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News Headlines

Wage growth slows despite jobless fall

UK wages rose more slowly in the three months to May, despite a further fall in unemployment, official figures show.

Wage growth slipped to 2.7% from 2.8% in the three months to May, while unemployment fell by 12,000 to 1.41 million, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The unemployment rate remained at its joint lowest since 1975 at 4.2%.

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Monthly record set for DTOC reductions

A monthly record was set in May for reductions in delayed transfers of care, contributing to an overall improvement of 33% since February 2017.

Analysis by Impower found delayed transfers fell by 7.5% between April and May, the biggest drop since February 2017, with a total of 2,190 beds now freed up in 15 months - more beds than in any acute trust in England.

Delayed transfers attributable to social care are were down in May by 9.6% on the month before to just over three days per 10,000 of the population, while delayed transfers attributable to the NHS fell by 6.5% to 6.5 days per 10,000 people. This is at a time when emergency admissions continued to rise, with a 3.5% increase in May compared to the same time last year.

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Pothole-related car breakdowns ‘at a three-year high’

Councils are “not winning the battle” against potholes as related vehicle breakdowns between April and June reached a three-year high, a motoring organisation has warned.

The total of 4,091 call-outs received by the RAC was the most for the second quarter of a year since 2015.

Incidents included damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels.

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Other Headlines

The Guardian view on home-schooling in England: a register is needed [opinion]

The killing of 18-year-old Jordan Burling was needless and preventable, a judge told his mother and grandmother on sentencing them for his manslaughter last week. Burling died from bronchopneumonia following a heart attack in 2016, but the underlying cause was malnutrition and neglect so extreme that it is painful to imagine.

Defence lawyers stressed that Mr Burling was an adult, who had made what his grandmother Denise Cranston called a “choice” not to see a doctor. But he was a boy of 12 when his mother told the council she would home-school him. A safeguarding review will now examine how the authorities lost sight of Mr Burling, who had taken no exams nor gained any qualifications, and make recommendations as to how such a disaster can be avoided in future. But there is no reason for the government to wait before acting on behalf of other home-schooled children, of whom there are thought to be around 50,000 in the UK – a number that has increased sharply in recent years.

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Heavy toll on firefighters as call-outs to move the obese soar to 900 a year

Reforms needed to ensure that social care was sustainable would require two big tax rises to pay the projected £12.5 billion extra a year, analysis has suggested.

Ministers have pledged to cap the amount that wealthier individuals spend on personal care and to raise the threshold for the value of assets people can hold before they have to pay.

To meet the cost over time ministers would have to raise the basic rate of income tax by 1 per cent and increase national insurance contributions by 0.5 per cent, or use other combinations of tax increases, according to projections for Independent Age, a charity for older people. It used a statistical model created with Grant Thornton, the accountancy network, to calculate costs of options for funding social care.

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Nearly 8 million people providing care for family members without pay

The number of people caring for a family member has reached 7.6 million, a sharp increase of one million compared with a decade ago.

Data analysis by the Social Market Foundation, an independent thinktank, shows that millions are now giving up their time to for free to look after elderly relatives, a partner or a sick or disabled child – with the number spending 20 hours or more caring for a relative up by 4% between 2005 and 2015.

But charities have warned that carers are losing out in terms of work, finances and health. They are calling on the government to urgently invest in the care system rather than relying on good-hearted individuals to prop it up.

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Wales could show England the way to local government reform

John Harris is right to identify the potential of truly local government (The national calamity you won’t see on the front pages, Journal, 10 July).

Although Wales shares many of the same local government reform problems as England, town and community (parish) councils cover more than 90% of Wales, compared with less than 50% in England. In recognition of their potential the Welsh government has set up an independent review of the town and community council sector, which is due to report later this year.

The institutional infrastructure in Wales – a devolved nation where all principal authorities are unitary councils – is also somewhat simpler than that of England. Latterly we have had superimposed city deals – but working through councils themselves. So the heavy lifting that England would have to undertake in extending local councils comprehensively is not necessary.

