m) lower than the overall allocation in 2015-16 of £3.47bn.

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Planning rules and audit deadline relaxed to support coronavirus effort

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has agreed to a string of measures designed to ease pressure on councils and allow them to focus their efforts on helping the most vulnerable through the coronavirus outbreak.

The government is also temporarily suspending routine Care Quality Commission inspections during the outbreak, and Ofsted will "look very favourably" on any requests to defer inspections because of coronavirus.

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Ministers mull legislation for remote council meetings

The government has announced it will now consider bringing forward legislation to allow council committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period.

It is also considering removing the requirement for annual council meetings to take place in person, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government announced following a teleconference meeting with more than 300 council leaders and leading figures from the sector and from Whitehall.

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Reported delay to spending review “unsurprising”, says CCN

A reported delay to the Treasury's Spending Review is “unsurprising” according to the County Councils Network.

Senior Treasury figures said the review could be pushed back to the end of the year to give the government more time to consider the impact of the crisis, The Telegraph reported.

The review will set department spending for public services and investment, covering resource budgets from 2021-22 to 2023-24 and capital budgets up to 2024-25.

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Public health grant to increase by £145m in 2020-21

Central government is to increase the public health grant by £145m to £3.3bn in 2020-21, a real term increase of 2.6% compared with 2019-20.

The total funding package handed down from central government to local government has increased from £3.1bn in 2019-20, to £3.3bn in 2020-21, according to figures released by the Department for Health and Social Care.

Funding from the grant is used for a variety of services including sexual health services, stop smoking campaigns and drug and alcohol treatment.

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Scottish economy faces 'permanent scarring' from coronavirus

Scotland should prepare for “permanent scarring” of its economy as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a leading think tank has warned.

The Scottish Government said this week that public events involving 500 or more people should be cancelled or postponed in order to protect the resilience of public services.

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Coronavirus: NHS England to cancel all non-urgent surgery to free up 30,000 beds

The head of NHS England hopes to stop the healthcare system becoming overwhelmed during a potential surge of COVID-19 cases.

The health service announced plans to cancel all routine surgery and send as many patients as possible home, with the aim of freeing up a third of the 100,000 hospital beds in England.

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Coronavirus: Chancellor unveils £350bn lifeline for economy

The government has unveiled a package of financial measures to shore up the economy against the coronavirus impact.

It includes £330bn in loans, £20bn in other aid, a business rates holiday, and grants for retailers and pubs. Help for airlines is also being considered.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told a press conference it was an "economic emergency. Never in peacetime have we faced an economic fight like this one."

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Firefighters told to cease ‘non-essential’ action amid fears over keeping “core emergency service” healthy

A number of fire and rescue services have already decided to take measures to restrict interaction between firefighters and the public.

Firefighters have been told to cease ‘non-essential’ action amid fears over keeping the “core emergency service” healthy for as long as possible.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which represents workers within the fire and rescue services across the UK, issued the warning despite what it deems as “little directive from central government”.

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Councils must not pay the price of the bailout this time round [opinion]

The 2008 bailout of the banks was followed by a decade of austerity, destroying council services. Rishi Sunak must not repeat George Osborne’s mistakes, writes LGC editor Nick Golding.

If councils had wanted one thing this year it was the end of austerity, with the comprehensive spending review signalling a rise in public sector spend after a decade of contraction.

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Sunak extends coronavirus business rates holiday

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the business rates holiday to all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector, irrespective of their rateable value.

The move came as part of a dramatic package of measures to shore up the economy as it reels from coronavirus, including the government underwriting £330bn of loan guarantees – something Mr Sunak described as "equivalent to 15% of our GDP".

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Gove to oversee public sector preparedness for coronavirus

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove is to chair a new implementation committee set up to support the government’s response to coronavirus.

The committee will oversee preparedness of the public sector, excluding the NHS, and critical national infrastructure.

It is one of four such committees announced by the government this afternoon, the chairs of which will attend a new daily C-19 meeting of ministers and officials which will monitor progress and refine measures agreed by the COBR committee chaired by the prime minister.

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Jenrick urges councils not to delay on coronavirus spending

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick this week urged council leaders not to put off decisions because of money in their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing more than 300 council leaders via teleconference, he insisted the Government will be ‘supporting you and ensuring the money flows to you’.

Responding to local government calls for the new £1bn hardship fund to be flexible, Mr Jenrick said: ‘We want to see this money flowing out of the door to the individuals who need it as quickly as possible.’

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Jenrick admits no science behind flooding threshold

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick has admitted there is no science behind a threshold that determines whether councils receive cash to cope with flooding.

Under existing criteria, the Government only provides property grants for flood resilience to council tax billing authorities where at least 25 properties have suffered damage.

Mr Jenrick is understood to be resisting councils’ appeals for more flexibility over funding for flood recovery, including looking again at the ‘unfair’ criteria.

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Coronavirus: Downing Street to give daily TV briefings on outbreak

The government is to hold daily televised press conferences to update the public on the fight against coronavirus, Downing Street has said.

From Monday, Boris Johnson or a senior minister will address the media to ensure people are informed about how to protect themselves.

It follows criticism of No 10 for an apparent lack of transparency over its plans to stem the spread of the virus.

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Social care coronavirus guidance urges ‘plans for mutual aid’

Councils have been urged to contact all adult social care providers in their areas, including ones they do not directly commission, to “map out” plans for the impact of coronavirus, under guidance published on Friday by Public Health England.

Three documents focused on the care homes, supported living and home care sectors, which are also aimed at clinical commissioning groups and care providers, outline measures that should be taken in various scenarios.

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Only 10% of councils meeting their pothole repair deadlines

Only one in 10 local authorities are meeting their own target times to fix potholes and other road defects, new research has revealed today.

Cycling UK found most councils set a three week target time to repair non-urgent potholes. However, no councils in Scotland or Wales responding to their freedom of information request achieved this, and only one in six English authorities met this target time.

North Tyneside Council repaired all 39,258 identified potholes on time between 2015-19, making it the most effective authority. It said Wakefield City Council was the worst performer, managing to fill only 13% of reported potholes on time.

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Council suspends all debt-related court action in wake of coronavirus

Sandwell Council said it will not take any court action for debt against residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Council said the announcement would help take pressure off people during a difficult time.

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Shapps announces £90m tech fund to make journeys ‘greener’

The Government has launched a multi-million pound fund to trial new technology aimed at making journeys ‘easier, smarter and greener’.

The £90m funding boost, which has been announced alongside a consultation on UK transport laws, will lead to trials of new transport innovation in three new ‘future transport zones’.

The zones will provide testing for experts, allowing them to work with a range of local bodies, such as councils, hospitals, airports and universities, to test innovative ways to transport people and goods.

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Six councils receive over £1m to ‘spearhead’ digital projects

Six councils across England will receive a share of £1.2m of funding to spearhead innovative digital projects to improve public services, the Government has announced.

Each council will receive up to £350,000 to push forward existing projects aimed at harnessing digital technology to create smarter ways to deliver public services such as housing repairs and the planning process.

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Tory MPs call for more funding for services to prevent rough sleeping

A group of 10 Conservative MPs have called for a move from a policy of ‘housing first’ to one of ‘prevention first’ that would see more funding go to services aimed at preventing homelessness.

In an essay collection published by the think tank Localis entitled ‘Valuing Housing, Improving lives’, the MPs attempt to rethink the social and economic role of housing over the next decade.

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Yorkshire council criticises Ofsted rating based on ‘short inspection visit’

A local authority in Yorkshire has said it is ‘disappointed’ by an Ofsted rating of its children’s social care services which concluded they were ‘inadequate’.

The inspectors said that since the last inspection in 2016 when East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s services were rated ‘good’, there had been a ‘marked deterioration’ in the quality of help and protection support for children in East Riding.

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Coronavirus: PM says everyone should avoid office, pubs and travelling

The PM has said everyone in the UK should avoid "non-essential" travel and contact with others to curb coronavirus - as the country's death toll hit 55.

Boris Johnson said people should work from home where possible as part of a range of stringent new measures.

Pregnant women, people over the age of 70 and those with certain health conditions should consider the advice "particularly important", he said.

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Birmingham City Council CFO resigns after chief executive snub

Birmingham City Council finance chief Clive Heaphy has resigned after his application for the vacant chief executive role was unsuccessful.

Heaphy joined the council in January 2018 after previously holding senior finance positions at HS2 and Brent Council.

In a statement to colleagues, Heaphy said: “Following my unsuccessful application to become chief executive, I have decided that it is no longer in mine or Birmingham’s interests for me to continue to work for the council.

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Northamptonshire predicts £119k budget surplus

Northamptonshire County Council has predicted a surplus of £119,000 on its 2019-20 budget.

The forecast, presented to a cabinet meeting, is based on income and expenditure up to the end of January 2020, and will see an underspend of £119,000 against the approved budget of £417.7m.

Most of the underspend is to be made up from a £2.7m reduction in adult social care costs, compared to last month’s estimates.

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Government plans to draft in Army to keep hospitals and supermarkets secure, escort food convoys and build tented field wards next to care homes to cope with crisis as deaths almost double in 24 hours

Ministers have drawn up plans to put troops on the streets to help deal with the coronavirus crisis after the number of deaths almost doubled within 24 hours.

With the death toll jumping from 11 to 21 and the number of confirmed UK cases leaping by almost 40 per cent, Downing Street accelerated plans to ban large public events and implement the self-isolation of entire households where any member has succumbed to the illness.

In a bid to 'shield' the most vulnerable, the Government is also expected to tell people over 70 to stay in strict isolation at home or in care homes for four months.

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Coronavirus: Supermarkets ask shoppers to be 'considerate' and stop stockpiling

Supermarkets are urging shoppers not to buy more than they need amid concern over coronavirus-linked stockpiling.

In a joint letter, UK retailers have reminded customers to be considerate in their shopping, so that others are not left without much-needed items.

"There is enough for everyone if we all work together," it adds.

It comes after some shops began rationing the sales of certain products to avoid them selling out completely.

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Bus cuts leave a million people without a regular service

More than a million people in Great Britain now live at least a mile from a bus stop with a regular service, BBC research suggests.

The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) said cuts to services had left some people "trapped in their homes".

Bus pass use by older and disabled people in England has fallen by almost a fifth in a decade.

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Calls for better support for homeless shelters and food banks amid coronavirus outbreak

Volunteers working in food banks and homeless shelters in the UK say they need more "guidance" and "support" as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

Those helping the vulnerable and homeless told ITV News they fear they will not be able to continue running services if restrictions - like an Italian-style lockdown - are brought in.

It comes as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK rose to more than 1,300, with 35 deaths from the virus.

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Coronavirus patients not self-isolating could be arrested as ministers plan police powers

Ministers are planning to give police the power to arrest people with coronavirus who are not self-isolating, the Health Secretary has confirmed.

Matt Hancock said "we will stop at nothing" in tackling the Covid-19 outbreak as he detailed a series of severe measures the Government is considering.

Bars, restaurants and shops other than supermarkets and pharmacies could be shut while over-70s will be asked in the coming weeks to stay indoors for up to four months, he said.

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Coronavirus: teaching union asks PM why schools are not being closed

The National Education Union – the largest of its kind in Europe – has written to the prime minister calling on him to clarify why he has not closed schools as part of the UK’s coronavirus strategy.

The letter underlines staff concerns about UK policy, which has been criticised for being out of step with other nations’ responses to the pandemic.

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Councils make urgent appeals for supplies of hand sanitiser and face masks amid coronavirus fears

Councils across England have begun appealing for supplies of hand sanitisers, face masks and body bags amid fears they will run out as public demand for them surges.

Local authorities have placed extra orders from their contractors to ensure that essential hygiene products are well stocked, as experts predict a rapid growth in Covid-19 cases over the coming months.

Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council has issued an urgent tender notice for suppliers to deliver foam sanitiser, surgical latex gloves, face masks with earloops and gel hand sanitiser.

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Local elections postponed for a year over coronavirus

The government has announced that May's local and mayoral elections in England will be postponed for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It comes after the Electoral Commission said on Thursday the polls should be delayed until the autumn to "mitigate" the impact of the virus.

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New major road network and large local major schemes announced

The Government has announced the successful major road network (MRN) and Large Local Major (LLM) schemes proceeding to the next stage of development.

The Treasury's Budget document names 15 schemes that will be taken forward - calling them a 'second round' of projects, despite this being the first funding round for the MRN (2020-2025).

A handful of MRN schemes were previously announced by former transport secretary Chris Grayling in 2018; however these were not mentioned in the Budget.

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Edinburgh allocates £2bn for coronavirus fight

City of Edinburgh Council has allocated £2m of a £7.43m award from the Scottish Government’s recent budget to tackle impacts from the coronavirus outbreak.

The council announced the cash will be available to minimise the impact of the virus on its communities and council services, with an emphasis on health and social care funding.

Latest figures show that 60 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Scotland – up from 24 on Wednesday – with 11 in the NHS Lothian area in which Edinburgh sits.

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Changes to stop R&D tax credit fraud delayed by chancellor

The chancellor has delayed planned changes to a tax credit the government had previously identified as being subject to fraud.

Measures to cap the amount of research and development tax credits small businesses could claim were set to come into force in April, as announced in last year’s Budget.

But Rishi Sunak has put their implementation back a year, with the Treasury planning to "update the design" of the changes.

The government currently spends about £4.5bn on R&D tax credits, most of which goes to large companies, according to the National Audit Office.

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Interactive map to be created for council audits

The National Audit Office (NAO) is working on creating an interactive map helping members of the public find out the outcome of their council’s audit.

It is understood that interested parties would be able to use the map to find their council, with links directing them to auditor reports, letters and further information.

Reports by auditors are notoriously hard to find on council websites and the NAO is hopeful that its new tool will be ready to make 2019/20 audits easier to access.

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Jenrick 'deeply disappointed' in housing delivery under Khan

The number of homes being delivered in the capital under Sadiq Khan has been ‘deeply disappointing’, according to secretary of state for housing Robert Jenrick.

Mr Jenrick has written to the mayor of London calling for a revised London Plan that takes proactive steps to surpass the housing requirement in the Plan.

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Government debt to rise by £125bn by 2025

Public sector net debt is forecast to rise by £125bn or 4.6% of GDP, as government embarks on the largest spending increase since 1992, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The figures were revealed by the organisation in the OBR's economic and fiscal outlook, released alongside the Budget.

In the early years of the Budget, net debt is expected to be over 1% lower than previously forecast in March 2019, according to the OBR.

By 2023-24, net debt is expected to be 2.9 percentage points higher than the OBR's previous forecast in March 2019, rising to 75.6% of GDP.

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Coronavirus: PM set to escalate UK's response in a matter of hours

Boris Johnson is set to escalate the country's coronavirus response to the next phase - which could put the UK on the path to school closures, the cancellation of sporting events and people being made to work from home.

The prime minister will chair an emergency COBRA meeting on Thursday where he is expected to declare that the UK will switch from trying to contain COVID-19 to delaying its spread.

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Biggest boost in decade for affordable homes

More funding for affordable housing and accommodation for rough sleepers has been announced as part of a programme worth more than £12 billion.

The government has pledged to extend a key affordable housing programme for five years from 2021, when the present £9 billion investment ends, and to increase allocations from the fund by a third to £12.2 billion.

Rishi Sunak said that it would be “the largest cash investment in affordable housing in a decade”.

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Planning paper shows Thatcher’s ghost lives on in Johnson government

The industries nationalised on then prime minister Clem Attlee’s watch, like coal and steel, have been privatised, leaving the NHS as the main remnant of his administration’s reform programme.

Another is the Town and Country Planning Act, which continues to provide the framework for how land use is controlled, nearly three quarters of a century on from its passage in 1947.

This legislation established the green belt, which like the NHS, continues to exercise a powerful hold on the British imagination.

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Hancock: Social care to get ‘everything it needs’

Health secretary Matt Hancock has promised the government will ensure the adult social care system will get “everything that it needs” to respond to the coronavirus crisis, after a £5bn response fund was announced in the budget.

Mr Hancock said the government is working closely with the social care sector on preparations, with details of what further measures may be necessary expected following a COBRA meeting.

Mr Hancock said social care was at the “frontline” of the government’s response to coronavirus.

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Coronavirus: Plans for homeworking stepped up as concern grows over new burdens

There is increasing concern over whether authorities will be paid back for the additional expenses they are accruing as a result of having to accommodate coronavirus-stricken visitors to their areas, LGC has learnt.

And as the coronavirus crisis deepens, councils are putting plans in place to enable much of their workforce to operate from home, while facing increasing calls to postpone elections.

If somebody tests positive for coronavirus, in the event they do not have a home in the authority area to go into immediate quarantine, LGC understands the government is telling local authorities to provide accommodation for them.

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LGA chair self isolating after minister meeting

The chair of the Local Government Association James Jamieson (Con) has announced he is self isolating after attending a meeting with health minister Nadine Dorries, who has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Cllr Jamieson, who is leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, said he has taken the decision today following the meeting on Friday.

Ms Dorries announced she has tested positive for coronavirus.

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Jenrick outlines sweeping planning reforms

The government has announced a review of the way councils calculate their housing needs as part of a wider reform of the post-war planning system.

Robert Jenrick, the housing and communities secretary, unveiled the proposed shake-up - which would also see designated zones under which development is made easier and money back for applicants who win planning appeals - in the House of Commons this morning.

He told MPs that a planning white paper will be published in the spring to bring up to date the existing system, which he said “has failed to keep pace” and is “complex, out-of-date and fails to deliver enough homes where they are needed”.

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UK confirms digital services tax despite US threats

From April, the digital services tax will introduce a 2% levy on revenues of social media services, online marketplaces and search engines, and the Office of Budget Responsibility projects will raise £280m in its first year.

“Something has to be done, and until more comprehensive reform happens the government is going to continue to lose billions of pounds,” said George Turner, director of think-tank Taxwatch.

“The DST – imperfect as it might be – ensures that some of that money is not lost.”

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Budget 2020: Rishi Sunak's spending plans 'not as generous as they appear', says IFS

Austerity will remain in place for many of the country’s public services with spending levels by the end of this Parliament at nearly a fifth lower than when the Conservatives first came into power in 2010, a leading think tank has said.

An analysis of the Budget by the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned the Government’s current spending plans are “nothing like as generous as they appear”.

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UK interest rates cut in emergency move

The Bank of England has announced an emergency cut in interest rates to shore up the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Policymakers reduced rates from 0.75% to 0.25%, taking borrowing costs back down to the lowest level in history.

The Bank said it would also free up billions of pounds of extra lending power to help banks support firms.

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Budget 2020: Business rates suspended for shops and cafes

Tens of thousands of England's retail, leisure and hospitality firms will not pay any business rates in the coming year, the chancellor has announced. Companies with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for the tax holiday, Rishi Sunak said.

The measure applies to firms including shops, cinemas, restaurants and hotels.

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Two-mile tunnel underneath Stonehenge COULD go ahead as part of £27billion Budget masterplan to improve Britain's roads

A tunnel could be built under Stonehenge after plans were given the green light as part of a £27billion masterplan to improve the nation's roads.

For decades, motorists on the A303, which passes the stone circle, have endured severe congestion on the popular route to and from the South West.

Opponents have argued that plans for a 1.8mile (2.9km) tunnel to ease gridlock around the World Heritage Site could ruin the prehistoric archaeological surroundings.

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West Yorkshire £1.8bn devolution deal agreed

West Yorkshire is to get its own elected mayor, unlocking an expected £1.8bn in investment for the area, the Chancellor has confirmed in the Budget.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in the statement a "minded-to" agreement was reached after months of negotiations between council leaders and ministers.

The mayor will oversee policies such as transport and housing, working with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

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Budget 2020: £1bn fund to strip cladding from tall buildings

A £1bn fund to help strip combustible cladding from homes in privately owned tower blocks is “a huge step forward”, but likely to be too little and would still leave thousands of people in financial and safety limbo, leaseholders said.

The building safety fund goes beyond the £600m already set aside by the Treasury to remove the specific type of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding used on Grenfell Tower.

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Budget 2020: A "new era" for the country

New Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered his first Budget today, (Mar 11) less than a month after taking on the role.

Mr Sunak began the Budget speech by addressing the issue of coronavirus with a £30bn “fiscal stimulus”, stating the government is prepared to give the NHS “whatever resources it needs” to cope with Covid-19.

"Whether it's research for a vaccine, recruiting thousands of returning staff, or supporting our brilliant doctors and nurses. Whether it's millions of pounds or billions of pounds. Whatever it needs, whatever it costs, we stand behind our NHS."

Mr Sunak also committed to refunding small businesses with fewer than 250 staff for two weeks of sick payment, starting from day one rather than day four.

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Budget 2020: Mayoral authorities win big in transport

The Government has unveiled £4.2bn for urban transport as part of its spring budget giveaways.

The cash will be released from 2022-23 as part of five-year funding settlements for eight mayoral combined authorities, however, some authorities will have to put in place an elected mayor to win their share of the cash.

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Budget 2020: £27bn for national roads and £2.5bn for potholes

Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged an extra £2.5bn for local road maintenance in the Budget.

Councils will get an extra £500m a year from 2020/21 to 2024/25 through a new potholes fund.

The Treasury said the cash will 'fix up to 50 million potholes ... but will also be available for local authorities to undertake longer-term road resurfacing works to prevent potholes from appearing in the first place'.

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Budget 2020: Flood-hit areas to share £200m defence fund

Flood-hit areas will vie for £200m in funding to improve flood defences, the chancellor has announced in his Budget.

A £200m ‘place-based resilience programme’ has been announced that will go to 25 areas around the country, chosen based on criteria including ‘repeated significant flooding in the past’.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that overall investment in flood defences in England will total £5.2bn over the next six years, doubling spending and reducing national flood risk by up to 11% by protecting 336,000 homes and non-residential properties.

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‘Sustainable council finance – the Budget DOESN’T get it done’

Rishi Sunak’s first Budget showed the government is thinking big – but not necessarily thinking about the big problems councils face, writes LGC editor Nick Golding.

“People’s Budget from a People’s Government” delivered by Rishi Sunak confirms a fundamental shift in economic policy.

Restraint has gone, big spending is in. You couldn’t imagine the speech being delivered by the other chancellors of the past 12 months, the more fiscally conservative Sajid Javid or, in particular, Philip Hammond.

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Budget 2020: Sunak gambles on capital spending splurge

Despite volatility caused by coronavirus and a sluggish increase in the economy, the chancellor has decided to gamble that a big increase in capital spending will deliver higher growth and productivity by the next election.

Total departmental spending is expected to grow twice as fast as the economy over the three-year period of the Spending Review to 2024.

Day-to-day departmental spending is expected to grow at the fastest rate over a spending review period since Spending Review 2004.

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Social care funding gap inquiry launched by MPs

MPs have launched an inquiry to establish how much money the social care sector needs to avoid shortages.

The Health and Social Care Committee will look at how much extra money is needed from the Government over each of the next five years.

Members will also examine workforce shortages and what measures are needed to address these.

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Homelessness: Councils 'telling people to contact private landlords'

Councils are being forced to "leave homeless people on the streets" because of a chronic lack of affordable housing in their areas, Crisis has said.

The charity said its research showed more than a third of those asking their local authority for help saw their situation remain the same or worsen.

In some cases, the only help people were given was a list of potential private landlords for them to contact.

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Councils pile back into PWLB following coronavirus rate drop

Local authorities dived back into Public Works Loan Board borrowing this week after the interest rate on some loans dropped below 2% following the coronavirus outbreak.

Council borrowing from the government facility fell dramatically following the decision by the Treasury in October to add one percentage point to the rate.

But councils have been tempted back to the facility after rates – based on the price of government gilts – fell dramatically due to coronavirus fears.

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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson to hold emergency Cobra meeting

The meeting is expected to consider whether "social distancing" measures should be phased in. These could include banning of big events, closing schools and encouraging home working.

It comes after a man in his 60s became the UK's third death linked to the Covid-19 virus.

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The tax that hits struggling High Streets hardest

In the 1980s and 1990s, firms would have been fighting over the keys to 18-22 Victoria Street, a large, modern two-storey unit directly opposite the shopping centre. Not any more.

Until last month, the property had been rented to Topshop and Topman. But their owner, Sir Philip Green's Arcadia group, walked away when the lease came up for renewal. His shops have been struggling to keep up with the competition, and dozens, up and down the country, are being closed.

"We are having difficulty attracting any interest, never mind a national retailer," says Paul Moran, a ratings surveyor whose company, Mason Owen, is tasked with finding a new tenant.

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Labour challenge Chancellor to make up £27 billion social housing cash shortfall

labour has challenged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make up a £27 billion shortfall in social housing funding in Wendesday's budget.

If the Tories had maintained the level of investment in social homes when they came to power in 2010, there would be 200,000 more of these homes today, according to the party’s analysis.

Instead, the number of new, Government-funded homes for social rent has fallen by 30,000 a year.

The number of households renting from private landlords rising by more than a million over 10 years.

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Councils warn 3.6 million extra cars are damaging Britain’s roads

Council leaders have warned the number of extra cars being driven on the roads would cover the entire length of Britain’s coastline if lined up next to each other.

Figures show that 3.6 million additional cars were licensed between 2009 and 2019, an increase of 13%.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said that over the same time period, annual council spending on highways and road maintenance fell by 32% as a result of funding cuts and increased demand for other services.

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Home Office extends funding for EU Settlement Scheme

Local authorities will be allowed to bid for a share of £8m to help vulnerable people apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

The funding will enable councils to provide legal support, caseworker services or advice to those that are hardest to reach.