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Number of secondary school pupils in England to rise

There will be over 400,000 more pupils in England's state secondary schools by the year 2027, new forecasts indicate.

Secondary pupil numbers are expected to rise by 14.7% over the next 10 years, the Department for Education projects.

The rise is fuelled by a baby boom in the early 2000s that is making its way through the education system.

School leaders say the projections highlight the challenge to find enough places for a growing population, and the pressures on school budgets.

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Court reverses £400m sleep-in shift ruling

Council leaders have welcomed the Court of Appeal ruling that social care providers will no longer be required to pay £400m in backpay to carers doing sleep-in shifts.

A tribunal last year ruled that support workers who do sleep-in shifts should be paid the hourly minimum wage for the periods they are asleep.

It also ordered providers to pay their carers six years of back pay, a figure which added up to £400m.

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One in six high street firms taken to court as business rates bite

Owners of almost one in six properties liable for business rates have been taken to court for non-payment over sky-high taxes in the past year, research has revealed. Rocketing rates have been blamed by scores of struggling retailers as shopkeepers fight to compete for custom with online sellers who do not have to pay the property tax.

One business leader said summons are being “hastily issued” as owners risk being penalised.

Freedom of Information requests revealed nearly 130,000 high street shops, pubs and other firms were hauled into magistrates courts.

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School spending on pupils cut by 8%, says IFS

The amount of per pupil spending in England's schools has fallen by 8% since 2010, says an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The study says rising pupil numbers - and cuts to local authorities and sixth form funding - have seen a real-term reduction in school spending.

Heads say it disproves government "rhetoric" about record funding levels.

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Pushing boundaries: Reshaping the government estate for the future

Just as our home is more than a roof over our head, the place where we work is more than just an office. Historically, the work of civil servants was conducted behind closed doors and civil service careers meant working nine to five at a desk in Whitehall. But as the work of government becomes more transparent and agile, and as we seek to reach our aspiration of becoming the most inclusive employer by 2020, the way we work and manage our buildings and our estate is changing.

Since 2014, we have responded to the changing needs of our citizens and our workforce. We have disposed of over 1,000 surplus properties, raising an impressive £2bn in sales, and have saved an additional £300m per year in running costs through greater efficiencies – freeing up funds to be redirected elsewhere.

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This government is indifferent to the crisis in local councils that is about to hit us

Hundreds of councillors and council leaders gathered in Birmingham last week to discuss the big issues facing local government. But while the sun was shining bright there was a destiny dark cloud over head.

We’ve become used to hearing of the dramatic and disproportionate cuts affecting local government. We’ve seen in every community — though some much more than others — the real impact as basic services have been reduced, facilities lost and a fire sale on land and property.

Income from the disposal of assets jumped from £1.2 billion in 2008/09 to £3.2 billion by 2016/17. In fact, almost as much was raised in the final quarter of that year than the whole of 2008.

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Majority of finance professionals pressured into acting unethically, says survey

Almost two thirds of finance professionals say they have come under pressure to act in an unethical way at some point in their careers, according to early findings from CIPFA’s ethics survey revealed today.

Of the 63% that said they had faced this kind of issue in the workplace, nearly half (47%) said it had happened once or twice, 29% between two and five times and 23% more than five times. Pressure was exerted by line managers in 42% of cases, by chief executives or chief finance officers in 30% of cases, and board, cabinet or council in 15% of cases.This was often done in the form of threats to bypass individuals for promotion and disciplinary action.

Respondents working in auditing firms were told that if they did not comply with a client’s wishes their bill might not be paid or they could lose out on future work. Only 7% of respondents said they had carried out the unethical request and 29% said they had partially carried out the request. Almost two third (64%) said they had refused to act unethically or gave no answer.

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Face up to tax and charging to make services sustainable, says Clarke

In his presentation to delegates, Clarke said government has three choices on public service funding in the current climate: to let services go into continued decline and allow private sector alternatives to rise; to raise general taxation; or to extend user charging such as road tolls or student fees.

However, he argued the first option was undesirable as it ultimately led to divisions in society.

“The idea that efficiency savings can deal with the situation [of declining funds for public services] is untrue. Choices have to be made,” he said.

“Declining public services are very corrosive of our standard of living and socially divisive.”

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Majority of finance professionals pressured into acting unethically, says survey

Almost two thirds of finance professionals say they have come under pressure to act in an unethical way at some point in their careers, according to early findings from CIPFA’s ethics survey revealed today.

Of the 63% that said they had faced this kind of issue in the workplace, nearly half (47%) said it had happened once or twice, 29% between two and five times and 23% more than five times.

Pressure was exerted by line managers in 42% of cases, by chief executives or chief finance officers in 30% of cases, and board, cabinet or council in 15% of cases.

This was often done in the form of threats to bypass individuals for promotion and disciplinary action.

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Sunak: Public sector leaders need tech focus

A common, ‘lego-like’ approach was needed to fix the public sector’s ‘digital plumbing’, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for housing, communities and local government also urged.

“IT does not belong in the basement but in the boardroom,” he told delegates in Bournemouth.

Leaders should be looking to technology in their “relentless focus” to improve services and ultimately save money, Sunak said.

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Grant set to be appointed Northants chief

Theresa Grant is set to be appointed chief executive of Northamptonshire CC on a fixed term.

Ms Grant, who announced last week she would step down from Trafford MBC after nine years, will replace interim chief executive Andrew Quincey on 27 July.

Lead commissioner Tony McArdle said: “I am very pleased to commend to council, for its endorsement, the appointment of Theresa Grant.

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Somerset chief accountant warns of section 114 risk

Somerset County Council could be forced to issue a section 114 notice in October if plans to reduce a predicted £12m revenue budget overspend are unsuccessful, its chief accountant has warned.

The council ended last year with an overspend of £2m, and pressures on the council’s children’s service budget are expected to increase that amount significantly, according to a report to councillors.

In a stark warning, Lizzie Watkin, service manager and chief accountant, raised the prospect of Somerset having to follow Northamptonshire in issuing a section 114 notice, bringing a halt to all non-essential spending.

“Work is underway to reduce the predicted overspend but if that work does not materially change the prediction by the end of quarter two (October), there is a risk that the council may have to take a number of urgent decisions to rectify the financial position,” she said.

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Rob Whiteman: Rise of dealmaker CEOs puts governance skills ‘at risk’

The rise of the commercially-minded “dealmaker” as a local authority chief executive requires a “reappraisal” of council governance skills, according to CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman.

Whiteman spoke to Room151 at the 2018 CIPFA conference in Bournemouth, explaining the need for his organisation’s new financial resilience index.

Whiteman said that it made sense for many councils to appoint chief executives with commercial skills, but added that traditional oversight skills are in danger of being lost.

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Extra funding freedoms for Liverpool City Region

The agreement will see over £120 million moved into the City Region’s revenue budget, from its capital budget, over the next 27 years. The move will boost the City Region’s investment programme, launched following the £900 million devolution deal in 2015.

The arrangement will give Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, and the Combined Authority, greater freedom to plan and invest in ways which will drive up long-term economic growth. This includes transport improvements, learning facilities and housing.

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Bosses who revive high street properties are punished with soaring business rate hikes

Thousands of entrepreneurs are being hit with huge increases in business rates because they have done up dilapidated high street properties.

Business rates are based on what a property is worth on the rental market, so when occupiers spruce up a derelict or run-down site, the value goes up and they are penalised with higher taxes.

Campaigners said this can push up costs by hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

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Hancock’s Big Moment [opinion]

In the Götterdämmerung of cabinet splits and resignations, with blond valkyries flying across the political sky, the appointment of a new health secretary seems an overture played in a minor key. Jeremy Hunt has filled the operatic gap left at the Foreign Office and in so doing is said to have been “promoted”. But the Department of Health is arguably a position carrying far more importance for ordinary Britons than the Foreign Office.