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PM welcomes £5.2bn flood fund and announces further £200m

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed a £5.2bn investment into flood defences during a visit to Bewdley in Worcestershire on Sunday (Mar 8).

The town, home to the River Severn, was badly hit by floods following the wettest February on record. And although the area of Bewdley is slowly getting over the devastation as the river levels continue to reduce, lasting damages continues to disrupt daily life.

The multi billion pound fund, set to be outlined in Wednesday’s Budget (Mar 11), will help to build 2,000 new flood and coastal defence schemes and protect 336,000 properties in the country.

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City threatened with 114 notice in budget row

Councillors at Peterborough City Council were last week told a section 114 notice would be issued the next day unless they reached an agreement on budget plans for next year, it has emerged.

Savings proposals for 2020-21 put forward by the Conservative group, which leads the council as a minority administration, were voted down at a meeting of full council on Wednesday.

Party leaders were then called into private talks in a bid to break the stalemate and told by officers a section 114 notice would be issued the following day if the budget proposals were not agreed.

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Environment Bill new burdens could cost districts £300m

District councils will be left out pocket by an average of £1.75m a year as a result of planned reforms to waste collection in the Environment Bill, the chair of the District Councils Network has warned.

The Environment Bill, which passed its second reading through Parliament at the end of last month, features a host of measures that require significant costs to be factored into councils’ revenue budgets, including mandatory food and garden waste collections and a rewuirement that all councils collect the same sets of materials.

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Tory MPs demand Chancellor kick starts a council house building boom in Wednesday’s Budget

TORY MPs today demanded Rishi Sunak uses his Budget to kick start a council house building boom to repay voters’ trust.

In a stinging letter to the Chancellor, 27 Tory MPs from across the party say the Government is failing to provide enough cheap houses.

The record collapse in the size of social housing stock has been “ignored for too many decades”, they also argue.

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Parents of sick babies to get extra £160 a week

Parents of newborn babies who fall ill will be given £160 a week on top of maternity and paternity pay in a budget windfall for families this week.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, will announce the change when he unveils the government’s economic plans on Wednesday, which will see upwards of £50bn poured into infrastructure projects over the next five years.

Under the plans, parents who need to take time off to care for a sick child will be able to claim the extra money for up to 12 weeks. The payments will help the families of the 40,000 babies born each year who have to spend more than a week in neonatal care.

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Top-speed broadband will reach even remotest parts of Britain, promises Chancellor

Billions of pounds is to be invested in next-generation broadband to deliver fibre broadband to the remotest parts of the country, Rishi Sunak has said.

The Chancellor also announced plans for a £1 billion deal with the mobile phone industry to improve 4G coverage significantly across the nation and bring to an end the curse of mobile "not spots" for millions.

The Conservatives pledged at the election to bring full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business in Britain within five years.

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Workers over 40 to be taxed 2.5% to fund cost of old-age care under plans being considered by Matt Hancock

All workers aged over 40 would have to pay a fixed levy to fund the cost of their care in old age under plans being studied by Boris Johnson.

The radical proposals are designed to end the nightmare of pensioners being forced to sell their homes to pay for social care.

Commons sources say it would be based on a German system where employees contribute 2.5 per cent of their wages.

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New budget rules for councils may hit special needs school spending

Campaigners have raised fears that children with special needs, such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, could lose out from new government rules that will prevent councils from subsidising education spending from other parts of their budgets.

The failure of government funding to match growing demand has led many councils to overspend on their education budgets and raid their reserves, with the situation particularly acute in special-needs education.

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LGA responds to CIPFA council tax research

This increase will cost councils an extra £220 million this year - this is to cover increased contract costs to home care and residential care providers.

Responding to research by CIPFA into council tax increases this year, Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said:

“Faced with ongoing funding pressures such as homelessness and looking after vulnerable children, councils continue to be left with little choice but to ask residents to pay more to help them try and protect their local services.''

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Councils face £6.5bn funding gap by 2025

Local services are facing a £6.5bn funding gap over the next five years, town hall chiefs have warned today.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said that while extra money has managed to halve the funding gap in 2020/21 compared to the year before, rising cost pressures and unprecedented demand will see the gap rise again significantly by 2025.

Adult social care services are facing the shortfall at £3.9bn - making up almost two thirds of the overall gap.

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Service reform needed to tackle persistent use of Spice within homeless population

Legislation has failed to reduce the use of Spice by homeless people, a new study has concluded.

Research from Manchester Metropolitan University has found that legislation such as banning the sale of ‘legal highs’ has failed to reduce its popularity within the homeless population due to its high potency and low price.

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Boris Johnson close to breaching 100-day promise on social care talks, warn councils

Next week’s Budget should be used to make urgent progress on the cross-party talk on adult social care which Boris Johnson promised within 100 days of the December election, local councils have said.

The budget falls just 10 days short of the prime minister’s self-imposed deadline, with no sign of the talks getting under way.

Council bosses warned that without a new settlement for social care, local services in England face a funding gap of almost £6.5bn by 2025.

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Matt Hancock asks MPs and peers for views on adult social care reform

Matt Hancock has written to MPs and peers, urging them to help secure a cross-party consensus on reform of the adult social care system, as the government commits to finding an answer to the ongoing problem.

In his letter, the health secretary says he is determined to find a sustainable solution to the problem of people being hit by large costs that are hard to plan for when their loved ones require social care.

The government has committed to the principle that nobody should be forced to sell their home to pay for care, saying that everybody accessing care must have safety and security.

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More than £100m allocated for local government Brexit preparations

Local government organisations have so far received £104m to prepare for EU Exit according to a new report by the National Audit Office, which criticises the government for showing a “limited picture” of overall EU Exit spending and putting “little information” in the public domain.

Between 2016-17 and 2019-20, the Treasury made £6.3bn of extra funding available to cover the costs of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal. Of this, £104 million was allocated to councils, ports, health authorities and other local organisations to support preparations according to 'The cost of EU Exit Preparations' report.

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MHCLG spent £85m preparing for EU Exit

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spent a total of £85m preparing for EU Exit up to the end of January this year, says a new report today from the National Audit Office (NAO).

The report on the cost of EU Exit preparations found that since June 2016 and the 31 January this year, local government organisations received £104m in funding to prepare for EU Exit.

The report does not come to a value-for-money conclusion on government’s spend on preparing for EU Exit.

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Fears raised after Scottish government borrows £200m to balance budget

The Scottish Government is to press for greater borrowing powers to deal with the increasing fiscal risk arising from the devolution of tax and welfare powers, after it borrowed £200m to pay for next its 2020/21 budget.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes said she would use the government’s forthcoming medium term financial strategy – due on 21 May – to make the case for enhanced borrowing and reserve powers, arguing that existing levers are inadequate to manage the volatility inherent in the fiscal framework.

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Consultation on new business rates funding model expected in the summer

Whitehall officials and the Local Government Association are holding ongoing discussions on an alternative model of business rates retention under which councils would be compensated for the impact of appeals.

A consultation on this and other changes to the design of the move to further business rates retention is now expected to take place in the summer, according to a report to be presented next week to the LGA’s executive board.

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Council closes offices amid coronavirus scare

East Devon DC has closed its offices in Honiton to the public after a member of staff was identified as possibly having coronavirus.

The member of staff, who recently returned from a high risk country, has been displaying potential symptoms.

All members of staff were sent home on Friday and the majority will be able to continue working remotely.

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2 million over-55s live in dangerous homes, say charities

More than 2 million people aged over 55 live in homes that endanger their health, according to a report, with older homeowners who cannot afford to maintain their home most at risk.

Accidents and illnesses caused by dangerous homes cost the NHS £1.4bn a year, according to Home and Dry, a report by the Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair England based on analysis of the English Household Survey.

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Hot air from the Tube recycled to keep homes warm

More than 1,000 homes are being heated by warm air extracted from Tube tunnels in a pioneering scheme that could be replicated across the London Underground network.

A new energy centre on the site of the abandoned City Road Underground station, closed in 1922, is using a large fan to suck air via a six-storey shaft from the Northern Line. The air passes over a series of pipes to heat water that is pumped to 1,350 homes, a school and two leisure centres in Islington.

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Coronavirus could shut down parliament for months under emergency plans

Parliament could shut its doors for months under emergency government plans to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

It follows the UK's biggest day-on-day increase in cases, with 87 people now confirmed to have the disease.

MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee committee are due to question England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty on Thursday as to how well prepared the UK is to deal with the impact of a possible global pandemic.

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NHS long-term plan did not include workforce needed to deliver, says NAO

The £33.9bn NHS Long Term Plan did not include detailed plans to secure the workforce needed to deliver them, according to the National Audit Office.

Based on a review of two service areas, the NAO found that, at the time of drawing up the Long Term Plan, there were estimates of nurses required for mental health service commitments.

However it said: "It did not include detailed plans for how it would secure the nursing workforce required to deliver the commitments: it stated that a workforce plan would be published in 2019, as Health Education England budgets for workforce education and training beyond March 2020 were not yet agreed."

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Coronavirus will brutally expose the effect of a decade of public service cuts [opinion]

If there’s an epidemic on the scale Public Health England warns of, the government may not be able to keep its citizens safe.

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Government delays Budget infrastructure plan

The long-awaited National Infrastructure Strategy is to be further delayed, and not released next week as expected, the BBC understands.

The delay will allow the new chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to refocus the strategy, to reflect potentially larger resources available, and to incorporate the challenge of achieving "net zero" carbon emissions over the same 30-year timescale.

Treasury sources say the overall ambition to make investments to "level up" the regions that also help meet commitments on climate change, remains and will be reflected in next week's Budget.

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Flybe collapse hits council-owned airports

Council-owned airports across the country have been hit by the collapse of Flybe.

The airline entered administration this morning, ceasing trading and leading to the grounding of all flights.

It operated domestic flights between dozens of regional airports but encountered financial difficulties last year and, despite new ownership, narrowly avoided going under in January.

The Government is ‘urgently’ working to find other airlines to take over Flybe’s routes, which would offer a lifeline to airports that relied on the airline.

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Councils and teachers call for over £5bn of extra school funding

Local authorities, parents and teachers have joined forces to call on the Government to increase school funding by £5.5bn.

The Government pledged last year to increase school funding by £7.1bn over the next three years – a figure which fell short of the £12.6bn they estimated was needed to deliver a sustainable world class education for every child.

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Kier suffers £41m loss

Outsourcing specialist Kier has posted losses of more than £41m in the past six months.

Reporting its results for the second half of 2019, the firm suffered a loss before tax of £41m, but the figure has reduced from £45m compared to the same period in 2018.

Kier's net debt stands at £242.5m.

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People moves: MHCLG confirm interim permanent secretary

Jeremy Pocklington has been appointed interim permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, replacing Melanie Dawes who is now chief executive at Ofcom.

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Councils report 'huge overspends' on social care

More than eight out of ten councils overspent on children's social care in the last financial year, with nearly half (47%) spending more than their adult social care budget, new figures have shown.

Analysis by financial adviser Grant Thornton UK shows that council expenditure on social care has risen by an 'alarming' rate.

In 2018/19, 47% of councils overspent on their adult social care budget, a 7% increase compared to 2017/18. At the same time, 82% overspent against their children’s social care budget.

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Tackling ‘two-tier’ access to care in Central Bedfordshire [opinion]

During my career in social care and housing I have seen trends in how care services are delivered come and go. Councils who acted to divest themselves of in-house care provision have often had cause to regret it further down the line, and I consider that I have been fortunate in working within authorities that have retained significant direct provision of care services.

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The Tories say austerity is over: this budget will prove it isn’t [opinion]

The budget will at last define a government that has stayed tantalisingly opaque. Who are they really? What do they really mean to do? This budget arrives amid a battalion of crises: coronavirus, severe flood damage from climate crisis and our homemade Brexit fallout, with billions wiped off stock markets.

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Civil servant 'tried to kill herself after Priti Patel bullying'

A civil servant allegedly attempted to kill herself after being bullied by Priti Patel and later received a £25,000 payout, it has been claimed.

The BBC said it had seen legal correspondence claiming the woman had taken an overdose following the alleged incident in October 2015, when Ms Patel was employment minister.

The woman claimed that Ms Patel had shouted at the woman in her private office and told her to "get lost" and "get out of her face". Ms Patel denies the claims.

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This Budget needs to remember local government

Chancellor Rishi Sunak needs to increase funding for local government in his forthcoming Budget if the government is serious about it's aim of 'levelling-up' the UK economy, says Paul Dossett.

"The local government sector has seemed to be a forgotten and neglected element of public services in recent years.

Whilst the government’s increase to local government funding for 2020-21, announced in last year’s Spending Round, was welcome and indeed greatly needed, it only responded to in-year funding pressures.

It does not take into account some of the underlying pressures being faced by the sector long-term, in particular from demand-led services.

Social care continues to be the number one issue impacting councils’ finances in England, given the trilemma of shrinking budgets, an ageing population and rising costs..."

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Council warned of section 114 notice danger as reserves dry up

Low funding and dwindling reserves mean a local authority in Derbyshire risks considering an unbalanced budget by 2021-22, councillors have been warned.

Amber Valley Borough Council faces the prospect of a section 114 notice if it does not take action to redress its underlying budget deficit, its executive director of resources has warned councillors.

This would mean the authority would not be able to make new spending commitments while the notice was being considered, effectively ending non-essential expenditure during the process.

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The 'levelling up' agenda cannot overlook shire counties, says report

A new report today warned Government that counties are lagging behind other parts of the country.

The analysis by Grant Thornton for the County Councils’ Network (CCN) laid out the economic challenges facing shire counties ahead of the Budget.

Next week’s Budget is expected to focus on levelling up ‘red wall’ areas in the north and Midlands – but the report reveals that growth in county areas has lagged behind the rest of the country by 2.6% over the last five years.

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DCN chair slams district’s plan for ‘climate emergency’ tax hike

Concerns have been raised by the chair of the District Councils’ Network over Warwick DC’s plans to hold a referendum on increasing council tax to fund climate action, claiming there is an "asymmetry" to the question in a town with such a large student population.

Councillors in Warwick voted unanimously last week to hold a referendum on introducing a climate action fund precept, equivalent to a 34% council tax increase in 2020-21. This would increase council tax by the equivalent of just over £1 per week for a Band D househol

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Unitary’s children’s services leaps from requires improvement to outstanding

A West Midlands unitary has become only the second council ever to see its children’s services go from an Ofsted rating of requires improvement to one of outstanding in one go.

Telford & Wrekin Council was rated requires improvement four years ago with inspectors finding caseloads significantly above statutory guidance, variable quality of assessments and risks not always identified or responded to quickly enough.

Since then the council has invested in children’s services, including using profits from its commercial enterprises commercial enterprises like Nuplace lettings company and its solar farm.

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Dorset facing £16m overspend following ‘challenging year’

Dorset Council’s expected overspend for the financial year has grown to almost £16m.

A report to senior councillors said that the projected budget gap had reached £15.9m, up from £12.6m at the end of the first quarter.

Higher than expected demand for social care has been the main driver of the overspend, with the adults services directorate accounting for almost £5m and the children’s services directorate accounting for more than £8.5m.

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Lincolnshire council ‘delighted’ by £3.5m Grimsby investment

Grimsby will receive over £3.5m of Government funding, including £2.2m of new investment for the next phase of its landmark Town Deal.

In addition, the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has awarded £1.3m, provided through the Government’s local growth fund program.

The investment brings the total commitment of public and private funding to over £90m to deliver targets of over 8,000 new jobs and nearly 10,000 new homes in Grimsby through the UK’s first Town Deal.

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Jenrick voices support for East Midlands Combined Authority plans

District and borough councils in Leicestershire have announced they will be taking forward discussions about creating an East Midlands Combined Authority after the Government welcomed the idea.

The seven Leicestershire councils wrote to the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, in January in support of devolution and to make clear their willingness to work with the Government on its devolution framework.

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Coronavirus set to restrict chancellor’s Budget choices

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been warned he will have to reassess the plans his first Budget, in response to the economic disruption caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

According to The Times, the Office for Budget Responsibility will alter its forecasts to recognise the economic strain resulting from the outbreak.

An OBR source told the paper that it would take into account the latest information when it publishes its report alongside the government’s tax and spending plans.

The source added that Robert Chote, head of the OBR, would also address the threat of the virus to the government’s economic calculations.

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Warwick District Council gives green light to council tax referendum

Residents are to be given the chance to vote on a proposed 34.2% rise in Warwick District Council’s share of council tax.

If approved, the increase would amount to an increase of £57 per year per household for a Band D property to £223, £52 of this increase will put into a £3m annual ‘ring-fenced’ Climate Action Fund with the remaining £5 going towards the Council’s other services.

Spending plans for the extra income include reducing congestion, improving air quality, enhancing biodiversity and building more energy efficient homes and public buildings.

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To truly ‘level -up’ we need to power up counties

Today the County Councils Network releases a new report that speaks directly to the government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda; a programme that will be fleshed out further in next week’s Budget.

The origins of the need to level up are rooted in globalisation, exacerbated by the financial crash, and partly manifested in the Brexit vote. For those not living in London, or in the centre of the major cities, it is difficult to see the fruits of a global and increasingly technological and services economy, but easy to feel investment in their public services is insufficient.

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'My husband's care will cost me my £2m house'

Changes to social care funding, which would have eased the burden on squeezed family finances, could now be scrapped or delayed.

Older people qualify for support if they have less than £23,250 in assets. This was due to rise in April to £27,000 when the person’s house is not included and £118,000 when it is, as recommended by Sir Andrew Dilnot’s review in 2011.

But sources at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said changes to the means test would be part of Boris Johnson’s care funding plan, due to be published by the end of the year. The Prime Minister has promised no one will have to sell their home to pay for care.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak to snatch £3bn entrepreneurs’ tax relief to pay for the north

Businesses will be hit with a £3bn tax rise to pay for a budget spending spree in the north of England, it can be revealed.

Rishi Sunak, the new chancellor, will scrap entrepreneurs’ relief, which allows those who start a business to pay a preferential rate of tax, according to two sources familiar with the plans. The relief allows entrepreneurs to pay capital gains tax at 10% rather than the usual rate of 20% when they sell a business, up to a lifetime limit of £10m.

Sunak has decided to scrap it because it mostly benefits wealthy businessmen in the south of England. He will divert the cash to pay for nurses and police officers as well as building projects in the Midlands.

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Cash-starved councils face big bills after buying up shopping centres

Almost 150 miles and a three-hour drive separate Malvern Shopping Park, Worcestershire and Surrey County Council’s offices in Kingston.

Surrey’s £74m acquisition of the rather tired retail park in mid-2017 was among the most eyebrow-raising of a wave of deals by local authorities in the commercial property market.

“It was insane,” says an industry insider. “They bought it at the top of the market, rents are high, everyone knew there was going to be a dip in retail warehousing and they paid yesterday’s price for this big lump.

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County lines car thefts: Police chief says gangs target youngsters to steal luxury vehicles

Car theft gangs are using county lines recruitment tactics to groom youngsters into stealing high-value vehicles, a police chief has said.

Dave Thompson, Chief Constable for West Midlands Police, said cars are now easier than ever to steal because keyless technology has led to a "dramatic" increase in vehicle crime.

Criminals are turning to "exactly the same" strategies as those employed by county lines gangs to encourage children and teenagers to work for them, such as offering to buy food for their family, said Mr Thompson.

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Number of rough sleepers falls for second year in row

The number of people sleeping rough has fallen for a second consecutive year in a boost for efforts to eradicate the most visible form of homelessness within five years.

An annual tally by local authorities in England estimated that 4,266 people were sleeping rough on a single night last autumn, 9 per cent lower than in 2018. This significant drop followed a fall of 2 per cent a year earlier, from a peak of 4,751 people in 2017.

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Coronavirus: Shares face worst week since global financial crisis

Stock markets across the globe are suffering their worst week since the global financial crisis of 2008 as fears over the impact of the coronavirus continue to grip investors.

Markets in Europe fell sharply on Friday morning, with London's FTSE 100 index sinking more than 3%.

Asian markets saw more big falls, while in the US, the Dow Jones recorded its biggest daily points drop on Thursday.

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Social care 'cracks are turning into chasms' and system faces collapse in 2029, the Government is warned in an alarming report

The social care system could collapse by 2029 unless the Government intervenes to prevent a funding crisis and a shortage of beds, says a new study.

Action is needed or a 'tipping point' will be reached where older people are unable to afford care, councils lack funding to look after them, and care homes don't have enough room to meet demand, it warns.

The 'Elderly Care Crisis' report calls for an overhaul of funding, including raising the £23,250 wealth threshold at which financial support currently kicks in, to help elderly people struggling to pay massive care bills.

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County hopeful of ‘devo alternative’ growth deal

Hertfordshire CC is hopeful of soon securing a growth deal from the government, with leader David Williams (Con) telling LGC it could represent an alternative to mayoral combined authorities in what government officials describe as “unreformed” county areas in the south of England.

However Cllr Williams (pictured), who is also chair of the County Councils Network, told LGC Hertfordshire may be forced to pursue reorganisation and a mayoral devolution deal to prevent the area being “left behind” if the government decides this is the only option for areas seeking significant new powers and funding.

He said he was hopeful a growth deal would be agreed soon, with a potential announcement in the Budget next month, This follows regular discussions with Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government officials on funding for housing and infrastructure, similar to the £215m deal agreed with Oxfordshire councils last year.

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LGPS funds given discretion over employer exit payments

The government has unveiled measures giving Local Government Pension Scheme funds greater control over exit payments to employers leaving the scheme.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has announced amendments to regulations which require funds to pay exit credits where pension liabilities have been overfunded.

It said it was responding to concerns that some outsourced contractors were claiming exit payments on top of existing benefits from agreements designed to share pensions risk.

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PM announces extra £236m to end rough sleeping

An additional £236m in funding has been announced by the Prime Minister to help get rough sleepers off the street. A new independent advisor, Dame Louise Casey, has been appointed to lead an urgent review into the causes of homelessness. This will serve as a blueprint for action, for Government to deliver additional action to end rough sleeping.

Housing First style ‘move on’ accommodation for up to 6,000 vulnerable people on the streets will be made available through this new funding, giving stability and certainty on a more long-term basis.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ahead of a visit to a homeless charity: “It is simply unacceptable that we still have so many people sleeping on the streets, and I am absolutely determined to end rough sleeping once and for all."

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Maintaining performance - Social Care IMPOWER INDEX

We still don’t know how the Prime Minister intends to ‘fix’ social care, so being able to evidence current performance is vitally important for the sector. Without this, politicians could point at perceived or actual variability in the system as a reason not to substantially increase funding.

Most people working in the sector have a shared vision of what ‘good’ adult social care looks like – it involves greater levels of independence and control, so that people can live more fulfilled lives and remain in their homes and communities for longer.

What is less easy to find consensus on is how to measure and evidence the extent to which the sector is currently achieving this. In a complex system such as adult social care, focusing on a group of specific indicators is controversial – can numbers really reflect what is ‘good’ for any individual person? And can performance metrics understand and represent the importance of local variation?

Given this context, the IMPOWER INDEX uses publicly available data to evaluate council productivity, measured as outcome value per pound spent.

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District approves 34% ‘climate emergency’ tax hike

A Conservative run West Midlands district has unanimously approved plans to become the first local authority to hold a referendum on increasing council tax in order to raise funds for tackling climate change.

At Warwick DC's budget meeting yesterday (Wednesday), councillors from all parties backed a recommendation to vote in favour of holding a referendum on the introduction of a 'climate action fund' precept that would be equivalent to a 34% increase on council tax in 2020-21.

This would mean a rise of £57 a year for a band D property, which Warwick says is only equivalent to a 3% increase on residents' total council tax bill once Warwickshire CC and the police and crime commissioner precepts are taken into account.

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London boroughs’ joint chief to depart

Paul Martin is to step down as joint chief executive of Richmond upon Thames and Wandsworth LBC.

Mr Martin, who joined Wandsworth as chief executive in 2010 and took on the joint role at Richmond in 2016 under a shared staffing arrangement, said it was the “right time” for someone new to take the councils through their next stage of development.

The arrangement has delivered £60m efficiency savings across the two councils, enabling them to deliver better social care, cleaner streets and more leisure services, he added.

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Housing benefit reform a ‘false economy’

A new paper from economists at the University of Warwick has found that since 2011, for every pound the Government has saved in housing benefit, councils have been forced to spend 53p more on temporary housing.

The researchers also found the cuts have had ‘substantial’ human costs such as an increase in evictions, individual bankruptcies and homelessness.

They found that forced evictions in the private rented sector rose by 22% after the cuts were implemented, with the number of households living in council-provided temporary accommodation increasing by nearly 18%.

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Peterborough plans £7m repeat of controversial capital receipts treatment

Peterborough City Council has revealed plans to use £7m of capital receipts to help balance its in-year revenue budget and 2020/21 spending proposals – despite controversy surrounding similar moves in previous years.

Last year MHCLG investigated Peterborough’s use of capital receipts to offset its minimum revenue position (MRP) charge after questions were raised about the lawfulness of the practice.

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Gove outlines EU trade talk plan

- Statement from Michael Gove on the UK's future relationship with the EU

- Further statements on rough sleeping and child protection

- General debate on Welsh affairs later

- Lords meets for questions to ministers

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Budget 2020: Chancellor must raise taxes in first Budget, says IFS

The new chancellor must raise taxes in his first Budget or break the government's rules on borrowing, a leading economic think tank has warned.

Rishi Sunak is under pressure to increase spending on the NHS, social care and schools.

He has also inherited a fiscal target from his predecessor Sajid Javid to bring spending in to balance by 2022.

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Treasury plan for land value duty falls on stony ground

Businesses have poured scorn on a Treasury proposal to scrap business rates and replace them with a land value tax.

The proposal is an attempt to save struggling high streets and will be put forward as part of a fresh review of the business rates system to be announced by Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, in his first budget.

However, business groups and rates experts said that exploring a land value tax would delay an urgently needed overhaul of the £30 billion-a-year levy.

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Flood infrastructure funding increased by only £3m over decade

Central Government funding for existing flood infrastructure has only increased by £3m over the last decade, according to a new analysis.

The research found that while total expenditure has increased in real terms from £802m in 2009/10 to £870m in 2018/19, the majority of the increase has been in capital spending, while revenue spending has fluctuated from a low of £272m in 2013/14 to a high of £344m in 2017/18.

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Councils spend average of £2 per head on cycling infrastructure, study reveals

Local authorities have spent on average just £2 per head of population per year on cycling infrastructure over the last ten years, new research reveals.

The data showed that the average spend per head of population was £2.02 on average over ten years. In 2018/19 the average spend was £2.83 and the five-year average was £2.58.

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Structure review could take place ‘alongside’ North Yorks devo deal

A devolution deal for North Yorkshire has moved a step closer as a meeting has been timetabled next month for leaders to approve their list of asks from the government.

Before departing as Northern Powerhouse minister, Jake Berry held a remote meeting last month with local leaders in which he told them to conduct a review alongside a devolution deal of “how local government does its business”.

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Elphicke handed junior role at MHCLG

Natalie Elphicke has been appointed parliamentary private secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Her appointment comes after spending more than four years as chief executive of the Housing and Finance Institute – a not-for-profit that aims to help councils build more homes.

In her new role, Elphicke, who was elected as an MP for Dover and Deal in December, will now advise ministers within MHCLG.

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Political horse trading yields extra 20% funding for Scottish councils

The Scottish budget has passed its first parliamentary hurdle after the government struck a deal which saw extra funding secured for local authorities, policing and low carbon projects.

Councils were the chief beneficiaries of the agreement between the minority SNP government and the Scottish Greens, gaining a £95m funding boost as a result of budget negotiations between the parties.

The draft budget originally proposed an increase in revenue spending for councils of £494m, but negotiations with the Greens saw the figure raised to £589m – an increase of 19%.

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Rutland named strongest performer in adult social care index

Rutland CC has been named the strongest performer in adult social care using refined productivity metrics.

The council is among 11 unitaries, three London boroughs and one county on the top 15 list of councils providing above average outcomes despite having a below average per capita spend.

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Government to review Public Works Loan Board

A review of the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) is being carried out by the Government, a minister has revealed.

Local government minister Luke Hall said the Treasury and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government were working together on a review of the public sector lender. The review will cover ‘rates and flexibilities that local authorities have,’ Mr Hall told the House of Commons.

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Rishi Sunak to move Treasury officials north

Rishi Sunak, the new chancellor, will use his first budget to announce that parts of the Treasury will move to the north of England as he unveils the biggest spending giveaway since 2001.

A significant number of the Treasury’s 1,500 posts will be transferred to an “economic decision-making campus” in the north in an effort to show northern voters who switched to the Tories in December that the government is serious about their priorities.

The plan, Sunak’s first big move since he replaced Sajid Javid earlier this month, will see officials from key departments of the Treasury moved to the new hub. They will funnel billions of pounds of public money to infrastructure projects and listen to the needs of taxpayers and businesses in the region.

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Councils struggle with £3 billion budget hole for keeping children safe

Town halls have blown a £3billion hole in their budgets for keeping children safe over the past five years, they revealed today. Councils overspent as grants from Whitehall were slashed, according to the Local Government Association.

It called on the Government to use the forthcoming review of the children’s social care system to work with councils to understand why there has been a surge in demand for support.

More than 52,000 children are subject to child protection plans to keep them safe – a rise of 53% since 2009.

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Public back local tourism taxes

More than half of residents think councils should have the power to set a tourism levy, according to a new survey.

The poll, conducted for the Local Government Association (LGA), found 53% of people believe their local council should be able to charge tourists a small fee to pay for local services.

The LGA is calling on the Government to invite areas to become a tourist zone and pilot a local tourism levy. Its research found that a pound-per-night levy could raise between £238,000 and over £7m a year depending on the area.

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District plans referendum on 34% council tax hike

A West Midlands district could become the first council to hold a referendum on increasing council tax in a move intended to raise funds for its climate emergency plans.

At Warwick DC's budget meeting on Wednesday, councillors are being recommended to vote in favour of holding a referendum on the introduction of a 'climate action fund' precept, equivalent to a 34% increase on council tax in 2020-21. This would mean a rise of £57 a year for a band D property which Warwick says is only equivalent to a 3% increase on residents' total council tax bill once Warwickshire CC and the police and crime commissioner precepts are taken into account. Warwickshire last week approved a 3.99% increase on its share of the council tax bill.

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Burnham calls for Barnett formula for the regions

Andy Burnham has called for the introduction of an English equivalent to the Barnett Formula to boost investment in the English regions.

In a speech at conference in Newcastle on Friday, the Greater Manchester CA mayor urged a rethink of the long-established formula, which applies to public spending in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Under the formula, which has been in place for more than 40 years, any increases in spending on public services in England must be matched by proportionate additional funding for the devolved nations.

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Why a Mansion Tax Could Be a Conservative Winner [opinion]

Amid preparations for the U.K.’s first post-Brexit budget, there have been reports that the Conservative Party is considering an idea that many in Boris Johnson’s party regard as most un-Conservative: a so-called mansion tax. The reaction in the conservative press has been one of surprise and outrage, and it could well have been one of the issues of friction which led to Sajid Javid leaving the government. Indeed, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported at the weekend that Prime Minister Johnson had shelved the plan.

Yet the tax is hardly the attack on home ownership, or the wealthy, that it’s often portrayed to be. I might be expected to say that, since I proposed the idea at the 2010 general election and then repeatedly as business secretary in the subsequent coalition government. Perhaps its time has finally come.

Ignoring the emotive label, a “mansion” tax is essentially an adaptation of Britain’s current system of property taxes, known as council tax, which are levied to finance local government. The existing system is regressive, not merely in terms of income but in terms of wealth; that is, occupiers of more valuable properties pay a smaller proportion of the value of their asset than those whose homes are less valuable.

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Extra council tax bands call

Former Treasury chief secretary David Gauke has called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to add additional council tax bands in next month's Budget.

Speaking at a Resolution Foundation think-tank event, Mr Gauke, who held three different ministerial roles at the Treasury between 2010 and 2016, said: ‘Clearly there’s a strong case for ensuring a property tax system is more progressive and the case for additional bands is extremely strong.

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Households in England to face council tax rises, research says

Households in England face further council tax rises from April, according to research.

The County Councils Network said the majority of councils that run social care services would be raising council tax by the full amount allowed - 3.99%.

But it said councils faced a funding shortfall of £19bn over the next five years and it has called for more cash.

The government said councils would have access to £49.2bn next year, including £1.5bn for social care.

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Lancs leaders told to reorganise if they want devo

Whitehall officials have told Lancashire’s 12 district council leaders that they will have to restructure in order to form a mayoral combined authority with the county’s two unitaries and county council.

At a meeting this week between Lancashire’s 15 leaders and officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, LGC has learnt that the latter drew a series of red lines under plans to form a combined authority.

They said the mooted Lanchashire combined authority must have a mayor, and that the district councils cannot continue in their present form.

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Migration reform may tip social care ‘over the edge’

The government has been warned that its new post-Brexit immigration control regime risks pushing the social care sector “over the edge” by cutting off its supply of low income workers.

Home secretary Priti Patel has unveiled proposals for a ‘points based’ migration system, which is due to be implemented when the UK’s EU departure transition period finishes at the end of this year.

The new system replaces both the free movement regime that the UK currently operates with its former fellow EU member states and the point based regime that applies to the rest of the world.

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Think tank launches £3m fund to support community ‘wellbeing’

A health think tank yesterday launched a £3m fund to empower community sector organisations and the health and care sector to work together to boost the wellbeing of their communities.

The fund, launched by The King’s Fund in partnership with the National Lottery Community Fund, is designed to enable councils, the NHS, and the voluntary and community sector to develop new ways of working, which make the most of their combined capability to improve the health of their community.

In the first year of the ‘Healthy Communities Together’ programme each area will receive up to £50,000 and expert support to help them to collaborate and develop a plan to improve local people’s health and encourage their community to thrive.

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Somerset leader launches unitary bid

Somerset CC leader David Fothergill (Con) has kickstarted the process of transforming the county into a unitary by writing to Robert Jenrick.

In a letter, the county’s leader asked the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government for an invitation to submit a business case for a single unitary option for Somerset before Parliament’s summer recess.

Cllr Fothergill writes that setting up a unitary in the county, which currently contains four district councils, would save £25m per annum.

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Government funding could reduce the number of potholes by 25 per cent

Road users could be forced to contend with more than 650,000 potholes across the country by 2030, new research has warned.

A study predicts that Britain will see a 16 per cent increase in fractured tarmac in 10 years’ time if the Government fails to invest a promised £500 million per year. In its manifesto for the December general election, the Conservative party vowed to spend £2 billion on "the biggest ever pothole-filling programme" Britain has seen. The party pledged to "improve the quality of our roads" with a four-year programme of £500 million of funding each year.

If spending remains at its current level, the number of potholes reported on UK roads will surge from 561,000 in 2019 to 651,000 by 2030, research from Cebr and Zurich UK claims. If the Government does fulfil its manifesto pledge, the additional funds would help to reduce the number of potholes across the country by just over 25 per cent in the next decade. In the past year, 17 miles of potholes were reported to local authorities.

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Councils braced for mounting pressure on aslyum support system

Concern has been raised over councils' capacity to support child asylum seekers ahead of an expected surge later this year.

Kent CC’s corporate director for children, Matt Dunkley, said the number of asylum seekers arriving in the UK peaked in the run-up to previous Brexit deadlines for deals and he fears the same pattern could emerge as the end of the transition period approaches on December 31. He said: ‘Every time there was a deadline for a deal, the number of new arrivals went up. There isn’t the flex in the system to meet the demand that’s there.'

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Sean Anstee: Government needs to ‘level beyond’ as well as ‘level up

The government’s 'levelling up' agenda needs new measures for prosperity, wellbeing and inclusivity, writes the former Conservative leader of Trafford MBC.

Bold promises of ‘levelling up’ all parts of our United Kingdom accompanied the simple yet cut-through message to ‘Get Brexit Done’ that was continually echoed on the doorstep by both leave and remain voters.

Communities across the north and the Midlands have vested their trust in the Conservative party – many for the first time in their voting lives.

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Government announces financial support for flood-hit areas

The Government has announced councils in areas affected by recent flooding will receive grants to cover the cost of council tax and business rates reliefs.

Other measures include a Business Recovery Grant for those suffering from uninsurable losses, and funding of up to £5,000 to make homes and businesses more resilient to future flooding.

Local government secretary, Robert Jenrick, said: ‘Storms Dennis and Ciara have severely impacted a large number of households and businesses – and I recognise how destabilising this can be.

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Ofsted fears schools will 'squander' extra cash

A £14 billion boost in education spending due to be outlined in next month's budget risks being “squandered” by poorly managed schools, the head of Ofsted has warned.

Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, said that there is “clearly” room for improvement when it comes to school budgeting and that bad financial decisions can be “harmful” to children’s education as well as a waste of taxpayer funds.

The commentary was due to be published early next month alongside a piece of research by Ofsted on school funding. However, it was put online yesterday by accident before being quickly removed.

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Large employers fail to spend apprenticeship money

Employers are failing to use hundreds of millions of pounds that was intended for training apprentices, according to figures obtained by the BBC.

At least 55 of the largest employers in England have each released more than £1m back to the government which was meant to be spent on apprentices.

In total around 5,000 English employers relinquished more than £400m of funding raised by the apprenticeship levy in the first eight-month period when sums could expire.

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UK Budget date kept at 11 March

The government will not be changing the date of the Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced. It will go ahead as previously scheduled on 11 March.

There had been speculation that the Budget could be delayed after Mr Sunak replaced Sajid Javid following his resignation last week.

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North East unitaries set to pursue South of Tyne devo deal

Talks between Durham CC, Gateshead Council, South Tyneside MBC and Sunderland City Council are being held though their membership of the North East Combined Authority (NECA), with plans to approach ministers on the government’s requirements for a possible deal following the recent cabinet reshuffle.

Sunderland leader Graeme Miller (Lab) told LGC progress had been slowed by the general election last year but there was a determination among the four councils to reach agreement with government following other devolution deals in the region.

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Housing Secretary confirms new support for survivors of domestic violence

Councils are being given a boost (£16.6m)to provide essential, life-saving support in safe housing for survivors of domestic abuse and their children, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed today (17 February 2020).

Seventy-five projects across England will share over £16 million, helping up to 43,000 survivors have access to the help they need as they move towards a safe future, free from domestic abuse.

The new funding will enable victims and their children to stay safe, recover from the trauma, and access safe permanent rehousing where needed.

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Chief of flood hit council criticises slow government response

The chief of a council, which is experiencing its third major flooding incident in eight years, has told LGC that they are “simply unable to respond” at the level required after a decade of austerity.

The government activated the Bellwin scheme of emergency financial assistance for Calderdale MBC last week, as well as other areas in West Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire after Storm Ciara.

It has today activated the scheme for authorities in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, which have been affected by Storm Dennis over the weekend.

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Fall-out from suspected unitary cyber-attack enters second week

Redcar & Cleveland BC is still working to restore its online services as the fallout from a suspected cyber-attack on its IT systems enters a second week.

The council’s website has been down since 8 February and the council said it has limited capacity for phone calls and emails. Redcar & Cleveland added there is currently no evidence personal data “has been lost outside the council’s systems”.

Frontline services have so far been unaffected but "urgent matters" are being prioritised, a council spokesperson said.

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COP26: Climate summit policing bill estimated at £250m

The cost of policing the UN climate change conference in Glasgow later this year has now been estimated at £250m.

The "indicative" figure is detailed in a paper which will go before the Scottish Police Authority on Wednesday.

Last month, Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone told the SPA the event had taken £200m a year out of the core cost of policing. About 30,000 people, including 200 world leaders, are expected to attend COP26 from 9 to 20 November.

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Building 'resilience' won't stop traumatised social workers quitting

A healthy workforce is a fundamental prerequisite to ensure children and their families receive the best possible social work support. The positive effect of a stable and experienced workforce cannot be overestimated when one considers that inspectors say reduced staff turnover can lead to better quality services.

However, these aims have been frustrated as social workers leave the profession due to stress and burnout. Analysis of the children and family social work workforce in England published by the Department for Education in 2019 suggests workforce instability is an ongoing problem. Figures suggest 35% of social workers leave their local authority within two years, while 33% leave within five years. This means 68% of full-time equivalent children and family social workers were in service with their local authority for less than five years.

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Measures to prevent crime could begin as early as nursery, experts say

Persistently naughty children from primary school upwards and their parents should be given professional support to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour further down the line, experts said.

People who engage in antisocial behaviour throughout their lives tend to start acting out earlier on in childhood, which is when they should be given help, authors of a new study said.

Their research, launched on Monday, suggests that the brains of people who engage in lifelong antisocial behaviour may be smaller and structured differently to those without such a history.

MRI scans on adults aged 45 who had persistently engaged in stealing bullying, lying, aggression or violence throughout their lives revealed a thinner cortex and smaller surface area in certain brain regions.

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Budget may be delayed, says Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

The government's budget may be delayed, a cabinet minister has said. It had been set for 11 March, but the timetable was thrown into doubt after the surprise resignation of former Chancellor Sajid Javid on Thursday.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the date would be a matter for Mr Javid's replacement, Rishi Sunak. He told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme: "The guy's only been in place for a few days, let's give him a few days to decide on the date."

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It’s time to create a National Care Service for us all, says Susie Boniface [Opinion]

Politicians really do not want to talk about tax rises or end-of-life care. Instead they like to promise tax cuts, and pretend voters will live for ever.

Which is why our social care system runs on love. Carers UK says 600 people a day give up work to care for someone. A million care for more than one person. If you’re a woman over 50, you’re more likely to be a carer than anyone else – out of work, living on savings, and getting ill with stress.

Their commitment is worth about £132billion to the economy, according to the Carers Trust. Those aged over 80 provide an astonishing £23billion-worth of care. The Government spends just £16billion.

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Flood defences in England get 1% of infrastructure spending

Just over 1% of government infrastructure spending in England will go towards flood defences, analysis by BBC News has found.

Current figures show nearly £5bn is due to be spent on flood defences up until 2026, with a third of the money spent in London and the South East.

MPs in northern England said flood defence funding needed reallocating.

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Dementia sufferers dumped in hospitals after mass closures of day centres and respite care

Dementia sufferers are ending up dumped in Accident & Emergency departments following the closures of day centres for patients.

A Telegraph investigation has discovered that 32 of the services - which are designed to alleviate pressure on carers - have closed in three years, including 20 in the last year alone.

This has coincided with a sharp rise in the number of dementia patients being admitted to hospital via A&E, with an extra 100,000 such cases annually.

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Hell-on-Sea: how a drugs gang took over a sleepy Devon town

Dawlish on the south Devon coast is everything you might expect of a seaside resort in February. Yet this ostensibly sleepy West Country town was the nerve-centre of a violent gang from the north-east who over a decade built a brutal drug empire worth at least £1m while also preying on vulnerable young women who fell under their spell.

Earlier this month, 13 gang members – who were known locally as the Geordies, even though the core of the group originated from Sunderland – were sentenced collectively to 105 years after a four-month trial at Bristol crown court.

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Tories to reinstate all 3,000 bus routes axed in spending cuts, claims transport secretary

All 3,000 bus routes axed because of government spending cuts will be restored and passengers could soon be “calling one up on your app”, the transport secretary has claimed.

Grant Shapps made the audacious promise to reverse all the damage from the years of austerity, as he set out how the £5bn now pledged for buses would be spent.

“We ought to be not just bringing back lost routes, but also ensuring that the regularity is such that you see in London,” Mr Shapps argued.

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Boris Johnson vetoes mansion tax after backlash

Boris Johnson has shelved plans to impose a “mansion tax” on owners of expensive homes, following a major backlash among Conservative MPs and grassroots.

The Prime Minister is understood to have "cooled" on the idea of including a new "high value property tax" in next month's budget, having previously discussed the proposals with Sajid Javid, who quit as Chancellor last week.

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Tories have closed 1,300 family centres in last 10 years, figures reveal

More than one in three Sure Start centres have been axed under the Tories, it has emerged. Brutal cuts have seen 1,292 of the vital family centres shut since 2010, ministers admit.

Millions of parents rely on Sure Start, which offers clinics, and health and parenting support. At their peak in 2009/10, there were 3,600 centres, but Tory austerity slashed numbers by up to 85 per cent in some areas. In Staffs, 46 of 54 centres shut, and Oxfordshire lost 37 of its 45.

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Council tax set to soar by four per cent as the government struggles to fund social care - potentially costing families hundreds

Families are facing inflation-busting council tax rises this year thanks to the Tories’ failure to fund England’s creaking social care system. Up and down the country, town halls have started proposing increases of up to 4 per cent – the maximum allowed – piling huge pressure on household budgets.

One local authority, Rutland, wants to put up bills by £68 for the average Band D home. It means that families in the county’s most expensive Band H homes will pay £136 more.

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Ofcom Board appoints Dame Melanie Dawes as Chief Executive

The Ofcom Board has today announced the appointment of Dame Melanie Dawes as Chief Executive.

Dame Melanie has been Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government since 2015. She will take up her new position in early March.

Dame Melanie has held senior roles across the Civil Service, working in partnership across the public and private sectors. She started her career as an economist and spent 15 years at the Treasury, including as Europe Director. She was Director General of the Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat at the Cabinet Office between 2011 and 2015, and prior to that she served on the Board of HMRC as Head of Business Tax.

In addition to her current Permanent Secretary role, Dame Melanie chairs the Civil Service People Board, leading workforce strategies across all government departments. She is also Civil Service champion for diversity and inclusion.

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Cabinet reshuffle: Sajid Javid resigns as chancellor; replaced by Rishi Sunak

Sajid Javid has shocked Westminster by quitting as chancellor in the middle of Boris Johnson's cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Javid rejected the prime minster's order to fire his team of aides, saying "no self-respecting minister" could accept such a condition. He has been replaced as chancellor by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak.

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Alarm bells over £6.6bn property spending spree

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) urged the Government to look at the framework under which councils buy property to generate income as a senior MP warned of local authorities ‘acting as investment bankers’.

The report recommended that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) should ‘review whether the current framework is still achieving its intended aims’ after finding that councils spent £6.6bn on commercial property from 2016/17 to 2018/19 - 14 times more than in the previous three years.

Spending was predominantly by district councils and local authorities in the south-east, with just 14% of councils accounting for 80% of the total.

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Record number of A&E 'trolley waits' reached in January, NHS say

More than 100,000 A&E patients in England waited for hours to be treated in hospitals in January, the highest number since records began, NHS figures show.

There were 100,578 patients waiting for more than four hours, of whom 2,846 were delayed for more than 12 hours from decision to admit to admission, according to performance statistics released by NHS England.

For both delays, this is the highest number of “trolley waits” since records began.

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Ombudsman reminds councils of care home ‘top-up fees’ duties

Top-up fees are the difference someone - often a relative - chooses to pay for a loved-one’s stay in a care home over and above the amount the council has agreed to pay.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s warning comes after two councils - Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Lincolnshire County Council - disputed some of the Ombudsman’s recommendations against them.

The Ombudsman found that Dudley council had been asking relatives to enter into an agreement with the care home to pay the amount as standard practice, rather than administer the funding itself and claim the money from the relatives.

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Major investment plans for Kirklees council approved

Major investment plans set out by Kirklees Council have been given the green light following budget approval.

Febuary 12 saw the Full Council vote to approve Kirklees Council’s Budget proposals for 2020-21. Included in the report are plans for regeneration, tackling climate change and achieving outstanding children’s services.

As well as working to deliver these three key areas of ambition over the next financial year, it will continue to deliver its daily statutory services for the people in the region within its newly approved budget.

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Edinburgh sets out £2.5bn housing-investment plans

Proposals to invest almost £2bn in delivering new council homes and close on £500m to upgrade existing social-housing and tenant services over the next decade are set to be agreed by City of Edinburgh Council.

The moves would see the delivery of around 10,000 new homes over the period and commitments to spend in the region of £20,000 per existing property on estate modernisation and energy-efficiency improvements.

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Economy beats gloomy forecasts to be third-fastest growing in G7

Britain had the third-fastest growing economy in the G7 group of advanced nations last year even though it stagnated in the final quarter.

Official figures show that the economy beat expectations to grow by 1.4 per cent last year. The UK outperformed France, Germany and Italy, which grew by 1.3 per cent, 0.5 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), growth picked up to 0.3 per cent in December alone. The annual 1.4 per cent growth rate meant that Britain was behind only the US and Canada, which posted growth of 2.2 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively.

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Equalities watchdog launches inquiry into pupil restraint in schools amid concerns from parents

Schools will be investigated by the equalities watchdog over their use of physical restraint following widespread concerns about the “traumatic” impact on children.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched a formal inquiry into how schools are monitoring and recording the use of restraint to ensure methods are used appropriately in classrooms.

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Families in the north have biggest council tax bills

Boris Johnson is facing calls to overhaul council tax after research found that homeowners in the north pay up to 30 times more than those in the south relative to the value of their property.

Analysis has found that 80 per cent of the most expensive Band D council tax rates are in the north or Midlands, while 84 per cent of the cheapest are in London and the southeast. There are no northern towns or cities in the cheapest 25 areas and only two in the Midlands.

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Government to pledge £5bn for bus services and cycling routes

The government is set to pledge £5bn over the next five years to improve bus and cycling services in England.

Boris Johnson will say the extra money will provide more frequent services and simpler, more affordable fares.

Chancellor Sajid Javid told the BBC these are the kind of "essential" investments that "people want to see".

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UK economy saw zero growth at the end of 2019

The UK economy saw no growth in the final three months of 2019, as manufacturing contracted for the third quarter in a row and the service sector slowed around the time of the election.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the car industry had seen a particularly weak quarter.

The ONS figures also showed the economy grew by 1.4% in 2019, marginally higher than the 1.3% rate in 2018.

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Bus funding: Where would it make the most difference?

Boris Johnson is pledging £5bn over five years to boost bus services and cycling in England and campaigners want it to restore "lost" routes in "disconnected" rural areas. Where would new bus funding make the most difference?

More than 4 billion journeys are made by bus every year in England, but the number has been in decline.

Transport campaigners blame this on cuts in funding, with local and central government support for bus services having declined by more than £800m, nearly 30%, over the past decade.

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HS2 gets go ahead despite cost ‘explosion’

The prime minister said that oversight of the scheme to this point has been poor and committed to selecting a minister to specifically oversee the rail link between London, the West Midlands, Leeds and Manchester.

Speaking in the commons on February 11 Johnson said: “Costs have exploded, but poor management to date has not detracted, in my view, from the fundamental value of the project.”

The projected cost stood at £56bn in 2015, but the independent Oakervee Review, contains analysis suggesting costs could soar to £106bn.