Mr Hunt had become the longest-serving postwar holder of the role of health secretary. Originally lampooned as a lightweight, he has dealt with crises such as the junior doctors’ dispute of 2016, kept things going through the dog days of austerity and finally won a funding increase in recent weeks.

His successor, Matthew Hancock, is both capable and likeable. But important though his work was as culture secretary, particularly in trying to evolve a government strategy for social media and hyper-connectivity, the Department of Health is a challenge of an altogether more substantial kind.

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‘There used to be a bus every hour. Now we hardly leave the house’

When Jill White, 53, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, she had three years of treatment, including operations and chemotherapy. It was a stressful enough experience to go through, but White, who is single and doesn’t drive, also faced a four-hour round trip, on a good day, to get to a hospital that was only 13 miles away, because buses from her village of Tatworth, Somerset only run on average every two hours.

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Government has not learnt from academy failures that damaged children’s education, MPs say

The government is failing to learn the lessons from high-profile academy failures that have been damaging to children’s education and costly to the taxpayer, MPs have said.

The Department for Education did not pay enough attention to scrutiny checks in a rush to convert large numbers of schools into academies, a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has found.

MPs said they were concerned about a lack of clear direction from the government on converting schools to academies – as well as the levels of support available to struggling schools.

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CIPFA president: We can rebuild trust in public services

CIPFA has a great opportunity to “flip the negative narrative” and rebuild trust in public services, the institute’s new president said this morning.

In her opening address to the CIPFA conference in Bournemouth, Sarah Howard highlighted that “pervasive” negativity had taken hold.

“I see what appears to be a universal breakdown in trust – whether we look at central government, local government, NHS or the private sector – the examples are well known,” she said, singling out Brexit, funding problems at Northamptonshire County Council and the collapse of the outsourcing and construction giant Carillion.

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Brexit will hit public finances, conference hears

Day-to-day spending on public services will fall by 0.6% in real terms between 2020-21 and 2022-23, delegates at CIPFA’s annual conference heard this morning.

The Institute for Government’s Gemma Tetlow told her audience economists for and against Brexit were “fairly well aligned” on the view that the Brexit vote had caused a slow down in growth in the UK.

“The figures that were laid out in March by the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast spending that was consistent with borrowing falling for the next four years and that implied that day-to-day spending on public services would be set to fall by 0.6% in real terms between 2020-21 and 2022-23,” the IFG’s chief economist told the conference.

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County set to cut to 'core offer'

East Sussex CC is to vote on whether to scale back services to a “core offer” focused on people in “most urgent need” due to rising budget pressures.

Citing “significant reductions” in government funding, coupled with “soaring” demand for social care services due to an increasing population of older people, chief executive Becky Shaw said the council could not meet its financial challenges over the next three years through locally sourced income, such as council tax and business rates.

Council leader Keith Glazier (Con) has written to housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire ahead of a meeting of the council’s cabinet next Tuesday to warn of “counterproductive choices” that have been “forced” on East Sussex.

In her report to cabinet, Ms Shaw said savings to date have already had “significant impacts” on social care, family centres, youth services, libraries, highways and the public realm.

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Brokenshire defends Whitehall ‘grasp’ of local government finance

Communities secretary James Brokenshire has rejected claims by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that his department has a “shaky grasp” of the financial issues facing councils.

Earlier this month, the committee voiced concerns that the department was unable to provide it with a definition of financial sustainability.

But speaking ahead of his debut appearance before the communities select committee this week, Brokenshire said his officials are fully on top of the situation.

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Council trials mobile phone detection technology

Norfolk County Council has become the first local authority to trial mobile phone detection technology in order to improve road safety.

The new system, which was developed by the Norfolk company Westcotec, will be used to identify mobile phone use from within a vehicle before activating a sign urging the driver to hang up.

‘Using a mobile phone whilst driving is an enormous distraction and apart from being illegal puts the lives of the driver, passengers and pedestrians at risk,’ said Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of the council’s communities committee.

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Raab replaces Davis as Brexit Secretary

Minister of State for Housing and Planning Dominic Raab has been appointed Brexit Secretary after David Davis resigns from UK government.