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Finance settlement pulled for new terror law

Local government minister Luke Hall tweeted: ‘Such swift action to protect the public means we will now hold the vote on the #localgov settlement as soon as possible after recess.

‘Confirming this funding as soon as possible remains a priority and we laid the final material in the House last week to help to give councils the certainty they need to deliver vital services.’

The Local Government Association had been fighting proposals to restrict council tax rises to 2% without the holding of a referendum, but the latest policy proposals in the final settlement are largely unchanged from earlier plans.

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Councils to receive share of £4.5m to roll out digital social care projects

Sixteen organisations that provide and commission adult social care services are to receive a share of £4.5m to enable them to roll out their local digital projects on a wider scale.

‘Bridging the technology gap between the NHS and social care is a central part of achieving a health and care service that is fit for the future,’ said health minister Nicola Blackwood.

‘This £4.5m investment will support local areas to improve information sharing across services, ensuring people avoid hospital unless absolutely necessary and helping everyone live independently for longer.’

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Shared service venture to create “finance academy” for managers

A back office shared services initiative run by three London councils is to create a “finance academy” to improve budget management and financial control.

The move is being made as part of a major improvement plan agreed in July last year for the OneSource partnership, which covers ICT, asset management, human resources and finance across the London Boroughs of Havering, Bexley and Newham.

A report to the council said the new academy would move the organisation to a model of continued professional development for all staff and improve finance support to council departments and members.

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UK’s cities and councils call for fiscal devolution

Councils in London and the UK's biggest regional cities have joined forces to ask the government to let them raise more money locally to compensate for a decade of cuts.

In their Budget submissions, co-ordinated for the first time, the 32 London boroughs and the 11-strong Core Cities group — that includes Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow — have asked for fiscal devolution. They want the right to introduce a tourism tax, borrow against future revenue and reforms to business rates and council tax.

A tourism levy set at £1 per person per night in a hotel would raise £41m annually in London and £30m across the core cities, according to the organisation.

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Sajid Javid is under pressure to fix unfair business rates system

Sajid Javid is under mounting pressure to announce a wholesale review of business rates in next month’s Budget.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, the director-general of the CBI, has written to the Chancellor demanding an overhaul of the hated tax on firms, including retailers and manufacturing companies.

She is meeting Mr Javid next Monday to discuss the Budget, which she described as ‘a momentous one’. The challenge, she added, was for Mr Javid to turn optimism into a ‘surge in investment’ across the country.

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Bus cuts turn rural areas into ‘transport deserts’

Bus route closures have left nearly a million Britons at risk of being cut off from basic services, research has found.

A study by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) found that 56 per cent of small towns in the southwest and northeast of England were “transport deserts” or on the verge of becoming one, with residents unable to get around without driving.

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Pooling of LGPS schemes has saved £155m in four years

The pooling of investment funds in the Local Government Pension Scheme has saved £155m since the method was introduced, estimates suggest.

Further savings are expected in the coming years following a shift to mandatory pooling announced in November 2015, according to Lord James Younger, parliamentary under-secretary for housing, communities and local government.

Responding to a parliamentary question on the effectiveness of the pooling of funds since 2015, Younger suggested the move saved £155m between November 2015 and March 2019, with further savings expected in future.

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LGA: £80m from PWLB rate hike should be given back to councils

The extra Treasury cash raised via the Public Work Loans Board 1% rate rise should be handed back to local government, council leaders have suggested.

In its 2020 Budget submission the Local Government Association estimated that the government could receive as much as £80m due to the rate hike and it should used to support the sector.

“The income received by the government from the rate rise must be reused in the form of additional funding for local government,” the LGA said.

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Auditors beg for extension to local council accounts deadline

Auditors have pleaded with the Government for more time to investigate council accounts as budget cuts and pressure on fees threaten to compound a crisis in local public finances.

The bosses of two leading accounting bodies called on Robert Jenrick, the Housing and Local Government Secretary, to extend by two months the July 31 deadline for councils to file their annual audited accounts, in a letter seen by the Sunday Telegraph.

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No 10 power grab for NHS sparks backlash over ‘turf war’

Boris Johnson has been accused of starting a “turf war” with NHS bosses as it was revealed he will use a new law to exert more control over the health service.

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief aide, believes that at present the law gives Sir Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, excessive freedom, making it hard for Downing Street to impose its will.

Legislation to be introduced this year will include powers for ministers to give orders to Sir Simon, who is meant to be operationally independent.

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Council tax bills could rise by £70 as ministers confirm 4 per cent hike from April

This would see the average Band D council tax bill going up from £1,750 in 2019/20 to £1,820 next year.

While families also face an extra £10 charge to pay for more cops in the area.

A spokesman for the Housing Department said: “This package strikes the right balance between supporting councils to address pressures, including through an extra £1.5 billion for social care, while protecting local residents from excessive council tax rises.

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Lisa Nandy promises to let councillors nominate Labour leadership candidates

Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy has promised to give the party’s local councillors a place at the shadow cabinet table if she succeeds Jeremy Corbyn.

In a swipe at the party’s “neglect” of its local government base under previous leaders, Ms Nandy said she would end the “bizarre” situation where unions and affiliated organisations - but not councillors - are able to nominate candidates for the leadership.

In a speech in the totemic constituency of Bassetlaw - lost to the Tories for the first time since 1929 in December’s election- she also vowed to give councils more economic clout by transferring £12 billion of funding from Local Enterprise Partnerships to local authorities.

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DfE schools funding clarification sparks treasurer unease

The government’s move to prevent the use of general funds to address rising overspends on the dedicated schools grant has raised concerns among section 151 officers and auditors some councils could be left to set "imprudent" budgets.

In the response to its consultation on "clarifying the ring-fenced status of the DSG", the Department for Education said it would change regulations to ensure councils do not use general funds to pay off cumulative dedicated schools grant (DSG) overspends to prevent any impact in investment in other services.

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Almost 2,000 frail and elderly people are refused home help every day because they do not qualify for social care, new figures suggest

Councils have changed the rules for care at home by raising the thresholds of sickness or disability they must meet to receive free help. Once, moderate disability was enough qualification. Now only those with serious health and mobility issues are given free home care.

In nearly half, councils tell people they do not qualify for help but refer them on to other services. These include paid-for care companies and charities such as Age UK itself. The report said 1.5million over-65s have at least one essential activity for which they are denied help.

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Councils receive 4.4% increase in finance settlement

The communities secretary has published the final one-year local government finance settlement which he said will provide certainty for councils.

Robert Jenrick said the package of £49.2bn in 2020-21, up from £46.2bn last year, represents a 4.4% increase and the largest year-on-year real terms increase in a decade.

“This settlement acts as the foundation for a robust and resilient future for local government finance, delivering on calls for certainty and stability from local government,” he said.

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Government’s £170m bus boost a ‘drop in the ocean’

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced today that £170m is being given to make bus journeys “greener, easier and more reliable”. It is part of a £200m package set aside to overhaul bus services.

Councils have also been invited to compete to be the UK’s first all-electric bus town, for which they will receive £50m - part of the £170m - to pay for a new fleet of electric buses.

But Unite’s national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said that the money was an “absolute drop in the ocean, compared to what has been cut from bus services”.

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Gwynne calls for Government to scrap fair funding review

Mr Gwynne warned the ‘so-called fair funding formula’ could tip councils ‘over the edge’ and said the Government should ‘ensure that local authorities are properly funded through a fairer system that properly takes account of deprivation, need and differing council tax bases’.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Gwynne said: ‘Several councils are edging ever closer to the cliff edge and the number that will drop over that cliff edge is very much dependent on the actions of this Government.

'If they [the Government] honour their word and put resources into the local communities that need them most, hopefully we can avoid more Northamptonshires.

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Cumbria devo proposal sparks county fear of ‘super districts’

Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry’s proposal that councils in Cumbria form two unitaries in order to win a devolution deal has sent shockwaves through county councils amid concerns that government rules on reorganisation are shifting.

During talks on devolution earlier this week Mr Berry(pictured) is reported to have told leaders of the county’s seven councils that a combined authority would need to encompass at least two upper tier authorities, which would mean breaking Cumbria up into unitaries.

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‘Chancellor has little chance of achieving economic growth goal’

GDP is expected to grow by about 1.5% in 2020 and 2021, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NEISR) said today in a review of the UK economy’s prospects.

As Sajid Javid is planning to ‘level up’ income levels in the March Budget he would significantly have to boost productivity to come near to achieving his growth aim, the think-tank observed. Investment and productivity growth are forecast to pick up only gradually, the NEISR added.

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Councils in crisis with more tax rises and service cuts due

Council tax payers in England face near universal rises on top of increased fees and charges to pay for what in many cases will be reduced levels of local services, according to a survey of local authorities.

It reveals that 97% of local authorities will put council tax up again in April to cope with a growing financial crisis, and the same proportion will raise charges for services such as parking, garden waste disposal and aspects of social care.

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County warns of ‘predatory’ loan offers following PWLB rate rise

A county council has warned of “predatory” lenders circling the local government sector in the wake of the government’s decision to raise the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) interest rate.

The stark assessment came in Worcestershire County Council’s treasury management strategy which went before councillors at the authority last week.

The council’s TMS outlines a strategy of external borrowing aimed at replenishing some of the reserves and cash balances which it has used to support capital borrowing since 2008.

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Short-term fixes leaving NHS financially unstable

The National Audit Office highlighted that NHS commissioners “failed to balance their books again” with a £150m deficit in the last financial year, in a report released today.

Health service trusts reported a combined deficit of £827m, the NAO showed. However, commissioners and trusts ended 2018-19 with a combined surplus of £89m, the watchdog pointed out, in its eight report on the financial sustainability of the NHS.

But the watchdog added: “As in previous years, overspends by trusts and CCGs were offset by an NHS England underspend.”

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Unions’ claim rejected as staff offered 2% pay deal

Unions have rejected a pay offer of 2% for council staff, describing it as “more than disappointing”.

The National Employers, which negotiate staff pay on behalf of 350 councils, submitted the offer affecting more than £1m workers to unions today.

The unions Unison, GMB and Unite all called for a 10% rise for council staff in 2020-21 last July and immediately rejected the offer.

In a joint statement, the unions have called on National Employers to reconsider the offer so talks can continue as soon as possible.

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Ministers must heed local productivity gaps

Ministerial efforts to reduce the regional productivity gap must recognise the imbalances at local level within regions, government advisers have warned.

A report from the Industrial Strategy Council says that in some regions successful cities and other areas have enjoyed relative economic success and productivity gains while neighbouring areas – particularly coastal or rural communities to lag behind.

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Northants targets £23m savings

Northamptonshire CC has published its draft budget for 2020/2021, amid concerns over children's services and roads maintenance. The council will hand over to two new unitary authorities in April 2021 in a countywide reorganisation of local government.

The budget incorporates £22.9m savings and a council tax increase of 3.99%, including a 2% social care precept.

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Temporary accommodation industry worth £1.1bn

An investigation has revealed that councils are spending £1.1bn on temporary accommodation every year, with 86% going to private landlords or companies.

Housing charity Shelter found that the amount of money being paid to private accommodation providers has nearly doubled in the past five years, from £490m in 2013/14 to £939m in 2018/19.

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Commission calls on government to devolve skills

Education, business and local government leaders from the Future-Ready Skills Commission have called on the government to “ensure that opportunity is more equally spread throughout the country”, following a meeting last week.

The commissioners highlighted an interim report they published in November last year, which identified 10 priorities that needed to be addressed to create a devolved skills system.

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Business rates blow

Plans to use business rates to fund local government have been dealt a major blow by a survey that finds wavering confidence in the policy.

This year’s annual local government finance survey by The MJ and LGiU think-tank found more than three-quarters (77%) were either not at all confident or not very confident in 100% business rates retention as a mechanism to fund the sector.

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Apprentice levy ‘failing small firms’

Reforms to vocational training are failing young people and small and medium companies, according to a poll by the Federation of Small Businesses.

The apprenticeship levy has made it harder to access entry-level training and is not providing enough support for smaller companies, its critics say.

More than one in four small companies that employ apprentices say that changes introduced three years ago have been counterproductive.

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English schools buying in mental health support has 'almost doubled' in three years

The number of schools in England buying in professional mental health support for pupils has nearly doubled in three years, as prompt access to NHS services for those children most in need continues to be a problem, a new survey has found.

In 2016 more than a third (36%) of schools surveyed provided school-based support for students’ emotional and mental wellbeing. By 2019 66% of school leaders said they were commissioning their own professional support for pupils, including school-based counsellors.

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Glitch delays business rates relief for hundreds of companies

Hundreds of companies due to receive business rates relief will have their discount delayed because of a problem with local councils’ IT software.

Last year the government announced an initiative to revive the high street by cutting rates for businesses with properties that have a rateable value of less than £51,000.

A total of 75 local authorities have been told by their software provider, Civica, that changes to bills cannot be made until after the new financial year.

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Adult Care crisis deepens as providers 'run out of options'

The number of care providers cutting support for vulnerable adults has doubled in the last year because of financial pressures, a charity has said.

Research by Hft, which supports adults with learning disabilities, suggested 20% of the 80 providers surveyed had offered care to fewer people in order to balance the books or meet rising wage bills.

And a third of those questioned had cut staff, while almost half had shut parts of their organisation.

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Universal credit rollout delayed again - to 2024

Full rollout of universal credit, the government's flagship welfare reform, is being delayed again, adding £500m to its overall cost, the BBC has learned.

Officials say not enough people are moving to the benefit as they are "scared" to move to universal credit.

The system was meant to be fully live by April 2017, but the new delay will push it back to September 2024.

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UK regional productivity gap widest in a century

Regional differences in UK productivity are at their highest level for over a century and will be difficult to solve, the government’s industrial strategy council said on Tuesday, as it urged ministers to apply policy “consistently” in future.

The report comes as Boris Johnson has made “levelling up” economic performance across the UK a central aim of his Conservative government after winning December’s general election largely thanks to a surge of support in England’s north and Midlands in areas that have badly lagged the more prosperous south east.

The Industrial Strategy Council, headed by Andy Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England, concluded there was no single reason for places becoming successful or left-behind, but differences were entrenched and regional rankings of success rarely changed.

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Scale of children’s funding gap revealed

The cost to councils of meeting demand in children’s social care has more than quadrupled to £7.2bn since 2010-11 as dedicated government funding has halved, according to new analysis shared exclusively with LGC.

Nationally spending on children’s social care and services for young people has increased from £7.1bn in 2010-11 to an expected £10bn next year to meet demand, the analysis by the Association of North East Councils shows (see graph below).

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Borough seeking unitary status sparks spending row

A row over council spending has broken out between a county council and a borough authority that is seeking unitary status.

The leader of Basildon BC’s Labour administration, Cllr Gavin Callaghan, wrote to his Conservative counterpart at Essex CC raising ‘serious concerns’ that the borough was ‘not being prioritised’.

It came a day after Basildon councillors voted in favour of preparing a business case for unitary status.

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County offered devo deal with reorganisation and outsourced care services

Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry has offered councils in Cumbria a devolution deal if they agree to reorganise into two unitaries and form a mayoral combined authority, LGC has been told.

Mr Berry met with the leaders and chief executives of Cumbria’s six district councils and county council yesterday. In a briefing on the discussions, Cumbria CC leader Stewart Young (Lab) told LGC Mr Berry believed a new mayoral combined authority to cover the whole of Cumbria could pass the parliamentary approval process in time for elections for the two new councils and a mayor in May 2021.

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Motorbike firm which said UK would thrive outside of EU goes into administration

A firm which once claimed that UK was better prepared for Brexit than the 'media has us believe' has gone into administration in the same week the UK left the European Union.

In September 2018 Norton Motorcycles owner Stuart Garner claimed he had no fears about Brexit, and said that it would be a "huge opportunity" to negotiate trade deals around the globe.

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Mets set to benefit overall from funding review

Metropolitan districts are set to benefit from the government's fair funding review overall, expert analysis obtained by LGC suggests, contrary to recent claims that they would lose as more affluent county council areas gained.

Research released by the Local Government Association last week showed that under the adult social care element of reforms to how council funding is calculated, metropolitan districts would receive the biggest reductions and county councils would benefit the most.

This drew criticism from Labour, with leader of the party's LGA group Nick Forbes saying the figures confirmed “worst fears” of a “funding stitch up” for councils in areas with higher levels of deprivation under the fair funding review.

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Departmental savings of 5% will be hard to find

Asking ministers to find departmental savings worth 5% was not unexpected or unprecedented, but it may be difficult to achieve and is unlikely to free up enough money to meet the government’s other priorities, argues Nick Davies of the Institute for Government.

The figure is in line with IfG predictions. Published last November, it is calculated that unprotected spending would need to fall 5.3% between 2020/21 and 2023/24 if the government were to stick to its existing plans for overall spending and meet its commitments to protected areas – the NHS, schools, defence and overseas aid.

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Ministers told to make cuts to pay for ‘radical agenda’

Sajid Javid, the chancellor, has ordered cabinet ministers to draw up cuts of up to 5 per cent from their budgets.

The Treasury wants to free up money to spend on other priorities, such as the NHS. A government source said: “This isn’t about cuts for their own sake, it’s about living within our means and prioritising what we do spend on our radical agenda: levelling up the country.”

Not every department will be expected to make every cut suggested. This month Boris Johnson told his cabinet that it was “time for the slaughtering of sacred cows” and to cull pet projects supported by his predecessors, Theresa May and David Cameron.

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Tories will write minimum school funding into law

A guarantee will be put into law that all schools in England receive minimum funding in future.

All secondary schools will get £5,000 per pupil and all primary schools £3,730 per pupil, rising to £4,000 next year under legislation laid before parliament yesterday.

Local authorities will be required by law to make sure every school receives the full minimum level of funding. Previously local authorities had more powers to allocate the money and some schools fell below these minimum levels per pupil.

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Majority of councils overspend on homelessness as pressure mounts

Nearly 70% of councils in England spent more than planned on homelessness support last year due to shortages of affordable housing and insufficient housing benefits, according to analysis.

Research by the Local Government Association found that 69.3% of councils in England overspent on their homelessness budgets by more than a quarter (27.7%) - rising from a planned spend of £502.7m to an actual spend of £642.3m in 2018-19.

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Kent beefs up support for pension fund following Woodford losses

Kent CC is increasing support for its pension committee when making investment decisions and monitoring its holdings following its loss of at least £60m on a controversial fund that is being wound up.

The pension fund had put £260m into the Woodford Equity Income Fund, but its investment has been trapped since June 2019 when the fund was suspended after the council sought to withdraw its investment because of growing concerns about its liquidity.

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E-scooters on UK roads set for the green light

Electric scooters will be legalised on roads and cycle lanes for the first time under government plans to encourage green transport.

Ministers are expected to launch a consultation next month on how to regulate e-scooters and ensure safety.

The consultation will be followed by trials in cities, with a potential nationwide introduction if they are successful.

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Immigration salary threshold should drop by £4,400, says committee

The government should drop the salary threshold for immigrants by more than £4,000, a committee has advised.Skilled migrants from outside the EU currently need to have a job offer with a minimum salary of £30,000.

But the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said it should fall to £25,600 for all workers to help recruit teachers and skilled NHS staff. The MAC also said the government's proposal for a points-based immigration system would reduce economic growth.

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Housing waiting list rises again as 17,000 social homes lost

More than 1.15 million households were waiting for a social home in England on 1 April 2019, a rise of 4% on the previous year, according to newly released government figures.

Only 8% of the 4.1 million social rent properties in England were let to new tenants during the year.

Generally, a higher proportion of stock was newly let in northern England than in the south. In many areas in and around London, less than 4% of social housing stock were newly let in 2018-19. This compared to 14.6% in Darlington BC and Medway Council and 14.3% in Burnley BC, the three three local authority areas that saw the highest level of turnover in 2018-19.

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Funding boost for rough sleepers initiative

The government has announced a 30% boost to its rough sleeping programme.

Councils will share £112m in the latest round of the Rough Sleeping Initiative fund, which now combines the Rough Sleeping Initiative and the Rapid Rehousing Pathway into a single pot. Together these were worth around £87m in 2019-20.

The announcement comes on top of the pledge of more than £260m for homelessness services that was announced in December, which LGC understands was made up of about £23m of new money.

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Auditors in fees increase warning

Auditors have warned a number of councils that their audit fees for 2019/20 could be more than one-fifth higher than they were expecting.

It comes after the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) regulator raised the threshold of what it assesses as a good quality audit following recent, high-profile company failures that were also attributed to audit performance.

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English councils set to miss carbon emission targets

Many councils in England don’t know how much energy they use, a new survey reveals. The findings make it “inconceivable” that they will become carbon neutral within 30 years, as the government has mandated.

According to the survey, 43% of councils – 93 of the 214 local authorities that responded to a freedom of information request from electrical contractors’ trade body ECA – do not measure the energy they use in council-owned buildings or know how much carbon they produce.

ECA energy adviser Luke Osborne said the findings were “highly concerning”. Without immediate changes, “it is inconceivable that councils are going to become carbon neutral in less than 30 years”, he said.

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Labour councils set to lose under new funding formula

The new formula “dramatically downgrades” the importance of deprivation in assessing need in favour of per head funding, the Local Government Association’s Labour Group has claimed.

Analysis of LGA figures by its Labour group found that metropolitan boroughs are due to lose almost £300m in adult social care funding under the formula, the vast majority of which (£250m) will be handed to shire counties.

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NAO to probe one-off Government funding pots

The National Audit Office (NAO) is to probe the effect of the Government’s shift towards one-off and short-term funding initiatives.

Announcing a new inquiry, the NAO suggested forcing councils to apply for funding streams outside the main local government financial settlement and to then report back on how it has been used could ‘undermine strategic planning and create risks to value for money’.

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Small music venues to get 50% reduction in business rates

The government has committed to reducing business rates for small and medium-sized music venues in England and Wales for the first time. The 50% reduction available to smaller retailers will be extended to 230 small and medium-sized music venues with a rateable value below £51,000. Independent cinemas will also benefit from the reduction.

The Music Venue Trust estimates that the move will save each site an average of £7,500 a year, and release more than £1.7m back into the grassroots live music sector. Music Venue Trust strategic director Beverley Whitrick said it was a “much needed and long overdue boost”.

Nathan Clark of the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds said he was overjoyed by the news. “This reduction of business rates supports an ability to reinvest, helping new and emerging artists, create accessible events, and further support a vibrant, but financially strained environment for the wider community.”

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Former 'red wall' areas could lose millions in council funding review

A reallocation of council funding could redirect hundreds of millions of pounds from so-called left-behind communities in the north of England to the leafy southern shires, analysis has found, leaving many newly Conservative voting “red wall” areas facing fresh cuts to local services.

Under a review of the local authority funding formula, £320m a year could be shifted out of councils in England’s most deprived areas while Tory-controlled shire councils mainly in the south-east gain £300m.

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Grenfell Tower inquiry member Benita Mehra resigns

Ms Mehra, an engineer, had been appointed to replace academic Prof Nabeel Hamdi as an expert panellist for the second phase of the inquiry.

Victims' families had raised concerns to the prime minister about her former role as a past president of the Women's Engineering Society, which received funding from the Arconic Foundation for an apprentice conference.

Arconic supplied the cladding on the outside of the west London tower block, which caught fire on 14 June 2017, claiming 72 lives.

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County lines gangs using Breaking Bad-style motorhomes as drug-dealing bases

County lines gangs are using motorhomes and caravans as drug-dealing bases – just like in the TV series Breaking Bad.

Dealers buy or rent them through internet sites such as Gumtree. They park up in remote spots or at touring sites and use them as mini drugs factories, preparing £10 bags of cocaine and heroin.

We found one dealer from Liverpool who hired an old touring caravan with an accomplice before parking up in north Wales to supply addicts in seaside resorts.

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Government urged to fund upgrades to outdated council leisure facilities

Local authority leisure services are in desperate need of investment with nearly a quarter now almost 20 years old, council leaders have said.

Figures from Sport England shared with the Local Government Association show that up to 63% of sports halls and swimming pools are more than 10 years old while nearly a quarter have not been refurbished in more than 20 years.

The LGA noted that central government funding for leisure infrastructure fell by more than a third in the last decade and urged the government to introduce a £500m funding pot for councils in the upcoming Budget.

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Thousands of pubs will see £1,000 slashed off business rates in reforms aimed at saving the High Street

Thousands of pubs will see £1,000 slashed off business rates in Government reforms aimed at saving the high street.

Chancellor Sajid Javid said that as many as 18,000 small boozers would benefit from the new 'pubs relief', which will be introduced from April.

It comes after calls from pub companies to ease the burden of business rates on sites facing other heavy cost increases.

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County lines drug gangs must be tackled nationally

If you thought the cynical exploitation of children by criminals was confined to Victorian times and the pages of Oliver Twist, the new government should have shattered that illusion.

Last week Boris Johnson, the prime minister, said he would lead a new cabinet committee to tackle serious violence, with a focus on county lines drugs operations.

Criminals groom children and vulnerable adults with drugs and alcohol or promises of status and wealth, and then force them to carry drugs across the country. They often use terrifying threats, violence and sexual abuse, against the victims and their loved ones.

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UK borrowing falls ahead of March Budget

UK public sector borrowing was less than expected in December 2019, official figures have shown.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, UK borrowing was £4.8bn last month - £0.2bn less than December 2018 and less than expected.

Borrowing in the current financial year-to-date was £54.6n - £4bn more than in the same period last year.

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NHS pledges elderly rapid response community teams

Rapid response teams of nurses, physios and care staff are to be on hand within two hours to help sick older people at home in England under new plans.

The community crisis teams will be officially piloted in seven areas this year, with the plan to roll out the model across the country by 2023. Several places have already introduced similar teams and reduced A&E demand.

But unions warned staff shortages would be a major obstacle to the plan put forward by NHS England and ministers.

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Police settlement ‘biggest in a decade’

The Home Office has unveiled a £1.1bn funding package for policing in 2020-21 but has been criticised for “unsustainable, short-term thinking”.

Police and crime commissioners in England have been given flexibility to increase funding locally by raising the council tax referendum limit to £10 for a typical property, bringing maximum potential funding to £15.2bn.

The settlement is an almost 10% increase in core grant provided to the forces last year, the government said.

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Care home costs leap to £34,000 a year in the biggest jump for nearly a decade, new figures reveal

Care home fees hit an annual average of £34,000 last year – the biggest jump in nearly a decade, according to latest figures.

The price of a place for the frail and vulnerable in England rose by 4.7 per cent in the year to last March, the greatest increase since 2010. The rise is more than three times the level of inflation.

The squeeze on the elderly and their families emerged amid growing pressure on Boris Johnson and ministers to deliver on their promise to build a cross-party consensus for social care reform.

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Cipfa resilience index: cause for concern?


LGC looks at what Cipfa’s resilience index can and can’t tell us about the financial health of councils.

In December the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy finally published its financial resilience index, which it said identified potential risks to financial sustainability at around 10% of councils.

However, Cipfa has not named them publicly (or even privately to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government) and the design of the index deliberately makes it difficult to produce a league table.

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Lack of care for dementia sufferers saw war heroine 'abandoned' in hospital

Britain’s social care crisis has resulted in a surge in dementia patients ending up in A&E and left stranded in hospital for months.

The Alzheimer’s Society says NHS figures show the number of people with the condition being admitted to casualty has increased by around a third in five years to 380,000.

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Government to ‘name and shame’ owners of blocks with dangerous cladding

In a statement to the House of Commons on January 20, Jenrick said changes to building regulations after the Grenfell Tower fire have been “unacceptably slow” as he unveiled a raft plans to overhaul the system.

He added: “Inaction must have consequences. From next month, I will name those responsible for building where remediation has not started and remove them from the public list when it has.

The announcement comes after the latest official data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government revealed there are still 315 high-rise buildings in England with Grenfell-style cladding.

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Seven fixes for local government grant funding to tackle the North-South divide

If the prime minister wishes to rebalance the relationship between North and South, he might want to start with local government spending, argues Graham Chapman, councillor at Nottingham City Council.

This has not happened simply as a result of the aggregate cuts to local government. It has occurred as a result of the distribution of these cuts, which implies it might have been deliberate. The top 50 council losers are populated by inner London authorities, yes, but also by poorer urban authorities in the North and the Midlands.

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Health watchdog reinspects care homes following inaccurate inspection reports

The health watchdog has decided to reinspect a number of services after finding that almost 40 inspection reports into care and nursing homes contained duplicate material.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found during an audit that there was “duplicate material” in 78 reports, with identical quotations from patients or sections of evidence pasted into reports on different institutions.

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Youth services suffer 70% funding cut in less than a decade

Spending on youth services in England and Wales has been cut by 70% in real terms in less than a decade, with the loss of £1bn of investment resulting in zero funding in some areas, according to research.

Analysis by the YMCA youth charity found that local authority expenditure on youth services dropped from £1.4bn in 2010-11 to just under £429m in 2018-19, resulting in the loss of 750 youth centres and more than 4,500 youth workers.

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Hull asks to be first UK city to trial universal basic income

Hull wants to become the first UK city to test a weekly universal basic income for its residents after a cross-party group of councillors formally backed the idea.

The proposal would mean every adult would be paid a basic sum – potentially between £50 and £100 a week – regardless of income, and do away with the need for welfare.

People receiving disability payments would instead get the equivalent sum in universal basic income (UBI) and there would be higher payments for pensioners and lower sums for children.

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Shopping centre owner Intu seeks emergency cash

Intu, which owns some of the UK's biggest shopping centres, has approached its shareholders to ask for more money amid a downturn in the retail sector.

Reports suggest that the company could be asking for £1bn from investors. Intu owns Manchester's Trafford Centre, and Lakeside, at Thurrock, Essex.

Last year, retail sales fell for the first time in a quarter of a century, according to trade body the British Retail Consortium.

The tough trading conditions have hurt landlords, who are struggling to fill vacant stores. Firms like Debenhams, Toys R Us, House of Fraser, New Look and HMV have all tried to negotiate with landlords to reduce rent.

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How the Labour leadership candidates stack up on local government


Labour's five leadership hopefuls have been keen to demonstrate how they would create a plan for a fairer, greener and happier Britain if they are voted in as the party’s next leader.

Jeremy Corbyn is stepping down after Labour's defeat in December's general election, its fourth election defeat in a row, and his successor is due to be announced on 4 April.

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Tory manifesto author backs NHS-style social care funding

One of the authors of the 2019 Conservative manifesto has backed moving funding for adult social care to a national level because funding pressures on councils has deterred them from expanding provision of care and retirement homes.

Robert Colville, chief executive of the influential centre-right think tank Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), told Health Service Journal funding social care from central government via a system similar to the NHS tariff, with local government retaining responsibility for delivering care and assessing needs, “could help” address the current crisis.

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Cost of placing homeless people in B&Bs has risen by more than £20m

Home for Denise and her children is one cramped room in a bed and breakfast. Most of the space is taken up by the three beds they share between the six of them - the floor is littered with toys and clothes.

The floor of the room is littered with clothes and toys, they have a small en suite bathroom but there is limited access to a tiny kitchen which is shared with around 30 other people.

They have been living like this for more than five months. This is the reality of life for thousands of people forced to live in bed and breakfasts after finding themselves homeless and on long waiting lists for council housing.

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Universal Credit's regional divide exposed as 52% of Liverpool families worse off

Universal Credit creates “a complex mix of winners and losers” depending on where claimants live, a study has revealed.

The research by the Resolution Foundation found some regions fare much worse than others. Laura Gardiner, research director, said: “ Universal Credit is now set to be marginally more generous than the benefits it is replacing.

“But this average hides a complex mix of winners and losers, with families in some areas of the UK faring particularly badly.”

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Boris Johnson sends the House of Lords up north

Boris Johnson is planning to move the House of Lords permanently to York, The Sunday Times can reveal. The city has emerged as the frontrunner to host the new second chamber, with Birmingham also in the running.

The prime minister last week ordered work to begin on the practicalities of a move, in further evidence that the Conservatives are serious about cementing their gains in what were once Labour’s heartlands.

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Local buses clocking lowest mileage in decades

Local buses are travelling almost 150 million fewer miles than they were 10 years ago and have fallen to their lowest level since the mid-Eighties, new analysis by the Local Government Association reveals.

The LGA, which represents councils, says an increase in fares – which are up 71 per cent in real terms since 2005 - and a £700 million annual funding gap for the concessionary fares scheme are contributing to the decline in services and bus usage.

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Brexit: Price rises warning after chancellor vows EU rules divergence

Businesses have warned that food prices may rise and jobs may be affected after the chancellor vowed to end alignment with EU rules after Brexit.

Sajid Javid told the Financial Times the UK would not be a "ruletaker" after Brexit, urging businesses to "adjust".

The Food and Drink Federation said the proposals were likely to cause food prices to rise at the end of this year.

The Confederation of British Industry said for many firms, keeping existing EU rules would support jobs.

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Business rates avoidance costs councils £250m a year, study suggests

Councils are calling for tougher laws to counter business rates avoidance after new research suggested it is costing local services £250 million a year.

Money is lost when firms go into insolvency while local authorities sometimes have problems establishing ownership of a property, said the Local Government Association (LGA).

Short-term periods of occupation, which leads to three months empty property exemption, is adding to the problem, said the LGA.

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Lift-off for bonds agency as Lancashire agrees first deal

The council has hailed the move as a “great first step” in allowing the local government sector to “take control of its own financial destiny”.

The UKMBA is due to issue its first bond worth £250m to £300m with duration of five years at a rate “well below” that of the Public Works Loan Board, subject to LCC’s “usual governance processes”.

The agency has been dormant for five years but was given new life in October when the government announced a 1% interest rate hike for the PWLB – the main source for local government borrowing.

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‘Government must give at least £2bn to replace EU regional funds’

The Industrial Communities Alliance, which represents councils in industrial communities in England, said the overall budget of the forthcoming UK Shared Prosperity fund must be at least £1.8bn – or £4bn a year if the UK’s own local growth fund is rolled in.

ICA noted that after Brexit no new EU-funded projects will be possible beyond the end of 2020, but the government has failed to produce details of the replacement fund.

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Dozens of social housing blocks still covered in Grenfell-style cladding

There are still 91 social housing buildings covered in Grenfell-style ACM cladding over two years after the tragedy, official figures have shown.

According to government data just one private tower block has received full funding for removal of the cladding despite a £200m pot created last summer to fund such work.

The government had initially provided £400m for local authorities and housing associations to remove the dangerous cladding after the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died.

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Ministerial intray: Signs so far are social care will not be a top priority

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock appeared to deliver a statement of the government’s intent following the general election by declaring that the time for “analysis” of options for a sustainable social care system was over and decisions must now be made.

Despite a more than two-year green paper process under the previous administration, which considered well-established proposals for funding and reform to the system, the Queen’s speech appeared to confirm the government would not use its majority to back a specific approach and instead stick to its manifesto pledge on seeking a cross-party agreement.

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Councils losing £250m a year through business rates avoidance

Councils are losing £250m a year due to businesses avoiding paying their rates, new research has found.

A survey by the Local Government Association (LGA) found eight in 10 councils said they do not have enough power to tackle the problem.

Almost half of respondents said the practise of ratepayers using rates mitigation firms in return for a percentage of the rates saved was widespread

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Empty business rates relief 'costs £1bn'

Empty businesses cost UK taxpayers £1bn a year, prompting calls for urgent reform of the system.

Some councils lose out on millions of pounds of potential business rates income through a tax relief on empty properties, BBC analysis shows.

A local authority mayor in northern England said the money "added up to a lot" and the system was unfair.

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Scores of tower blocks with Grenfell-style cladding have no plan in place to remove it, figures show

Two and a half years after the fatal blaze in Kensington, government data reveals that more than 21,000 households are still living in flats wrapped in the Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding that allowed the flames to spread so rapidly in the early hours of 14 June 2017.

The figures, published on Thursday, show that of 450 high-rise residential buildings in England found to have the combustible cladding, 315 are yet to undergo works to remove it, with 76 of these not having any plans in place to do so.

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Officials have no idea how many people were forced to sell their houses to pay for social care, report reveals

No one knows how many people have to sell their houses to pay the bills for a place in a care home, an official report admitted yesterday.

It said almost all the information available on the crisis-ridden care system came from local councils – which do not find out about people who have to pay for themselves.

There are 'significant gaps' in what is understood about how much money is paid for social care and where it comes from, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) watchdog said.

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Work to start on devolution deal for South Yorkshire

Political leaders in South Yorkshire have agreed to work towards a devolution deal after two years of deadlock.

Leaders from Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham hailed the breakthrough as a “significant step forward in securing additional powers and resource for our region”.

A deal will go out for public consultation later this year following a mayoral combined authority meeting at the end of this month.

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Officials have no idea how many people were forced to sell their houses to pay for social care, report reveals

No one knows how many people have to sell their houses to pay the bills for a place in a care home, an official report admitted yesterday.

It said almost all the information available on the crisis-ridden care system came from local councils – which do not find out about people who have to pay for themselves.

There are 'significant gaps' in what is understood about how much money is paid for social care and where it comes from, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) watchdog said.

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20% spike in pothole-related breakdowns

Vehicle breakdowns caused by potholes increased by a fifth during the last three months of 2019, new figures suggest.

The RAC received more than 2,000 call-outs for problems such as distorted wheels, broken suspension springs and damaged shock absorbers between October and December, an increase of around 300 compared with the same period in 2018.

Pothole-related faults represented 1.1% of all breakdowns attended by the company last year.

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Fall in inflation raises prospects of interest rate cut

The UK's inflation rate fell to its lowest for more than three years in December, increasing speculation that interest rates could be cut.

The rate dropped to 1.3% last month, down from 1.5% in November, partly due to a fall in the price of women's clothes and hotel room costs.

December's inflation rate was the lowest since November 2016.

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90 online abuse crimes against children recorded a day, NSPCC estimates

Ninety cyber crimes a day have been recorded against children since the introduction of Government plans to tackle online harms, the NSPCC estimates.

The charity predicts that more than 25,300 child abuse image and sexual grooming offences have occurred since the Online Harms White Paper was released in April 2019, plans which aim to make the UK one of the safest places to be online.

Based on police data from April to June 2019, it estimates an average of one online abuse offence against a child was recorded every 16 minutes in England and Wales in little over nine months.

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Care firm's leadership criticised by Care Quality Commission

The CQC found that patients under the firm's care were more likely to be restrained.

Higher rates of self-harm were also noted by inspectors who quizzed managers and analysed records at the company's headquarters.

Cygnet runs more than 100 services for vulnerable adults and children, caring for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and eating disorders.

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Care fee divide gets worse as new report reveals nursing home residents who pay their own bills are charged £250 a week more than those who are state-funded

Care home residents who pay their own bills are now being charged £250 a week more than those whose fees are funded by the state, a report has found.

In 30 areas of England, councils pay care home operators less than £500 a week to house those who need their bills covered because they have few savings or assets of their own.

The figure means that those paying their own bills – in many cases homeowners forced to sell their house to do so – are typically paying £125 a week to subsidise those unable to cover their costs.

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Boris backtracks on cross-party social care solution

Prime minister Boris Johnson has said the government’s majority means it will present a plan for adult social care this year and implement it within this parliament, having previously pledged to seek cross-party consensus on the issue.

In a BBC interview, his first this year, Mr Johnson said a sustainable solution to the social care funding crisis was “potentially a massive change” and involves “quite a lot of moral and social issues”.

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Sector accused of ‘overreacting’ to PWLB rates rise as alternatives line up

Local government overreacted to the Treasury decision to increase the cost of borrowing from the Public Works Loans Board, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy’s associate director has said.

Andrew Burns said the November move to increase the cost of borrowing by one percentage point was unsurprising given the widespread expectation that the government was close to having used up all its borrowing ‘headroom’.

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Government lifts four-year freeze on Local Housing Allowance

Around 900,000 people in the UK private rented sector will benefit from an average of £10 extra a month but charities have said the rise is still not enough.

Minister for welfare delivery Will Quince said: “This government is levelling up opportunity across the UK and this will be a welcome increase for around 900,000 people as we provide more money to help pay for housing.

“We are committed to tackling all forms of homelessness – ending the freeze on housing benefits is just one part of achieving this.”

LHA rates, which are calculated for every local area based on local rates, have been frozen since 2016 and research has found that rising rent prices have priced people out of the private rented sector.

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Commercial income could be excluded from council funding calculations

The government is minded to exclude councils’ commercial income from calculations on how much funding they receive from central government, according to a senior official working on the Fair Funding Review.

Stuart Hoggan, deputy director for local government finance at the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), said that the department is cranking up technical work on the review following the general election.

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Lisa Nandy: 'Councils must have the power to run bus services for people, not profits'

In the House of Commons 18 months ago Jeremy Corbyn challenged Theresa May about the shocking state of Britain’s buses. He was mocked by Tory MPs and commentators but back at my home in Wigan people cheered him on.

It showed a political system that is staggeringly out of touch with the things that matter. Nearly 60% of all public transport journeys are made by bus. In many parts of the country buses are the only public transport there is.

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Millions left unspent on NHS as councils fail to cash in on money from housing developers

The NHS is missing out on tens of millions of pounds from housing developers because councils are failing to ask for the funds, it has emerged.

And even when councils do collect the funds, the NHS often fails to spend it – £34m is currently unused.

Property developers are required to stump up this cash to obtain planning permission. The funds are intended to be spent on developing and creating buildings to alleviate pressure on the health service after an influx of residents.

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Climate emergency: Boris Johnson faces calls to step up action as poll shows public support for accelerated cuts in carbon emissions

Boris Johnson was today facing calls to step up action on global warming, after a poll for The Independent found overwhelming support for radical change to end the UK’s net carbon emissions by the end of the decade.

Some 70 per cent of those questioned by pollsters BMG said they supported the target of net-zero emissions by 2030, with only 7 per cent opposing it.

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Rural motorists more likely to drive on pothole ridden roads as figures show cities spend three times more on repairs

Rural motorists have been condemned to drive on pothole ridden roads after figures showed that cities spend three times more on repairs.

A combination of lower funding for shire counties and regional investment that has been disproportionately skewed towards urban areas has left motorists outside of major cities “poor relations”.

According to the County Councils Network (CCN) in the current financial year 36 shire counties had £20,885 per mile to spend on road repairs, pothole filling and the construction of new junctions and networks.

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Sugar tax is WORKING: Britons' consumption of sugar has dropped by a teaspoon a day since tax on sweetened drinks was launched

Britons’ consumption of sugar in drinks has dropped by more than a teaspoon per person each day due to the ‘sugar tax’, a major study has found.

Since 2015 the sugar in soft drinks sold in the UK has dropped by 30 per cent – equivalent to a daily reduction of 4.6g per person.

That is the equivalent of cutting out more than one teaspoon of sugar each day. The Oxford University researchers behind the study credited the soft drinks levy for the reduction.

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Boris Johnson urged to tackle climate emergency as poll shows huge support for carbon emission cuts

Boris Johnson was today facing calls to step up action on global warming, after a poll for The Independent found overwhelming support for radical change to end the UK’s net carbon emissions by the end of the decade.

Some 70 per cent of those questioned by pollsters BMG said they supported the target of net-zero emissions by 2030, with only 7 per cent opposing it.

And support for swift action over the next 10 years was high across all age ranges, social groups and parts of the country, countering perceptions of a generational or urban/rural split on the climate emergency.

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Unitary leadership ordered to seek support over children’s failure

The leadership of Medway Council has been ordered to accept significant external support in order to drive improvement in its failing children’s social care services.

A Department for Education direction published today has extended the appointment of children’s commissioner Eleanor Brazil, who was sent to Medway last year.

This was after an Ofsted report in July found “many vulnerable children who have experienced long-term neglect, and those at risk of exploitation and who go missing from home or care, live in situations of actual harm or are at risk of harm for too long”.

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Roundtable: Making NHS-council collaboration work

The increasing push for local government and health to integrate makes it more important than ever to understand why successful initiatives have worked.

The NHS and local authorities frequently work together to improve the lives of the people in their area – but successful initiatives are often limited in scope and do not get scaled up to cover a wider population.

However, there now seems to be momentum towards spreading such schemes – partly driven by the wider view of sustainability and transformation partnerships which bring together health and local government bodies in an attempt to provide more integrated care.

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South west launches growth alliance to rival Northern Powerhouse

Councils in the south west have joined forces with local enterprise partnerships, businesses and universities to call for formal central government recognition of an economic “growth alliance” across the region.

The 26 organisations have today launched a prospectus aiming to deliver economic benefits worth £45bn and 190,000 new jobs over the next 15 years.

The Great South West partnership said it is seeking to work with central government to rebalance the economy by sitting alongside established arrangements in the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and Western Gateway economic areas.

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UK GDP: Pound slips on unexpectedly weak growth figures

Sterling has slipped following news that the economy shrank unexpectedly in November, extending earlier losses against the dollar.

The UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 0.3 per cent during the month as the manufacturing and production sectors declined more than expected. The figure was expected to be flat.

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Crimes next to primary schools go up sharply

The number of drug offences committed within a few paces of English and Welsh primary schools has jumped by nearly a quarter in a year, triggering calls for a police crackdown.

Analysis by The Sunday Times of street-by-street crime data found 1,656 drug offences in the year to November 2019 that were within about 30ft of primary school grounds.

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Families sending relatives with dementia to Thailand for care

British families are sending elderly relatives with dementia overseas to Thailand in a small but growing trend.

Researchers visiting private care homes in Chiang Mai have found eight homes where guests from the UK are living thousands of miles away from their families, because suitable care in their home country was impossible to find or afford.

“Thailand already has a long history of medical tourism and it’s now setting itself up as an international hub for dementia care,” said Dr Caleb Johnston, a senior lecturer in human geography at Newcastle University.

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Councils under huge pressure as number of children in care soars

The number of children in care has gone up by 28% in the past decade with council leaders warning of unsustainable pressure being placed on support services for young people.

Official figures show there are now 78,150 children in care in England, up from 75,370 in 2018 and almost 20,000 more than in 2009 when 60,900 children were looked after.

The Local Government Association (LGA) warned the huge increase in demand, combined with funding shortages, is putting immense pressure on the ability of councils to support vulnerable young people who need help.

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Housing-benefit errors 'making families homeless'

The Local Government Ombudsman found some local authorities in England were miscalculating housing benefit payments and then curtailing rights of appeal.

It upheld eight out of 10 of the hundreds of complaints it investigated about the benefit in 2018-19.

Town hall bosses said the report raised some important issues. It also said the funding councils received to administrate housing benefit fell short of its true cost.

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A&E staff 'despair' as NHS delays are at their worst ever level

A&E staff feel “despair, anguish, anger and frustration” that they have too little time to provide proper care because they are so busy with the sheer number of patients seeking help, doctors and nurses leaders say.

Intense workloads are leaving emergency department personnel exhausted, stressed and worried that they have missed clues about a patient’s condition because their units are so overwhelmed.

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Ministry creates new hub to oversee Towns Fund

A new ‘Towns Hub’ is being set up by government to help steer 101 towns in working up their Towns Fund proposals.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government will have designated contacts in each of the towns lined up to receive a slice of the £3.6bn Towns Fund.

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County’s unitary call ignites reorganisation row

Somerset CC has called for the creation of a single unitary council after an independent report found it would deliver savings of up to £47m a year – but faces opposition from the area’s four districts.

A report commissioned by Somerset and the four districts within its boundary published yesterday said there is an acceptance among councils that the current model of service delivery is not sustainable, with a collective forecast funding gap of £41m in 2021-22.

An option to abolish Somerset’s districts and create a single unitary council, which would not include Bath & North East Somerset Council and North Somerset Council, would cost an estimated £82m to implement and create potential savings of £35-£47m a year, the report said.

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Quarter of minimum wage workers underpaid, says study

A quarter of people aged 25 and over who should be receiving the minimum wage are being underpaid, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank.

The group's research shows the number of firms not complying with minimum wage payments has increased since the National Living Wage started in 2016.

Before then, about one in five workers aged 25 and over was underpaid but this figure is now more than one in four.

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Ofsted seeks judgement-free approach to 'stuck schools'

Ofsted is urging a new judgement-free approach for schools which have been stuck for many years on poor ratings.

It said the 410 "stuck" schools in isolated areas of England needed extra support, not to be inundated with unsuccessful improvement schemes.

Chief inspector of schools Amanda Spielman said a new non-judgemental approach was needed, offering the schools tailored support.

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MPs reject Labour's call to reinstate child refugee pledge

MPs voted 348 to 252 against the amendment, which would have guaranteed the right of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with family living in the UK after Brexit.

The pledge was included in a previous version of the Brexit bill, but was removed after the Tories' election win. The government said it had "a proud record of helping vulnerable children."

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Council buys £10m out-of-area commercial property

The council said it must continue to look for “new opportunities which could generate income” as it deals with a “complex financial climate” and has bought a 38,880 square foot office block in Welwyn Garden City.

SSDC said it has endured a 70% reduction in government grant funding since 2010 and that it must deliver savings of up to £6m each year by 2022.

John Clark, SSDC portfolio holder for commercial strategy, said: “This is an important investment for the council, with a high quality building and tenants in an area where we can expect to see rental growth.

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Scottish fury at ‘unprecedented’ Budget delay

Scottish councils may need to set their council tax rates before their spending plans are agreed as a result of the “problematic” delay to the UK Budget, according to the public spending watchdog for local government.

The decision of chancellor Sajid Javid to postpone the announcement of his Budget until 11 March has sparked an outcry among Scottish councils, which are required to set council tax rates by that date.

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LGA calls for seat at table in children's care review

The Local Government Association (LGA) is pressing for close involvement in the Government’s pledged children’s social care review. Its call follows publication of figures showing the number of children in care is at its highest level in the past decade, at 78,150 compared to 60,900 in 2009.

Councils have reported a 53% increase in children on child protection plans – an additional 18,160 children – in the past decade and a 139% increase in serious cases where a child may suffer significant harm, an additional 117,070 cases up to 201,170.

Chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, Cllr Judith Blake, said: ‘These figures show the sheer scale of the unprecedented demand pressures on children’s services and the care system this decade. ‘This is unsustainable.'

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'Infrastructure revolution' in March Budget

Chancellor Sajid Javid has set 11 March as the date for his first Budget - the first since the general election.

Mr Javid says billions of pounds will be invested "across the country".

The Treasury will "prioritise the environment", he said and reiterated a plan to make use of low borrowing rates to spend on public services.

John McDonnell, Labour's shadow chancellor, said he doubted whether the government would deliver on its investment or climate goals.

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UK budget date is 'disrespectful to devolution', says Derek Mackay

UK government plans for a March budget are "disrespectful to devolution" and could have "profound consequences" for Scotland, Derek Mackay has warned.

Chancellor Sajid Javid has announced he will set out his tax and spending plans on 11 March.

Scottish ministers want to see these plans before drawing up their own, but will now have little time to do so.

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Number of children admitted to A&E with mental health problems jumps 330 per cent over past decade

‘People are being made to wait longer for help and more children are reaching crisis point’ – Andy Bell, Centre for Mental Health think tank.

Reduced community services and rising mental health issues among Britain’s youth have fuelled a 330 per cent surge in crisis admissions at hospital emergency departments.

A crackdown on the use of police cells for youngsters needing a specialist mental health hospital bed has also meant hospital A&E departments are increasingly the default option, The Independent has been told.

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HS2 spending ‘out of control’, says former review official

Lord Tony Berkeley said the project, to build a high-speed rail link between London and northern cities, is likely to cost £108bn by the time it is completed, compared to a 2015 projection of £55bn.

Berkeley was part of the independent HS2 review led by Douglas Oakervee but demanded his name be removed from the report after a leaked draft version recommended the project should be built in full despite disputes over total cost.

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Troubled families will be helped to get their lives back on track with a new funding boost

Mentors assigned to the whole family will benefit from £165million of new funding, the Government has announced.

The scheme has already led to the number of children going into care - two years after receiving support - dropping by a third and adults and juveniles on the scheme ending up in prison has also fallen.

Nearly 300,000 families have benefited from the Troubled Families scheme - with more than 25,000 families seeing one or more adults moving off benefits into work.

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Nearly 3.5 million UK working age people have never had a job, report says

The proportion of people of working age who have never been in a job has increased by 50% over the past two decades, a new study suggests.

According to think tank Resolution Foundation, 8.2% of people aged 16-64 in the UK today (3.4 million in total) have never had a paid job. This is a 50% increase since 1998 when 5.4% had never worked.

Its report said the employment rate of 16 to 17-year-olds has virtually halved over the past two decades - from 48.1% in 1997-99 to 25.4% in 2017-19.

Two-thirds of the fall is driven by a declining employment rate among 16 to 17-year-olds at school or college, it was indicated.

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More pupils to get access to free school breakfasts and meals in the holidays in fight against child hunger

The Government has said thousands more disadvantaged school pupils will be offered free morning meals after it extended two programmes aimed at addressing child hunger.

Around 1,800 school breakfast clubs are currently operating in poorer areas of England via the National School Breakfast Programme.

Charities Family Action and Magic Breakfast - the latter of which was supported by i in its 2017 Christmas appeal - have been given a one year extension, funded by £11.8m, to run the programme until March 2021.

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Rogue landlords who house tenants in freezing homes to be targeted by government crackdown

Rogue landlords who house their tenants in freezing homes will be targeted as part of a government crackdown.

The government has announced funding for more than 100 councils across England as part of a pledge to give renters a “better deal”.

The money is designed to tackle poor standards in the private rented sector, including using technology to identify homes with inadequate heating and forcing landlords to take action.

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Voters tell Boris Johnson they prefer public services to tax cuts

Most voters want more cash for public services before tax cuts, insisting Boris Johnson should make good on his promise to end austerity.

Polling for The Times by YouGov found that 57 per cent believed it was more important to increase spending on services such as the NHS and schools than to cut their taxes, against only 16 per cent who felt the opposite.

Among those who voted Conservative last month, 54 per cent wanted increased spending, with 22 per cent preferring tax cuts, after Mr Johnson overturned the traditional party order by winning the support of working-class voters in the north and Midlands.

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Almost one in 10 children miss lessons without the school's permission to go on holiday, figures show

Almost one in 10 children miss lessons without the school's permission to go on holiday, figures show.

Across two terms in the last academic year, more than 630,000 youngsters were taken out for an unauthorised family trip, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

With the Christmas holidays coming to an end, many families will be turning their thoughts towards potential summer breaks.

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Arts Council boss vows more funding for those at early stages of career

Sir Nicholas Serota

More artists, writers and composers at an early stage of their careers should get public money from Arts Council England, the body’s chairman, Sir Nicholas Serota, has said.

The east of England could also benefit from extra investment in the coming years and libraries are set to get more help to play a larger role in their communities.

ACE will next month publish its 10-year strategy for the arts outlining its strategic visions and goals. It replaces its previous strategy, Great Art and Culture for Everyone, which covered the years 2010-20.

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Charity calls for more adopters

Society must “never forget” about children who are waiting to be adopted, a charity chief has warned.

Carol Homden, chief executive of children’s charity Coram, said she is concerned that the plight of youngsters waiting to find a new family has fallen off the political agenda amid the “turbulence and uncertainty” of the last year.

She urged potential adopters to come forward, saying that adopting a child is one of the greatest, but most rewarding challenges a parent can face.

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Poor white boys are underdogs of the education system

Poor white boys show no sign of catching up with their peers and have become the underdogs of the school system.

The difference in attainment between richer pupils and their disadvantaged classmates has closed slightly since 2011, a cause for much celebration in government. However, when results are broken down by ethnicity, it appears that the improved results among poorer pupils are largely down to the achievement of non-white children. This is exacerbated when gender is taken into the equation.

White boys from poorer homes are the least likely of any category, other than Roma or gypsy, to go to university.

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Foster agencies add pressure on UK to take child refugees

Pressure is building on the Home Office to fulfil its promise to give sanctuary to child refugees as it emerged that foster agencies across the UK have offered dozens of places that remain unused.

Estimates suggest there are hundreds of places available for vulnerable unaccompanied minors in addition to the 1,400 offers from local councils that the Home Office is accused of ignoring.

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Call to end ‘scandal’ of child in care costing four times annual fee for Eton

Looking after a teenager in care can cost the taxpayer up to £200,000 a year — more than four times the sum that parents pay annually to send a child to Eton.

According to estimates from the office of the children’s commissioner for England, there are about 15 children in each local authority in England whose care costs the state about £4,000 a week. On average, councils spend similar sums helping these 15 children as they do offering early family intervention, which helps an average of 4,000 children.

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York wants private cars banned in three years

York is preparing to become the first city in the UK to ban private cars under the toughest measures yet seen to combat congestion and pollution.

The council has approved a proposal to end all “non-essential” vehicle journeys into the medieval city centre within three years.

The ban will apply to the area within York’s city walls, with only buses and disabled drivers exempt. It could extend a similar ban to roads immediately outside primary schools during the pick-up and drop-off period.

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Rise in families seeking help for youngsters with special needs

Rising numbers of families are requesting help for children with special needs, but thousands are being denied assistance, an investigation has found.

Figures obtained by the PA news agency show that the number of initial requests for a child to be assessed for an education, health and care plan (EHCP) has risen by more than 10% in just a year.

And while councils are agreeing to the majority of these assessments, there has been an increase in the number of refusals.

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Treasury to rip up public spending rules in cash boost for north and Midlands

The Treasury is planning to rip up decades-old public spending rules in an effort to boost economic wellbeing in the north and the Midlands.

Under proposals being drawn up before the spring budget, ministers will reassess how officials calculate the value for money of government investments in transport infrastructure, business development and initiatives such as free ports.

Investment decisions would be less focused on overall national economic growth and, for the first time, Whitehall resources would be allocated on the basis of improving the wellbeing of people in the north, or narrowing the productivity gap with the south.

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Boris Johnson warned to act Immediately to end social care crisis

Charities and health providers last night demanded immediate action to solve the deepening social care crisis. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to produce a “long-term plan” that provides everyone with dignity and security in old age and removes the need for anyone to sell their home to fund care costs.

But in the wake of the Conservatives’ stunning General Election triumph millions of older people, their families and care providers are waiting for words to be turned into action. The Independent Care Group, NHS Confederation and the Alzheimer’s Society are among those calling for Mr Johnson to follow up his election promise. Fed up with decades-long delays to reform a broken system, The Independent Care Group launched its social care manifesto calling on politicians to commit to investing more from taxation or National Insurance.

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Hedge funds bet against recovery on high street

Hedge funds have placed bets worth £1.6 billion against British retailers as the industry braces for further pressure on the high street.

Retailers including Wm Morrison, the B&Q owner Kingfisher and Marks & Spencer have been targeted by short-sellers as they bet that share prices in the sector will fall.

Morrisons, the supermarket chain, is Britain’s most heavily shorted retailer with 6.12 per cent of its shares, worth almost £300 million, on loan, according to data from the Financial Conduct Authority. Hedge funds including Blackrock, Citadel, Hengistbury, Pelham and Darsana Capital Partners have bet against the company.

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Boxing Day sales 2019: Climate crisis fears will 'drive Britons away from shops'

Shoppers are expected to spend £200m less in the Boxing Day sales than they did last year as the climate crisis weighs heavily on Britons’ minds.

Around four in 10 UK adults will treat themselves in the sales, spending an average of £186 each and £3.7bn collectively, according to research. Yet nearly two thirds (62 per cent) intend to make fewer purchases than in previous years, with environmental concerns outweighing the desire to secure a post-Christmas bargain for many shoppers. For women, this figure rises to 68 per cent.

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Revealed: councils paid inadequate care homes £2.3m to house children

Councils are placing children in care homes that inspectors say do not provide a good standard of care at a cost of millions of pounds, an investigation has found.

The Guardian asked councils across England for information on the number of children being sent to homes run by 78 providers, all of whose properties were listed by Ofsted as being inadequate or in need of improvement to be good at the end of March.

Fifty-eight children were placed in such homes by at least 23 local authorities in the following three-month period, handing more than £2.3m to failing providers, according to freedom of information responses and analysis of councils’ published expenditure.

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Leisure centres close as spending on council-run sports facilities plunges

Spending on council-run sports facilities has fallen by two thirds in a decade, forcing hundreds of leisure centres to close despite government pledges to get Britain active.

Analysis by The Times of council accounts reveals that local authorities spent £244 million on leisure centres, swimming pools, running tracks and other sports sites last year, down from £565 million in 2009 as they have struggled to cope with central government funding cuts.

If the budget had increased in line with inflation, councils would have spent £746 million this year, meaning that the real-terms decrease is more than £550 million or 67 per cent.

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Revealed: thousands of children in care placed in unregulated homes

Thousands of children in care are increasingly being placed in homes that are illegal or unregulated, in what critics have labelled a national scandal, a Guardian investigation has found.

A lack of places to house vulnerable children in the UK is prompting a surge in placements that are less safe. These include those that are unregulated or not registered with Ofsted.

MPs, the police, charities and the children’s commissioner warn that children accommodated in these homes are at risk of exploitation from sexual predators and drug gangs.

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Ministers accused of ‘abject failure’ as fewer people get on their bikes

The government has been accused of an “abject failure” to promote cycling after official figures showed a drop in the number of adults taking to their bikes.

Statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) showed that 16.1 per cent of people had cycled at least once a month in England over a year, the second annual decline in a row.

A league table of cycling across the country shows that participation rates were far lower in some parts of England than elsewhere. In the east London borough of Havering and in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, only 5.9 per cent of adults rode bicycles at least once a month in the year 2017-18.

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Thousands of children in care over 100 miles away from family

Thousands of children in care are living more than 100 miles from their family and friends in places they have never heard of and would not be able to find on a map, according to a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England.

More than 30,000 children who are looked after by their local authority are placed away from home and “out of area”, a 13% increase over five years. More than 11,000 of those live more than 20 miles from their home area and 2,000 are placed more than 100 miles away.

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Amount of flood-prone land used for new houses in England doubles in a year, figures reveal

The amount of land being used to build new homes in England’s most flood-prone areas has more than doubled in a year, figures reveal.

Countryside activists have said the increase signalled future flooding misery for homeowners and headaches for insurance companies.

And they blamed successive governments for forcing councils to accept development without flood risk surveys and without obligatory water-management measures.

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Boris Johnson announces extra money to tackle homelessness

The government has set up a £63m grant scheme to help homeless households in England into accommodation.

The prime minister has also restated his commitment to end rough sleeping by 2024 and an extra £3m to aid rough sleepers during the cold winter months.

But Labour's John Healey said it was "too little, too late for the thousands of people sleeping on our streets this Christmas".

He said rough sleeping had doubled since the Tories have been in power.

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Chaotic diaries of headteachers' weeks expose shocking truth of crippling budget cuts

Teachers are acting as social ­workers, family support workers, mental health practitioners, speech and language therapists, and even the police because of crippling cuts.

Two headteachers shared a snapshot of a working week, giving an insight into how staff are being forced to pick up the pieces left by funding cuts of 8% per pupil since 2010 and chronic staffing shortages.

It paints a picture of staff under extreme pressure to provide an education and support to children in a system that, as one explains, is “fracturing and breaking”.

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Devon town councillor calls for babysitting allowance

A town councillor has called for rules to be changed to allow parents to claim for the cost of babysitting or childcare while they attend meetings.

Ashburton Town Council in Devon is supporting Saskia Hogbin's plea.

As a town councillor, she cannot apply for a carers allowance payable for the care of children under 14 that is offered by Devon County Council.

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State Opening: Queen to outline PM's Brexit and NHS agenda

The Queen is to set out the Conservative government's agenda for the year ahead following last week's decisive election win.

Legislation to take the UK out of the EU on 31 January will be among more than 20 bills announced during Thursday's State Opening of Parliament.

Other measures include guarantees on extra health service funding and longer sentences for violent criminals.

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More than 28% of England's secondary schools now in the red, study finds

More than one in four local authority maintained secondary schools in England are in the red, with an average deficit of more than half a million pounds, while many more are “teetering on the edge”, according to new financial analysis.

Though there has been a slight improvement on last year’s figures with marginally fewer secondaries now in deficit, research by the independent Reform thinktank shows the financial health of many of England’s schools remains fragile. Headteachers have had to make staff redundancies, increase class sizes and even shorten the school week to save money.

The study focusses on schools under local authority control and therefore does not include academies and free schools, but the numbers are still significant and provide an insight into the struggle many headteachers face trying to make ends meet.

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Bank of England keeps interest rates on hold

The Bank of England has kept interest rates on hold at 0.75% but indicated it may cut the cost of borrowing if global economic growth fails to recover or Brexit uncertainties persist.

It said the UK economy was expected to pick up from its current weakness.

However, the Bank said it would monitor companies' and households' reactions to Brexit as well as global growth.

The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted 7-2 in favour of keeping the official rate on hold.

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Government promises to engage with sector in business rates review

Local government will be consulted on the forthcoming review of business rates, amid concerns that councils could lose vital income.

A briefing on the Queen’s speech said the government recognised the role of business rates as a source of council funds and would “consider input from the sector as part of the review”.

The government plans to increase the business rates discount for retail from one-third to 50%, extend the discount to cinemas and music venues and introducing an additional discount for pubs.

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David Williams: Give counties the power and money to level up ‘left behind’ places

n the aftermath of the general election, much has been made of how and why the Conservatives won many of their new seats.

Of course, a great deal of focus has been on the northern geographies of these constituencies and the role ‘levelling up’ these areas will now play in the policy narrative moving forward.

In the early hours of Friday, Boris Johnson said that those communities had ‘lent’ their vote to his party, indicating an awareness that his administration must follow through on promises to create opportunity for the areas that helped secure his victory.

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London Fire Brigade 'slow and wasteful', according to inspectors

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been "wasteful" and "slow to implement changes" needed after the Grenfell Tower fire, a watchdog has said.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found firefighters missed training and attended too many false alarms.

The LFB saw the report six weeks ago and commissioner Dany Cotton stood down earlier than had been planned.

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Brexit bill to rule out extension to transition period

The government is to add a new clause to the Brexit bill to rule out any extension to the transition period beyond the end of next year.

The post-Brexit transition period - due to conclude in December 2020 - can currently be extended by mutual agreement for up to two years.

But an amended Withdrawal Agreement Bill the Commons is set to vote on this week would rule out any extension. Critics say this raises the chance of leaving the EU without a trade deal.

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Bus travel hits record low amid 3.3% fares rise

Bus travel in Britain excluding London has sunk to the lowest point on record amid a 3.3% fares hike, official figures show.

Nine million fewer journeys were made in England, excluding the capital, Scotland and Wales in 2018/19 compared with the previous 12 months, according to Department for Transport (DfT) data.

The total of 2.60 billion journeys in the year ending March is the fewest since current records began in 2004/05.

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No home for 280,000 on Christmas Day in England, figures show

An estimated 280,000 homeless people will be rough sleeping, or living in temporary housing and hostels in England on Christmas Day – about one in every 200 of the total population, according to Shelter.

The housing charity’s figure, which is likely to understate the true level of homelessness because it does not count people who are sofa-surfing or living in sheds or tents, is 3,600 higher than in 2018, and up 23,000 since 2017.

London continues to be the centre of homelessness, accounting for 170,000 of the total England figure. One in every 52 people in the capital are homeless, with the borough of Newham, where one in 24 are homeless, being worst hit.

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Incoming London fire chief to prioritise rebuilding trust of Grenfell community

London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) incoming commissioner says “reaching out” and rebuilding the trust of the Grenfell community will be his first priority when he takes on the role next year.

Andy Roe, who will replace Dany Cotton as London Fire Commissioner on January 1, faced questions from London Assembly members following the publication of a “damning” report into the LFB.

The review said the brigade – the country’s largest fire service – had been “slow to implement changes” following the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017, which left 72 people dead.

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Jenrick’s re-appointment confirmed

Robert Jenrick’s re-appointment as housing and communities secretary has now been officially confirmed.

Mr Jenrick tweeted that it was “fantastic” to return to work with the team at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, alongside a picture of him, Jake Berry and Luke Hall.

Mr Jenrick’s re-appointment was confirmed by the ministry. However, the government is yet to confirm whether Mr Berry and Mr Hall will remain as Northern Powerhouse minister and local government minister respectively.

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Sector remains ‘lukewarm’ about ‘crude’ resilience index

Council treasurers and chief executives remain unenthusiastic about the revised local government financial resilience index and concerned the information in it will be taken out of context.

One finance director described the suite of measures used in the index, which was published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy on Monday, as “crude” while two senior officers told LGC it presented a more favourable picture of their council’s financial health than was the reality.

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Whitehall silence as Gwynne calls for provisional settlement

Shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne has called on ministers to publish the provisional finance settlement immediately amid silence on its timing from Whitehall.

The 2018 Hudson review into how the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) oversees local government finance recommended a date of 5 December for the provisional settlement and 31 January for the final one to give councils time to plan their budgets.

Last year the ministry missed the deadline due to Brexit and this year the General Election got in the way.

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Oxford City Council announces £19m climate change emergency budget

Oxford City Council’s Cabinet has responded to the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change, outlining its next steps and allocating £19m to become a Zero Carbon Council and city.

The Council has published a report in response to the Assembly committing to becoming a net zero Council in 2020.

The £19m investment announcement comes in addition to £84m of ongoing investment to tackle the climate emergency in the region. It comprises of £18m of capital investment and an extra £1m in additional operational funding.

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Former West Sussex leader and chief dispute blame as direction issued

The government has ordered West Sussex CC to establish a company to deliver children’s services, as it emerged the former chief executive and council leader have blamed each other for the council's failings.

A direction dated 7 November but published today and signed on behalf of education secretary Gavin Williamson, confirmed the re-appointment of Hampshire CC chief executive John Coughlan, as the children’s services commissioner.

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[opinion] Rob Whiteman: Tory spending pledges don’t reflect stress on public services

Local government could hold the key to rebuilding trust in our political system, but the chief executive of Cipfa is waiting to see if the new government will use its mandate to deliver meaningful devolution.

Last week’s general election results sent the country into a bit of a tailspin. While many pollsters were expecting a Conservative majority, the overwhelming scale of the victory was what put everyone onto their heels.

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Shropshire faces £51m funding gap over five years

Shropshire Council will have to make cuts across all services after a £14m funding gap opened up in the authority’s budget, chiefly due to “unaffordable and unsustainable” increases in social care costs.

The Conservative-run council’s cabinet approved its budget for 2020-21. Cheryl Sedgley, the council’s head of finance, told LGC that the gap was “predominantly” accounted for by higher than anticipated cost increases within adult and children’s social care.

Growth in these two areas alone had grown by £8.6m more than anticipated when Shropshire’s financial strategy for 2019-20 had been published in January.

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London Fire Brigade 'slow to learn' and needs improvement, says watchdog

Firefighters at the country's largest service are attending a disproportionately high number of false alarms, while some drivers have not received refresher training for 20 years, according to a "disappointing" report.

The latest investigation, by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), analysed performance across one third of the country's 45 fire services.

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Boris Johnson to announce new laws to ban train strikes, toughen prison sentences and stop landlords evicting their tenants this week

Boris Johnson will announce new laws to ban train strikes, toughen prison sentences and stop landlords evicting their tenants when he sets out his policy agenda this week.

The Prime Minister has drawn up an expanded Queen's Speech which will present more legislation than that announced in October. It will include a mix of policies designed to appeal to the right and laws which are meant to bolster Mr Johnson's One Nation credentials.

The Queen will deliver the speech on Thursday, just over two months since the last one. No 10 officials said it would repeat all of the previously announced legislation, with a raft of new measures promised in the Conservative manifesto.

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Abuse of politicians ‘undermining democracy’

Abuse of elected officials is “fundamentally undermining British democracy”, according to the leader of the umbrella body for Scottish councils.

Alison Evison, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), will highlight work to end the abuse at the Local Government Association conference in Westminster today.

She is expected to tell the event that she hopes tackling intimidation would mean that “women and other underrepresented groups feel safe to stand”. Ms Evison, a Scottish Labour councillor for North Kincardine, Aberdeenshire, recently wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons to condemn the use of pejorative and inflammatory language.

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What does business want from Boris Johnson?

Boris Johnson promised his government would "unleash" the potential of British business, once he has fulfilled his core campaign promise to "get Brexit done".

But for business leaders, many of whom lobbied against Brexit, the pledge means that they will soon have to adapt to a more distant relationship with the UK's largest trading partner. Analysis suggests that new trade deals further afield are unlikely to compensate for the economic impact of this shift.

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General election 2019: Hart gets Welsh post in government reshuffle

Boris Johnson is carrying out a limited reshuffle of his government after urging newly elected Tory MPs to "change our country for the better".

Simon Hart has been named as Welsh secretary, replacing Alun Cairns, who quit at the start of the election.

And Nicky Morgan stays as culture secretary, despite standing down as an MP. She is taking a peerage and will sit as a cabinet minister in the Lords.

Opposition parties said she had been "rewarded for political sycophancy".

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Zero-emission street to ban petrol and diesel vehicles

Petrol and diesel cars will be completely banned from a city centre road under plans for Britain’s first 24-hour zero-emission street.

Drivers of pure combustion engine cars will face £130 fines for entering the road in the City of London where levels of toxic air regularly exceed the legal limits.

Electric and hydrogen vehicles that do not release any tailpipe emissions will be permitted. Hybrid vehicles that run on both a combustion engine and battery power will also be allowed provided they are capable of being driven in zero-emission mode for at least 20 miles.

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Shaw to replace Elvery at West Sussex

Becky Shaw is set to take over as chief executive of West Sussex CC following Nathan Elvery's departure from the crisis-stricken council.

Ms Shaw will take on the new role alongside her existing duties as chief executive at East Sussex CC, which has been named as its western neighbour’s corporate improvement partner. The two councils are both expected to approve the plan this week, with Ms Shaw's joint role beginning in January.

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OBR deficit prediction ‘sobering warning’ for new government

Revised Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts show that Britain’s deficit is likely to be £20bn higher in each year to 2023-24 than was projected in March 2019.

Economists have said the figures will be a “sobering warning” for the new government and will mean tax rises are needed in order for it to meet its own fiscal rules.

The overall deficit, the OBR said, will be £33.3bn by 2023-24 – up from a previous estimate of £13.5bn in March 2019.

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CIPFA resilience index shows just 10% of councils are at financial risk

The ‘majority of councils’ are not showing signs of major financial stress, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has claimed.

But around 10% of authorities have ‘some signs of potential risk to their financial stability’, the accountancy body has claimed, after it revealed its latest data tool for assessing councils’ fiscal position.

While councils that have hit the headlines over their finances seem to be getting better, according to the tool, a pocket of risk has emerged around councils in Merseyside.

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Massive £33billion cash boost for NHS will be enshrined in law

In his triumphant Sedgefield speech, Mr Johnson expressed his glee at the prospect of having a Commons majority at the Tory party’s disposal for the first time in more than two years.

The Queen’s Speech on Thursday, setting out the Government’s agenda for the new Parliament, will give legislative force to the policy priorities which secured Mr Johnson’s landslide win – delivering Brexit and pumping billions of extra pounds into the NHS.

When the new batch of MPs assemble to listen to Her Majesty, they will hear her announce the plan to bring back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on Brexit before Christmas, and to pledge that the Government will enshrine in law the first multi-year funding settlement for the NHS leading to a £33.9 billion per year increase in the health service budget by 2024.

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How the parties’ manifestos compare on local government funding

The three main political parties’ pledges to local government during the general election campaign were wildly different in terms of the scale of funding on offer. Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, adapted below by LGC, shows just how stark a choice voters are being offered.

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Reserves grow at county a year on from s114 threat

Somerset CC has partly rebuilt its reserves a year after a corporate peer review by the Local Government Association found it had only had sufficient resources to balance its budget for one more year and a “a recurring pattern of using reserves to fund overspends”.

The review had warned Somerset that “much stronger budgetary control is needed within the overspending services”.

Somerset experienced a 72.9% fall in reserves to £24.3m in the five years to 2017-18 and leader David Fothergill (Con) in December 2018 told LGC the county was “on the right track” to recover its position. This was after chief accountant Lizzie Watkin warned of the possible imposition of a section 114 notice restricting spending.

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Analysis: English councils ramp up charges for services

Council charges for services such as garden waste removal, funeral services and public lavatories have increased above inflation over the last decade, according to The Times.

Analysis of English council accounts by the newspaper found environmental, regulatory and planning charges increased by almost 50% to £2.3bn from 2009 to 2017-18.

The revenue from these charges in the last financial year increase by more than two and a half times the rate of inflation, leaving every home in England paying an average of more than £100 a year in additional charges on top of council tax bills.

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Councils hit out at 'unfair' restrictions on flood repair funding

Councils are being burdened with the cost of supporting flood-hit homes and businesses due to a lack of flexibility in Government aid, it has been claimed.

Local authorities in Worcestershire are understood to have urged the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to look again at criteria, which they have branded as unfair.

Properties affected by the flooding that hit central and northern England last month can claim grants of up to £5,000 for repairs that will improve their flood resilience in the future.

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Official figures ‘hiding true scale of A&E waits’

Different methods of measuring hospital waiting times are hiding the scale of pressure on NHS emergency departments, according to the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

RCEM has found large discrepancies between their own analysis and official data from NHS England on the number of people waiting more than 12 hours before being admitted to A&E.

The analysis showed 38,000 patients have waited longer than 12 hours for a bed across the UK since the beginning of October 2019 but NHS England reports that only 13,025 patients have experienced waits over 12 hours in England since 2011-12.

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West Sussex’s financial position worsens by £15m in two months

Troubled West Sussex CC has moved in only two months from a projecting surplus for 2020-21 of £13.3m to a budget gap of £2.2m.

Councillors heard last week from Katharine Eberhart, director of finance and support services, that over the medium term financial strategy period to 2023-24 the total budget gap now stood at £36.4m.

Her report to the cabinet said that since October, “demand and other service changes amount to £12.4m net additional cost pressures”, the most significant of which were £4.5m for adults and health driven by demand and the national living wage, and a £3.5m increase in the volume of children’s placements.

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Council fined £500,000 after death of woman with dementia

A council has been fined half a million pounds and has apologised following the death at one of their care homes of a woman with dementia.

Audrey Allen, 80, died in hospital a month after falling over at The Grange, in Eckington, Derbyshire, in March 2016. Derbyshire County Council admitted at Chesterfield Magistrates' Court that they had failed to provide safe care.

The first local authority to be prosecuted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the council apologised ‘wholeheartedly for the failings that caused her death.’

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Tim Elwell-Sutton: No party manifesto goes far enough on public health

There are signs that all is not well with the nation’s health. New data shows that a girl born in 2019 is expected to live four and half years less than was projected in 2013. In a world where we are used to constant improvements in health, that’s a remarkable change and one that will not be fixed by ever-greater investment in healthcare.

The three main parties have set out contrasting visions for the country and for improving health. It is encouraging to see that they all have ambitions to improve health as well as healthcare. They all acknowledge that local authorities have a role in this.

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Talk of the towns: the battle to support ‘left-behind’ areas

The challenges faced by some of England’s long-neglected towns are finally getting attention but will the £3.6bn towns fund be enough?

Voters in some of England’s most deprived towns are set to play a decisive role in the general election. The country’s so-called left-behind areas, for the most part long-time Labour strongholds, have increasingly become marginal territory in recent years and under our first-past-the-post system the number of these seats that change hands on 12 December will be crucial in determining whether any party can command a majority.

The Conservatives under Boris Johnson have been particularly alive to the significance of these towns. In the first two months of his premiership, Mr Johnson’s government announced the prospect of more than £3bn of funding for 169 places through the future high streets fund and the towns fund, many of which were in marginal constituencies.

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Labour promises to spend £10bn on free personal care

Labour has costed its pledge of free personal care for older people and working age adults at £10bn by 2023-24.

The package, originally announced at the party’s conference in September, would fund Labour’s National Care Service. Labour said this would help older people live independently while ensuring care workers were paid a real living wage of £10 an hour from 2020.

Since April 2017 9,290 people have approached their local authority to help with social care costs after running out of money to fund it themselves, the party revealed in analysis released alongside the costings yesterday.

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Revealed: one in five school buildings in England require urgent repairs

Nearly one in five school buildings in England require urgent repairs, a Guardian investigation has found, leading to warnings that they are “crumbling around teachers and pupils”.

Almost 4,000 schools across the country have been judged by surveyors to be in need of immediate restoration work, and many more were found not to have the paperwork required by law, including electrical test certificates, fire risk assessments or asbestos management plans.

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General election 2019: Labour pledges more help for smaller firms

Labour is promising to base a network of small business advisers in Post Office branches if it wins next Thursday's general election.

The party says the advisers would form part of a wider agency to help firms access advice and bid for government contracts. The party says it would also help small firms by replacing business rates with a tax based on land value, but the Conservatives said Labour would bring higher taxes and uncertainty.

The Tories have pledged to reduce business rates for smaller firms, and give them a bigger discount on National Insurance payments.

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Blue badge fraud up 18%, say official figures

Prosecutions for misuse of blue badges increased by nearly 18% in the last financial year in England, new figures have shown.

There were 1,432 prosecutions between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, according to a Department for Transport report.

But slightly more than a third (34%) of local authorities do not have a policy for prosecuting those who misuse badges, the release noted.

This is lower than in the previous year. But of the councils still without a policy only 65% are planning on implementing one in the future.

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Social care crisis wastes £½m of NHS money a day

Elderly patients have spent two and a half million nights needlessly stuck in hospital since the last election because of the social care crisis, analysis shows.

Delays because of a lack of help at home or care home beds have wasted half a billion pounds of NHS money since 2017, according to Age UK.

All patients wait longer to be treated because ministers have left hospitals to pick up the pieces of a crumbling elderly care system, the charity said.

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One in eight care homes has closed – despite record numbers of older Brits

One in eight care homes has closed in the past decade – despite record numbers of older Brits.

A damning report reveals the scale of the crisis facing the sector, with 1,612 homes shutting their doors since 2009.

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Does Boris Johnson's pledge to fix social care system stack up? [opinion]

Standing in Downing Street in July on his first day as prime minister, Boris Johnson said: "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."

If Mr Johnson did have a plan back then he is not sharing it now.

The question of how governments fund and resource the care of rapidly ageing populations is arguably the most pressing public policy issue facing developed nations.

By 2066 the number of over-65s in Britain will have doubled to more than 20 million people, or one in four of the population.

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Could 'slow shopping' revive the high street?

Our lives are dominated by fast food and do-it-yesterday demands.

But experts reckon the key to reviving the British high street could be the promotion of 'slow shopping' – allowing the elderly to take their time and having store staff to chat to them instead of rushing them through the till.

The idea was championed at the Future of Ageing conference held by the International Longevity Centre (ILC) in London.

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Poor children lose out on exercise, research suggests

When it comes to getting enough exercise, wealthier children are beating their poorer classmates, research from Sport England suggests. Only about two in five children (42%) from low-income homes do the recommended 60 minutes' exercise a day.

But this rises to 54% for children from better-off homes, a survey of more than 130,000 five- to 16-year-olds suggests. "Significant inequalities remain in the areas of family affluence, gender and race," Sport England says.

Children from more affluent homes also enjoy exercise more, the online survey of 132,835 children and 4,480 parents indicates, with 43% of those from poor homes saying they enjoyed being active, compared with 59% of those from wealthy families.

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£845k in charity grants supporting disabled people in London

One London charity has been awarded £248,000 in funding to develop accessibility in jobs and services for disabled people. City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable arm, presented the money to Business Disability Forum in Southwark.

It comes as part of a collection of charity grants worth £845,000 supporting disabled people living and working in the capital. A free, online self-assessment tool will be made available by Business Disability Forum to all SMEs in London to help them become more accessible and inclusive for disabled employees and customers.

The funding will also go towards the recruiting and supporting of disabled employees through free advice and guidance for businesses. Disability employment rates have risen by 5% over the last decade, but the rate in London is still only 51.4%, compared to 89.9& for non-disabled people.

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Council tax on empty properties set to be raised by Bolton Council

Bolton Council have taken steps to cut down on the number of empty properties in their constituency, by raising the council tax paid on such properties by up to three times. The move comes after a consultation was launched, which was approved by the council on Monday.

Bolton currently has 1,375 empty properties which have remained unoccupied for six months or more, with the local authority keen to significantly raise the council tax costs for those which have stood unoccupied for two years or more.

Of the 1,375 vacant properties, 425 have been empty for two years or more and 215 unoccupied for more than five years.

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Tories announce £4.2bn public transport fund for combined authorities

A Conservative government would make £4.2bn available to combined authorities for investment in public transport if the party has a majority following the general election, it has announced.

A press notice from the Conservatives said the funding would then be topped up from a proposed £100bn for infrastructure investment, the details of which will be laid out in the next Budget.

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Children’s services ‘close to collapse’, says charity chief executive

Kathy Evans, chief executive of Children England, told an Institute for Government event yesterday evening that the current system of care provision is not working for children and the sector should move away from competitive markets.

Speaking at the IfG Election 2019: How to improve public services event Evans noted 75% of children’s homes are owned and run by the private sector, with a significant portion owned by hedge funds.

“The idea of a competitive market place in children’s care is not working for children. Markets do not care about children – people do,” she added.

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Rise in outstanding business rates challenges ‘creating bottleneck’

The number of outstanding business rates challenges jumped by 35% over a three-month period - from 9,260 in at the end of June 2019 to 12,580 by the end of September 2019, official figures have shown.

Since non domestic property rates were revaluated in England in April 2017 there have been 118,390 ‘checks’ registered by businesses – the first step in the appeal process, according to data from the Valuation Office Agency.

Data from the agency – which is part of HMRC – showed that 109,610 ‘checks’ have been resolved at the first stage resulting in a tax rebate.

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Seven charts on the £73,000 cost of educating a child

The amount spent on schools is a major topic in this year's election campaign. So, where does all the money for educating the country's children go?

Spending on schools in England 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 decade-long squeeze on public spending.

This means that in today's prices, spending per pupil in England is lower than it was in 2010.

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Tory plans would further squeeze councils’ budgets, says IFS

The Conservatives’ funding plans for local government will lead to “further retrenchment” in council services, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The difference in local government funding proposals from each of the main parties was “stark”, the think-tank said in a briefing note out today.

It warned that all three main parties have unfunded commitments on adult social care spending “suggesting this will be an important and potentially problematic issue whoever forms the next government”.

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General election 2019: Tory and Labour spending plans 'not credible' - IFS

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour are offering "credible" spending plans ahead of the general election. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said it was "highly likely" the Tories would end up spending more than their manifesto pledges.

Labour, it warned, would be unable to deliver its spending increases as it has promised. Neither party was being "honest" with voters, IFS director Paul Johnson said. The Liberal Democrats' manifesto, he said, would involve lower levels of borrowing than under Labour or the Conservatives, but would still be seen as "radical" in "most periods".

However, he added that, given the uncertainty around Brexit, it was difficult to determine what the exact effects of the three parties' offers would be.

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Parts of England 'have higher mortality rates than Turkey'

Regional divides in the UK are among the worst in the developed world, according to a report, which found that parts of England have higher mortality rates than places in Turkey, Romania and Poland.

Research by the thinktank IPPR North found that the UK is more unequal than comparable countries on measures such as health, jobs, disposable income and productivity.

It said mortality rates – the number of people who die relative to the size and age of the population – were worse in Blackpool, Manchester and Hull than in the Turkish cities of Tunceli, Mardin and Mu?la, the Romanian region of Vâlcea, and the cities of Krakow and Wroc?aw in Poland.

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Paul Swinney: What are Labour and the Conservatives offering cities? [opinion]

When it comes to devolution, the Tory plans need more elaboration while Labour is taking a more centralist tone, says Centre for Cities’ director of policy and research.

Much has already been said of the spending and nationalisation plans in manifestos of Labour and the Conservatives. But what have they got to say about issues affecting cities?

The detail is light on the future of devolution. The Conservative manifesto talks about shifting power downwards, mentioning towns and cities 28 times, compared 10 mentions in Labour’s. However, the details of what form they want devolution to take still needs elaboration.

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UK inequality 'among worst of developed countries'

Regional divides in the UK are among the worst in the developed world, according to a report, which found that parts of England have higher mortality rates than places in Turkey, Romania and Poland.

Research by the thinktank IPPR North found that the UK is more unequal than comparable countries on measures such as health, jobs, disposable income and productivity.

It said mortality rates – the number of people who die relative to the size and age of the population – were worse in Blackpool, Manchester and Hull than in the Turkish cities of Tunceli, Mardin and Mu?la, the Romanian region of Vâlcea, and the cities of Krakow and Wroc?aw in Poland.

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Boris Johnson under fire over 'vague' social care funding plans

Nicky Morgan has defended Boris Johnson over his decision to shelve plans to overhaul social care funding in the Conservatives’ manifesto launch.

The Tories have pledged to allocate an extra £1bn a year for the social care sector as part of a cautious manifesto, while guaranteeing that no one should have to sell their home to meet the costs.

But it falls short of Johnson’s rallying cry on the steps of Downing Street when he took office, claiming “we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all … with a clear plan we have prepared”.

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Nearly half of British motorists fear the UK's pothole-riven roads are getting worse, with rural areas the hardest hit

Half of Britain's 41million drivers think the nation's crumbling roads are getting worse.

Forty-nine per cent of motorists said the condition of their local roads – those other than motorways and A-roads – had deteriorated in the last year, according to the RAC.

The majority blamed potholes and other surface issues. Just 11 per cent said conditions had improved, and 40 per cent said there was no real change.

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Nearly half of British motorists fear the UK's pothole-riven roads are getting worse, with rural areas the hardest hit

Half of Britain's 41million drivers think the nation's crumbling roads are getting worse.

Forty-nine per cent of motorists said the condition of their local roads – those other than motorways and A-roads – had deteriorated in the last year, according to the RAC.

The majority blamed potholes and other surface issues. Just 11 per cent said conditions had improved, and 40 per cent said there was no real change.

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Economists warn of deficit rise as borrowing hits 5-year high

UK borrowing has risen to a five-year high as political leaders have laid out large spending plans, official figures have shown.

The Office for National Statistics has said that borrowing in October 2019 was £11.2bn - £2.3bn more than in October 2018.

Borrowing in the current financial year has reached £46.3bn, £4.3bn more than in the same period last year and already exceeds the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast of £40.6bn for the whole of 2019-20.

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LGA to draw up funding alternatives amid fears for ‘antiquated’ business rates

The Local Government Association is beginning work to devise possible alternative ways of funding local government to business rates amid fears for the long term future of the tax and concern about its role in the decline of the high street.

The decision to explore alternative sources of funding for local government was made at a meeting of the LGA’s executive committee on 31 October and follows growing discontent with the current system amongst businesses.

The LGA will explore a range of options for overall future funding of councils, rather than a single replacement for business rates, LGC has been told.

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Promises for councils in ‘£135bn’ Labour manifesto

Local government spending power would be returned to 2010 levels under a Labour government, the party’s manifesto has said.

The manifesto also outlines plans to return local services to in-house provision and review the case for a commercial land value tax to replace business rates.

A costing document published alongside the manifesto says the plans, which include a commitment to build 150,000 social homes a year and introduce a National Care Service, will cost £82.9bn a year.

The spending pledges will be balanced by income from a variety of sources, such as increased corporation tax and more expensive income taxes for those on over £80,000 and £125,000.

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Charity demands action on social care

A charity has blasted the government for the time it has “wasted” on drawing up a social care paper that still has not materialised.

Age UK called on the next government to spend £8bn over the next two years to prevent further decline in the adult social care sector.

The charity pointed out since the 2017 election 74,000 over-65s in England have died while waiting for the care they asked for, equating to a rate of 81 deaths per day, in analysis released yesterday.

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Councils’ income from business rates rises 5%

Local authority revenue from business rates has risen for a fifth consecutive year amid political leaders’ pledges to overhaul the system.

Income from the levy for English councils rose by 5% in 2018-19 compared to the year before, according to the latest data released today by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Total revenue from the levy increased from £23.8bn in 2017-18 to £25bn in 2018-19 for all 326 billing authorities in England.

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'Half of women will be carers by the age of 46'

Research by Sheffield and Birmingham universities shows half of women will care by the age of 46, compared with half of men, for whom the age is 57. The research suggests two-thirds of UK adults can expect to become an unpaid carer during their lifetimes.

The charity Carers UK says carers need five-to-10 days of paid care leave.

For the charity's report - Will I Care? - the academics analysed data from individuals who had participated in both the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society social and economic study for more than 15 years between 1991 and 2018.

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Older people dying for want of social care at rate of three an hour

At least 74,000 older people in England have died, or will die, waiting for care between the 2017 and 2019 general elections. A total of 81 older people are dying every day, equating to about three an hour, research by Age UK has found.

In the 18 months between the last election and the forthcoming one, 1,725,000 unanswered calls for help for care and support will have been made by older people. This, said the charity, was the equivalent of 2,000 futile appeals a day, or 78 an hour.

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Clean air for all: Hedges can halve pollution in playgrounds

Planting a hedge around a park can halve the amount of traffic pollution that reaches children as they play, a study has found.

The researchers found that after it had gained its leaves in spring, the two metre-tall barrier was effective at reducing some of the most damaging forms of particulate air pollution.

It reduced the concentration levels of two classes of ultra-fine particles, known as PM1 and PM2.5, by 52 per cent and 44 per cent, respectively.

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Council service spending grows by 1.9%

English local authorities’ total service expenditure reached £91.4bn in 2018-19, a 1.9% increase on the previous year and its highest level since 2014-15.

The figures were included in the Local Authority Revenue Expenditure and Financing: 2018-19 Provisional Outturn, England has shown.

Revenue expenditure, which both includes and excludes certain payments and grants additional to service spending, was up by 1.2% at £94.2bn, the highest level since 2015-16.

Services spending was also up if education is excluded, which the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said gave a fairer comparison since many schools have moved out of local authority control into the academy sector.

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Social care must be solved by next government, coalition of charities and councils tell Telegraph

The social care crisis must be solved by the next government, a coalition of charities and councils have warned, as they urge politicians to finally 'grasp the nettle'.

Since 2010, almost £8billion has been cut from council adult social care budgets during a time of growing demand.

Writing in The Telegraph today care experts have issued a warning to politicians that “social care must be at the top of the domestic policy agenda”.

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Guidance recommends sale of risky investment properties

Councils should consider disposing of investment properties if they are unable to set aside enough reserves to cover potential losses, according to new guidance.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) this week released long-awaited guidance on investment in property, prompted by concerns over the levels of risk being taken by local authorities in recent years.

The guidance – which is not mandatory – suggests a detailed model for how authorities could calculate whether their property investments are proportional to the size of their revenue budgets.

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Fielding suggests return to revenue support grant

The president of the Society of County Treasurers, Gary Fielding, has suggested local government should continue to be funded by a revenue support grant.

Writing for The MJ, Mr Fielding questioned the move towards retaining 100% of business rates within the sector, arguing there was no correlation between the ability to promote growth in an area and demand for adult social care, children’s services and special educational needs and disability.

He suggested either a return to revenue support grant or for councils to be funded through general taxation.

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Housebuilding data shows dearth of homes for affordable renting

England’s shortage of affordable rented housing shows no sign of ending, as official figures revealed on Wednesday that only 37,825 new homes were built to be let at discounted rents last year, despite a national housing waiting list of more than 1.1 million households.

The number of new homes classed as social housing and available at the cheapest rents from councils remained historically low at a mere 6,287, the second-lowest level in peacetime since council house building began in earnest in 1921.

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Councils’ income from business rates rises 5%

Local authority revenue from business rates has risen for a fifth consecutive year amid political leaders’ pledges to overhaul the system.

Income from the levy for English councils rose by 5% in 2018-19 compared to the year before, according to the latest data released today by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Total revenue from the levy increased from £23.8bn in 2017-18 to £25bn in 2018-19 for all 326 billing authorities in England.

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PF and CIPFA to monitor election spending promises

PF in association with CIPFA has created a ‘promisometer’ to which spending pledges by the three main parties will be added ahead of the election on 12 December.

A bar graph will compare the amounts of money pledged to public services by the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems.

CIPFA’s chief executive, Rob Whiteman, said: “The Public Finance promisometer provides a fantastic snapshot of this election cycle’s spending pledges and offers a visual representation of what each party’s plan looks like against the other.

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Data reveals the 20 UK cities with declining high streets

This research reveals the top 20 cities with the best high street in terms of retail growth and less store and ATM closures compared to the top 20 cities with the biggest declining high street.

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Gary Fielding: Is there a better way for business rates?

How keen should councils be to bind themselves to a business rates tax that appears to be in demise both financially and reputationally, asks Gary Fielding

With the election pending it now looks like we will face the prospect of a further pause in some areas of local government policy. This presents challenges, but may also provide some opportunities

I would suggest business rates retention is one such area. When the idea of retaining business rates within local government was first floated, it was attractive to many as it was seen – alongside council tax and fees and charges – as a way of insulating local councils from decisions in Whitehall to cut council funding even further.

In other words, we thought this could promote self-dependence. It is now clear though that business rates is a deeply unpopular tax and Whitehall has not been shy to intervene on business rates matters despite a policy of promoting local retention (e.g. small business relief) so I suspect that any self-dependence will be illusory.

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One visit to care home shows why we can't go on like this

A nurse rushes up the corridor putting on surgical gloves as she goes. Another runs in the opposite direction slinging on a plastic apron.

A panel on the wall is full of flashing red lights, each representing a room in which someone wants help. And as well as the lights, an alarm bell rings constantly and never seems to shut off.

Medicines are being prepared by another nurse at a table in the corridor; tablets of all shapes and sizes all carefully stacked and ready to be dispensed.

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Why more people are talking about the issue of social care

The care system helps older and disabled people with day-to-day tasks like washing, dressing, eating and medication.

It is under pressure across the UK after past governments failed to reform or fund the council-run system properly.

Experts believe the problems are now so acute that politicians who ignore the issue at this election, do so at their peril.

The system is devolved across the four nations, meaning parties need to develop solutions unique to their region.

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Killer potholes: More than 250 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured in crashes caused by potholes in the past five years

Department for Transport figures show ten died and 262 were badly maimed.

The findings, released under Freedom of Information rules, come a year after cyclist Carolyn Dumbleton, 52, was killed.

She suffered a cardiac arrest after being flung into the road when her bike hit a pothole in Cromford, Derbyshire.

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General election 2019: PM puts corporation cuts on hold to help fund NHS

Planned cuts to corporation tax next April are to be put on hold, Boris Johnson has told business leaders, with the money being spent on the NHS.

The rate paid by firms on their profits was due to fall from 19% to 17%.

But the PM told the CBI conference the move could cost the Treasury £6bn and the cash would be better spent on the "nation's priority".

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Business rates: 'We might as well hand back the keys'

James O'Hara has spent £120,000 converting a disused public toilet in Sheffield into a popular cocktail bar.

But after a more than seven-fold increase in business rates, he says he "might as well hand back the keys".

It's stories like Mr O'Hara's that elevated the subject of business rates to take centre stage at the CBI conference on Monday.

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Children’s services budgets blown as spend continues to rise

Funding for children’s social care is failing to keep up with demand, with even the best performers struggling

Blackpool Council recently issued a stark warning that an increase in the levels of looked-after children, already stubbornly the highest in the country as a proportion of the child population, placed the local authority at “financial crossroads”.

Blackpool’s predicament, compounded by a high level of cheap housing that attracts families in challenging circumstances, is unique. But there is a growing sense among a significant number of councils that, despite some extra funding being made available for this year and next, the funding crisis is now threatening to go beyond critical.

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Surge in number of council tax fraud cases

The number of council tax fraud cases uncovered by local authorities increased by a fifth over the past year, new research has found.

Figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) showed that council tax accounted for more than three-quarters of all fraud in local government.

CIPFA’s fraud and corruption tracker revealed that councils identified or prevented 71,000 cases of council tax fraud in 2018/19, compared to 57,894 cases in 2017/18.

Valued at £30.6m, the total included 44,051 cases of single person discount fraud and 8,973 cases of council tax reduction fraud.

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Councils spend more than £1.1bn on temporary housing for homeless people in space of a year

Councils in England have spent more than a billion pounds on temporary accommodation for homeless people in the past year – up 78 per cent in the last five years, new figures show.

Campaigners warned the housing crisis was forcing local authorities to spend vast sums of money on “unsuitable” emergency accommodation after government data revealed £1.1bn was spent on B&Bs, hostels and other temporary shelter in the 12 months to March 2019.

Nearly a third (30 per cent) of this was spent on emergency B&Bs – up 111 per cent in five years – despite the fact that this form of accommodation is considered some of the worst for families with children to live in.

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One in 50 'children in need' are not yet born

Almost one in 50 of those officially classified as "children in need" in England have not yet been born.

More than 7,000 of such vulnerable children have been put into this category before their birth, an analysis of government figures shows.

The number of "unborn" recorded in the total of vulnerable children has almost trebled in the last eight years.

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Public sector leaders call for more joined-up working

The public sector needs to work together to improve the future performance and sustainability of its services, leaders told the official launch of major analysis on government spend.

Speakers at the event debating CIPFA and the Institute of Government’s annual Performance Tracker 2019 – released on Monday - last night outlined serious concerns about the future funding and efficiency of public services.

Sue Murphy, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, and Andrew Hardy, CIPFA vice president and chief executive of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, also told the audience services could be delivered more efficiently if they were planned and funded in a less disjointed way.

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Hundreds of people with autism wrongly being detained in mental health units

Hundreds of people with a learning disability and/or autism (LDA) are being held in mental health units even though they have been identified as no longer needing inpatient care.

According to analysis by Sky News of published NHS data, 635 of the 2,250 with an LDA currently detained in one of these units could be moved to community-based care.

The figures for September 2019 show 130 of the 635 have had their discharge from hospital delayed. This is the highest number since March 2015.

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Inflation falls to three-year low as energy prices fall

UK inflation rose at its lowest pace in almost three years last month as the energy cap kept a lid on the price of electricity, gas and other fuels, according to official statistics.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said consumer prices rose 1.5% in October, against 1.7% in September.

Energy regulator Ofgem lowered price caps last month.

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Councils get just 27p from every £1 collected by bailiffs – and it’s pushing households into debt

Councils are being urged to stop using bailiffs to collect debts over fears this “outdated” regulation is pushing struggling families deeper into debt.

It comes as new research from money help charity Citizens Advice shows councils get just 27p from every £1 collected by bailiffs.

The charity says bailiffs cost 53p for every £1 they recover, of which most of these costs are paid by the indebted person.

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UK wage growth slows as unemployment falls

UK wage growth slowed down in the three months to September, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Unemployment dropped by 23,000 to 1.31 million over the same period, while the number of people in work also fell.

Average earnings excluding bonuses increased by 3.6%, compared with 3.8% growth in the previous month.

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Severe flooding becomes election campaign issue

Opposition parties have criticised Boris Johnson’s handling of flooding emergencies in South Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

This is despite the prime minister convening a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee for this afternoon, which had still not taken place by the time this story was published at 5.15pm.

More than 1,000 homes have been evacuated, about 500 flooded and the Environment Agency still has five ongoing severe warnings, five days after some areas had a month’s worth of rain in just 24 hours.

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Councils 'need billions more to fund adult care as population ages'

Councils will need billions of pounds in funding increases over the course of the next parliament to finance adult social care, an economic thinktank has found.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said a hike in costs was mainly the result of an ageing population, growing numbers of disabled adults and rising wages.

Local authorities depend primarily on council tax and business rates to fund their spending, and a growing gap is likely to emerge between revenue raised and the rising cost of service provision, the IFS reported.

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Cancellations of NHS child mental health sessions jump 25%

Growing numbers of troubled children are having appointments with NHS mental health services cancelled, the organisation’s data show.

Figures obtained by the mental health charity Mind reveal that CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) in England cancelled 175,094 appointments with vulnerable patients between August 2018 and July 2019.

That was 25% more than the 140,327 which were cancelled during the same period in 2017-18.

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Call for reform of pupil exclusions 'as schools unaware of legal duties'

The law reform group Justice has called for a radical overhaul of exclusions amid concerns that too many schools do not fully understand their legal duties and that the appeal process available to parents wishing to challenge an exclusion is inadequate.

According to Justice, there are “serious weaknesses” in a system that excludes, sometimes unlawfully, a disproportionate numbers of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) and those from a minority background.

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Slavery offences soar as county lines are targeted

Modern slavery offences nearly doubled last year as police increasingly accepted that county lines drug couriers were victims rather than criminals.

The Metropolitan Police recorded 1,284 crimes under the legislation, a rise of 82 per cent on 2017.

The figures mirrored the national picture. The National Crime Agency said in March that almost 7,000 potential victims of trafficking and modern slavery were reported to the authorities in 2018, a rise of 80 per cent over two years.

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Thousands of UK workers' pay to rise as living wage increases

More than 210,000 workers in Britain are to receive a pay rise after the charity behind the living wage increased the national minimum hourly rate by 30p to £9.30.

The Living Wage Foundation, which sets the voluntary measure, said London workers’ basic hourly rate will also rise, by 20p to £10.75, compared with the government’s “national living wage” of £8.21 for workers aged 25 years or older.

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UK GDP: Britain ducks recession but annual growth weakest since 2010

The UK has dodged a recession despite seeing the biggest year-on-year slowdown in nearly a decade.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the 0.3% growth for the third quarter signalled the economy "slowing".

That's because the 0.3% figure puts annual GDP at 1% - down from the 1.3% calculated at the end of the second quarter.

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Faith schools contribute millions of pounds less towards own costs, figures suggest

The funding that faith schools contribute towards opening and maintaining their own buildings has fallen sharply over the past decade, The Independent can reveal.

Voluntary aided (VA) faith schools, which can admit all their pupils on religious grounds, now provide millions of pounds less to their own capital costs, figures obtained via a freedom of information (FoI) request suggest.

In the last financial year, faith schools contributed £18m towards capital spending projects from central government, compared to more than £67m in the 2009-10 financial year, the government data shows.

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Government activates Bellwin scheme to support local communities hit by flooding

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has activated the government’s emergency Bellwin scheme to reimburse eligible local authorities for the qualifying immediate costs they incur as part of their response to the flooding in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Under the scheme, local authorities dealing with the flooding can apply to have 100% of the eligible costs they incur, above a threshold, reimbursed by the government. This could be for items including rest centres, temporary accommodation and staff overtime.

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GDP monthly estimate, UK: September 2019

Gross domestic product (GDP) measures the value of goods and services produced in the UK. It estimates the size of and growth in the economy.

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Commissioner details ‘disturbing narratives’ in West Sussex

West Sussex CC has an “idiosyncratic” approach to the leader and cabinet model and is “in denial” about the scale of the problems it faces, a draft of the final report of the government’s children’s services commissioner has warned.

The report, yet to be published by the Department for Education but seen by LGC, concluded there was a “striking lack of organisational corporate self-awareness and self-criticism” in the the council. It said this would have “contributed profoundly” to failures identified by Ofsted which prompted the government intervention.

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Care home operators accused of extracting 'disguised' profits

Care home operators are making up to £1.5bn a year in profits, which include fees to directors and an array of questionable financial arrangements, according to research undertaken by a thinktank.

Many of the firms that provide most of the UK’s 465,000 care home beds are owned or backed by hedge funds, while some of the biggest are based in overseas tax havens.

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Tories and Labour announce spending plans

Chancellor Sajid Javid and his shadow counterpart John McDonnell have outlined major fiscal promises to kickstart their parties’ election campaigns.

Javid scrapped the government’s previous set of fiscal rules and set out three new ones, which he said will allow the government to borrow £20bn a year more to invest in major infrastructure projects.

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Council finance settlement timing “up to new government”

The government has confirmed that the timing of the 2020/21 local government finance settlement will be a matter for the incoming government following December’s general election.

Last year, the government agreed to publish the provisional settlement earlier than usual – around 5 December, following criticism of the normal timetable in a review published by HM Treasury director general Andrew Hudson.

However, these plans have been thrown off track by Parliament’s decision last month to hold a general election on 12 December.

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Business rates retention rise ‘will make council income inequality worse’

The government’s business rates retention plans will exacerbate income inequality between councils in England in its first four years, analysis has shown.

Weak incentives for business rates growth and an insufficient safety net in the case of low revenues will undermine the policy, while authorities will face a funding gap of £27.8bn a year by 2024-25, according to the New Economics Foundation.

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Councils asked to avoid using schools as polling stations

Funding has been announced to help councils find alternative polling station venues for the December elections to avoid schools having to cancel their Christmas events.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has written to returning officers asking them to keep disruption to school activities “to an absolute minimum” in their search for venues to serve as polling stations.

It comes as school leaders warned the timing of the polling day – December 12 – could prove “particularly disruptive” for primary schools as it is likely to clash with traditional festive events.

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Ofcom selects Melanie Dawes as chief executive

Ofcom has chosen Melanie Dawes, one of the UK’s most senior civil servants, to be its new chief executive, the Guardian can reveal.

The 53-year-old, the most senior woman in the civil service, is currently permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which she took over from Bob Kerslake in 2015.

The UK media and telecoms regulator’s selection panel, led by the Ofcom chairman, Terry Burns, is ready to appoint Dawes, who is understood to be keen to take up one of the biggest regulatory jobs in Britain.

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Williamson derided over ‘don’t disrupt children’s Christmas’ poll demand

An intervention by the education secretary in the planning for the December general election in which he urged returning officers to "keep disruption to school activities" to a minimum at Christmas has been branded "unhelpful" and an "extreme disappointment".

With schools and other community venues inevitably being used as polling stations, Gavin Williamson tweeted: "Christmas is a special time for our children. There's no reason that nativity plays or carol concerts shouldn't be going ahead as planned this year." His words were accompanied by emojis of a Christmas tree and Father Christmas.

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None of pledged starter homes built, says watchdog

A government plan to create 200,000 new homes in England for first-time buyers has resulted in no homes being built, the National Audit Office has found.

Announced in 2014, "starter homes" were meant to be aimed at those under the age of 40 and sold at a 20% discount.

But legislation to take the project forward was never passed.

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Care review for thousands of patients with learning disabilities and autism

Thousands of mental health hospital patients with learning disabilities and autism will have their care reviewed over the next 12 months, the health secretary has announced.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said the case reviews for all 2,250 patients will see each person provided with a hospital discharge date or a plan to move them closer towards one.

It comes as a report by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights said on Friday that mental health legislation must be overhauled to stop the “horrific” and inappropriate detention of young people with autism or learning disabilities.

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Public health cuts have ‘hit poor hardest’

Public health cuts worth nearly £900m over the last five years in England have impacted communities that need the funding most, research has found.

More than £1 in every £7 that has been cut from public health services in England over the last five years has come from the ten most deprived communities, according to analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research, out today.

It also called for reform of the funding formula that is used to allocate money to local authorities and designing it to target funding to deprived communities. The government is currently reviewing the way local authorities in England are funded, through the Fair Funding Review.

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General Election 2019: Public spending 'to rocket' in next parliament

Government spending is likely to head back towards 1970s levels over the next parliament whichever party wins the general election, research suggests.

Think tank the Resolution Foundation said both Labour and the Conservatives were planning big increases in the size of the state.

However, the Resolution Foundation said that given current economic uncertainty facing the UK - and the growing cost of an aging population - both parties needed to explain how they intended to pay for their plans.

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Care children sexually abused or exploited while missing from homes

More than 60 young people were sexually abused or exploited after going missing from unregulated homes, the BBC has learned.

Information requests also indicate that missing episodes have doubled in the past three years in England and Wales.

The charity Missing People said the government must "urgently" address the lack of quality placements.

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Benefits freeze to end in 2020, government confirms

The freeze in benefit payments is to come to an end next year, the government has confirmed. Working-age benefits such as universal credit and jobseeker's allowance will rise by 1.7% from April 2020, the Department for Work and Pensions said.

Labour called it a "cynically-timed" announcement ahead of the general election on 12 December. BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley said the move will be seen by some as an election pitch to poorer Leave-backing areas.

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Home-to-school transport for special educational needs children under threat as costs rise and funds are cut

Home-to-school transport for children with special educational needs (SEN) in under threat as councils struggle to keep up with rising costs and lack of funding.

A report commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) and County Councils Network found councils in England are spending more on home-to-school transport than they spend on children’s centres, family support and youth services.

In 2017/18, councils spent £323m on SEN transport, up by 30 per cent compared to 2013/14. It’s predicted this could rise by a further £127m by 2024.

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Chancellor announces £250m ‘infrastructure revolution’

More than £250m in funding will be made available to provide infrastructure for thousands of homes, the chancellor has said, in a move condemned as a pre-election ‘publicity stunt’.

The funding, from the Housing Infrastructure Fund, will pay for roads, schools, public transport and utilities in seven places across the Midlands, the East of England and South East.

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Number of new rough sleepers in London increases by 50% in one year

The number of people recorded as sleeping rough in London for the first time has risen by 50% on the previous year, new Greater London Authority (GLA) figures have revealed.

Last week, mayor of London Sadiq Khan claimed that Londoners were being “driven onto the streets” by changes to the welfare system such as the Local Housing Allowance freeze.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s, said: “There is a rough sleeping crisis on our streets – not just in London, but across the country. This is a national scandal.

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Single tier fear reignited

County councils are being offered the option of unitary local government as part of a devolution deal, The MJ understands.

As the sector awaits central government’s plans for a White Paper, which was announced as part of the Queen’s Speech, proposals for devolution outside metropolitan areas are being touted around local government. It follows chancellor Sajid Javid’s speech at the Conservative Party conference, where he promised to ‘level up’ devolution for all areas.

The second option would include a move to unitary local government and is believed to include a similar proposal to level up powers, but details of the reorganisation plans are still under development.

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PWLB interest rate rise won’t have dramatic effect on council costs, says minister

The Public Works Loan Board interest rate hike will not have a “significant impact” on council house building, the communities secretary has told MPs.

Appearing in front of the housing, communities and local government committee yesterday, Robert Jenrick said he does not want to overstate the impact of the 1% rise, which increases borrowing costs for councils looking to fund capital projects.

Jenrick confirmed that the Treasury had completed its own analysis of the estimated cost of the rate increase. Although he could not give details at yesterday’s meeting, he told the committee: “I can write to you and advise you on the work the Treasury has done.”

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High streets in danger as planning applications from retailers plummet

High streets are in a state of “emergency” as retail planning applications to district councils in England have nearly halved since 2015, a network group has said.

The DCN found that there were 1,258 applications received by district councils for retail and service developments in the year ending June 2019, down from 2,216 since June 2015.

DCN claimed the figures – which show a drop in applications of 43% - represent an “emergency” for the future of English high streets.

The network – which represents 191 district councils – called for long-term funding from government to revive high streets and give them flexibility to raise finance locally for instance to set business rates relief.

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Councils pessimistic about impact of Brexit

Nearly three quarters of council leaders expect Brexit to damage their local economy, a poll has found. A survey by the New Local Government Network think-tank found that 71% of council chiefs are bracing for a hit to their local economies. This figure was 55% in March 2018.

Certain areas have been diverting resources more readily than others, with 92% of leaders from Yorkshire and the Humber claiming to have done so. But just 50% of leaders in the North East have taken resources from other public services.

Adam Lent, director of the New Local Government Network, said: “As the Brexit saga roles on, hope is being drained from the people in the driving seats of our local areas, with optimism hard-to-come-by even in Tory-led councils.

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City could become first in UK to completely ban diesel cars

Bristol could become the UK’s first city to introduce a ban on diesel vehicles to boost air quality and reduce congestion.

Under the proposals, diesel vehicles will be banned from entering a central Clean Air Zone between 7am and 3pm every day.

A second, wider area will affect commercial vehicles, including buses and taxis, which will not be barred but owners will be charged if they enter the zone with vehicles which do not meet Euro 6 emissions standards.

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Government careers advice scheme will fail to reach thousands of young people, councils warn

The government’s much-vaunted careers advice programme will fail to reach thousands of young people despite claims the most disadvantaged children in England will benefit, councils have warned.

Too many students are at risk of making poor career decisions that could have a “devastating” impact on their futures and worsen skills gaps, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

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Local government sector guide to tackling loneliness launched

Local authority leaders have joined forces to produce a guide on how to tackle loneliness for commissioners, service providers, councillors and others working in the sector.

Loneliness affects millions of people across the country and has far reaching implications, not just for the individual, but for families, the wider community and local services.

It can place additional pressure on services by increasing referrals to adult social care and visits to GP surgeries. The significance of this has been likened to issues such as obesity and smoking.

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MPs to vote on Boris Johnson's 12 December election call

The prime minister says he will restart moves to get his Brexit deal bill into law if the motion is passed.

But he looks unlikely to get the support of the two-thirds of MPs he needs by law to agree to an election, with opposition parties against it.

The UK is due to leave the EU on Thursday, but the bloc is considering an extension to that date.

They agreed to delay Brexit in principle last week, but EU ambassadors are meeting again this morning, with BBC Brussels reporter Adam Fleming saying there were "high hopes" of a final decision.

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£400m for school buildings is 'too little, too late', says union

The government has announced £400m investment to repair school and college buildings in England, but the money will only be available to academies that can demonstrate pay restraint on executive salaries.

Academies and sixth form colleges have been invited to bid for a share of the money which can be used to replace roofs, upgrade sports halls or science labs, and deal with general wear and tear in ageing school buildings.

Teaching unions condemned the money available as woefully inadequate. In 2017, the National Audit Office calculated that it would cost £6.7bn to return England’s schools to a satisfactory condition or better.

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Some parts of UK ageing twice as fast as others, new research finds

Parts of the UK are ageing twice as fast as other areas of the country, while in some cities the population is getting younger, a divergence that will have a lasting impact on local economies, local government and national politics, according to new research.

A study by the Resolution Foundation, an independent thinktank, found that the populations of Maldon in Essex, Copeland in Cumbria and Richmondshire in Yorkshire are ageing twice as fast as the rest of the UK, while Nottingham and Oxford are growing younger.

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‘Nearly a fifth of parents quit jobs because of childcare costs’

Almost one in five parents have had to leave their jobs because of the cost of childcare, a new study suggests. A similar number want to work but cannot afford to because of the cost of childcare, while two out of three parents have to work fewer hours, according to research.

A survey of 1,800 parents found that most said childcare costs caused financial anxiety in the home.

Campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed said its study showed that the cost of childcare is “exorbitant”, with women mainly bearing the brunt of the impact, adding to the gender pay gap and “motherhood penalty”.

The group said parents have two years of high costs even though there is tax-free childcare for those who are employed, and 30 hours’ free childcare from the age of three if criteria are met.

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Labour calls for release of forecasts for Javid’s scrapped budget

Labour has demanded Sajid Javid immediately publish economic forecasts prepared for the budget to ensure the government does not avoid public scrutiny before a potential election.

In a letter to the chancellor seen by the Guardian, John McDonnell called for the urgent release of forecasts compiled by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the independent Treasury watchdog.

He also demanded Javid set a new date for the budget, warning Britain’s standing in the world had been tarnished by the chancellor tearing up his plans for delivering tax and spending pledges on 6 November.

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Northamptonshire Council 'failed' grandmother by demanding £11k

A grandmother was "failed" by a council that ordered her to repay £11,500 after officials did not spot she had been overpaid for two years, a report found.

The woman, the sole carer of her three grandchildren, said she got the money in "good faith" and thought it related to her disabled grandchild's needs.

The Local Government Ombudsman found several failures in how the woman was treated by Northamptonshire County Council. The council accepted the findings.

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Opinion: Spending Review needs to address ‘plague of potholes’

In response to a transport committee report from earlier this year the Department for Transport agreed with a recommendation to create a five-year, front-loaded settlement to help councils fix and maintain road surfaces.

“The DfT continues to work closely with Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that the priorities for funding for local highways maintenance are well understood, and this includes the benefits of a longer-term funding settlement for local highways maintenance,” the response said.

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Pace of fracking slower than anticipated

England’s shale gas industry has not progressed as quickly as the government had hoped, the National Audit Office has found.

In 2016, the Cabinet Office expected up to 20 wells to have been fracked by mid-2020, but so far there have been only three.

The government has committed to developing the industry in England despite public concern over risks to the environment and to public health from fracking, whereby liquid is forced into rock at high pressure to force open fissures to extract the gas.

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Transport department bids for long term funds to fix Britain's potholes

A long-term funding settlement for councils to tackle potholes has been backed by the Transport Department in a submission to the Treasury.

MPs had warned the Department that the failure to guarantee ring-fenced funding to tackle the £9 billion backlog in road maintenance meant councils had diverted money to other “core” services rather than repairing potholes.

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Robots capable of caring for the elderly are being developed in £34m government project amid staffing crisis in social care

As Britain’s broken care system faces a staffing crisis, the Government is investing £34million in a project to develop robots to look after the elderly.

A programme to develop machines ‘capable of providing support for Britons and making caring responsibilities easier’ was launched by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy yesterday.

But charities for the elderly say there are huge challenges to overcome before machines can replace carers, and warned there is ‘no substitute for the human touch when it comes to personal care’.

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Ten new towns to bolster regions after Brexit

Ten new towns have been promised by ministers hoping to kick-start post-Brexit regeneration.

Developments billed as “Canary Wharfs of the North” and “Milton Keynes of the Midlands” will be backed by ministers to bolster growth outside the southeast of England.

The head of Canary Wharf will oversee a competition for local areas to bid for funding to develop plans for large-scale development.

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Overhaul exclusions to beat knife crime, say MPs

Too many excluded pupils get only a couple of hours teaching each day, says the report. There is evidence this leaves them at risk of being drawn into knife crime, it adds. Ministers warned that "simple causal links between exclusions and knife crime cannot not be drawn".

However, research by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime found only a third of councils were able to confirm they had space for newly excluded pupils in their pupil referral units (PRUs).

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Brexit: EU considers extension as MPs mull election

The talks come after Chancellor Sajid Javid admitted the deadline to deliver Brexit next Thursday "can't be met". Most EU states are understood to favour delaying it by three months, but France has argued for a shorter extension.

The PM has said he will give MPs more time to debate his Brexit deal if they back a 12 December poll. The government is planning to give the House of Commons a vote on an early general election on Monday, if the EU offers a Brexit delay until 31 January.

Mr Javid told BBC Breakfast the government had to "accept we won't be able to leave on 31 October". He added that ministers "had done everything possible" to leave the EU by the end of the month, but "everyone expects an extension".

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Error found in UK public finances, official statistics body admits

The UK budget deficit is £1-£1.5bn less than what had been previously reported after a statistical error, the Office for National Statistics has said (ONS).

Britain's official statistics agency reported earlier this week a year-to-date budget deficit of £40.3bn, excluding public-sector banks.

The ONS now says there was "an error in the measurement of local government social benefits".

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UK’s health capital funding ‘lags behind that of other developed countries’

The government’s NHS capital funding plans will not be enough to bring spending in line with other OECD countries, a health charity has found.

The value of capital spend per health worker in the UK has fallen by 35% between 2000 – 2017 while it has increased in comparable counties over the same period, according to analysis by the Health Foundation.

The government recently announced a £2.8bn NHS Infrastructure Plan to address “years of underinvestment” but the Health Foundation said this would not be enough to align the UK with other OECD countries.

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Javid writes to new treasury committee chair to announce Budget cancelled

Chancellor Sajid Javid wrote to the incoming chair of the treasury committee to say the Budget planned for 6 November is now cancelled.

In a letter to Mel Stride, who was named as the new chair of the treasury committee yesterday, Javid explained that the Budget was being delayed because the government is now calling for an election.

“Parliament has voted for a delay to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, so the government is now calling for a general election,” the chancellor wrote.

“I can therefore confirm that I have decided not to bring forward the Budget on 6 November.”

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Failure of £350m Four Seasons deal proof social care is not ‘properly’ funded

The failure to sell the struggling social care provider, Four Seasons, is further proof that the Government is not funding social care properly, union says.

Britain’s second-largest care home provider was due to sell 185 freehold properties to H/2 Capital, the US hedge fund that is its principal creditor. However, the £350m deal fell through because ‘certain conditions’ were not met on both sides.

The public sector union, UNISON, pointed to the failed sale as evidence that the Government is not investing in social care. ‘The Government is failing to fund social care properly,’ said UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea.

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First council built care home in decades opens in Liverpool

Liverpool's first new council-commissioned care home in more than 25 years is set to open today. The £8 million Brushwood care home in Speke is the first built by the local authority since the early 1990s.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said the city had invested heavily in social care but that meeting future capacity is a "significant challenge" for the city.

The mayor said: “This is against a backdrop of rising demand, significant cuts to our budget from central Government of £436 million between 2010 and 2020 and increasing pressure on wider healthcare services .

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School funding boost 'too little too late', say hundreds of protesting parents

Parents at hundreds of schools across the country are set to take part in a demonstration condemning the government’s education cash boost as being “too little too late”.

Families of children at nearly 350 schools in England are staging a day of action to demand an urgent increase in funding to reverse the negative effects that years of cuts have had on schools.

It comes after Boris Johnson pledged in August to increase school spending by £7.1bn by 2022-23 after years of campaigning by headteachers, teachers and parents for more funding.

But a recent analysis from unions found that thousands of schools are expected to still face real-terms funding cuts under the plans as they say an inflationary increase will not cover rising costs.

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Extinction Rebellion: Met Police’s London-wide ban on protests was unlawful, court hears

The Metropolitan Police’s London-wide ban on Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests was “an abuse of power”, High Court judges have heard.

Scotland Yard imposed a blanket ban across the capital last week, after XR’s ”autumn uprising” action shut down areas around Parliament and the Bank of England, and targeted London City Airport and government departments.

The ban made any assembly of more than two people linked to the action – which ended on Saturday – illegal.

Lawyers for the campaigners at a hearing on Thursday argued that the ban, made under the Public Order Act, was unlawful because the Met Police went beyond their powers by prohibiting “multiple assemblies, both ongoing and intended”.

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‘Flawed’ Safety Test Leaves Thousands At Risk Of Grenfell-Style Fire, Government Warned

Thousands of people are at risk of a Grenfell-style fire because of a “flawed” test that stated a type of cladding covering hundreds of tower blocks is safe, the government has been told. Fire safety experts have called for all HPL cladding to be “urgently” removed as they raised major concerns with a parliamentary committee over the laboratory tests of the material.

HPL - or high pressure laminate - is thought to be covering 440 tower blocks that house 26,000 people. The covering is different to the ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding used on the side of Grenfell Tower, where a devastating fire killed 72 people in 2017.

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'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".

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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’.

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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”.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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[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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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'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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Government pledges £62m flood funding for communities in England