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Jeremy Hunt replaces Boris Johnson amid Brexit turmoil

Theresa May has launched a reshuffle of her top team after a string of resignations over her Brexit strategy plunged her government into crisis.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been named as the new foreign secretary after Boris Johnson quit, accusing Mrs May of pursuing a "semi-Brexit".

His departure followed that of Brexit Secretary David Davis and several junior figures.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock replaces Mr Hunt as health secretary.

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Bed blocking costing NHS ‘£550 per minute’

Bed blocking because of a lack of social care availability is costing the NHS an “eye-watering” £550 per minute (£290m a year), Age UK has estimated.

Analysis by the charity also showed that in just two years, the number of older people in England living with an unmet care need has risen by 19%, which translates to 1.4m over 65s living with unmet care needs

More than 300,000 need help with three or more essential daily tasks like getting out of bed, going to the toilet or getting dressed, the charity found, and of this 165,000 receive no help whatsoever from paid carers, family members or friends.

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Hammond promises tax on digital firms as business rates weigh on struggling retailers

Business rates are hitting the high street too hard, the Chancellor Philip Hammond has admitted.

These taxes are calculated based on the cost of a property that a business occupies and, with prime locations, high street retailers have been hit hard compared to their online competitors. Many are already struggling, with mounting numbers of store closures.

Retailers have complained that the revaluation exercise undertaken last year has left them with higher bills in an already challenging climate.

The Chancellor said he would continue efforts to “find a better way of taxing the digital economy” in order to reduce the tax advantages for online retailers compared to high street stores.

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'Councils beat academy trusts at boosting failing schools'

Councils are best when it comes to boosting the inspection grades of inadequate schools, analysis of official figures suggests.

Researchers looked at how much schools rated inadequate by Ofsted in 2013 had improved by the end of 2017.

Those schools that had remained council maintained were more likely to be good or outstanding than those that had become sponsored academies.

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Rural roads busier as drivers escape urban congestion

Traffic on rural roads has risen sharply over the past decade as drivers try to avoid congestion in towns and cities. At the same time the number of vehicles on urban roads is falling.

Overall traffic levels in Britain increased to a record high last year, official figures show. There have been complaints that the boom in internet shopping is fuelling congestion.

Figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that vehicles collectively covered 327.1 billion miles on British roads. It was a 1.3% rise over the year before and represents a 4.2 per cent increase in a decade. The number of vehicles using rural A roads has increased by 10.3% in ten years.

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Local authority bus budgets cut by 45%

Local authority bus budgets in England and Wales have been cut by 45% - £182m – since 2010/11, according to a transport campaign group.

The Campaign for Better Transport, in analysis released on Monday, said funding for supported buses dropped by £20.5m last year – the eight year in a row budgets have been cut.

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Put up tax to pay for social care, say councils

Nine in 10 councils think increased tax is crucial to stabilising the adult social care sector, council leaders have said.

A survey conducted by the Local Government Association also found that 96% of councils believe there is a major national funding problem in adult social care.

The survey, based on responses from 79 councils with adult social care responsibilities, revealed that 89% supported increased taxation to tackle the perceived funding shortfall in adult social care.

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PAC highlights Whitehall’s ‘shaky grasp’ of council finances

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has only a “shaky grasp” of the issues facing local authority finances, the Public Accounts Committee has claimed. A report published by the committee today noted a significant reduction in councils’ spending power had been imposed at the same time as increases in demand pressure.

Local authority spending power, comprising government funding and council tax, has fallen by 28.6% since 2010-11, while key services have come under increased pressure, the PAC said. In the same timeframe there has been a 14.3% growth in the estimated population aged 65 and over in need of social care, while authorities have endured a 10.9% increase in the number of children being looked after.

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Minister promises more self-financing councils will not be abandoned

Central government will not financially abandon local authorities – even as grants are phased out in favour of business rate revenue, local government minister Rishi Sunak has promised PF.

In an interview ahead of the CIPFA conference in Bournemouth, the junior minister said that moving to a system whereby councils retain 75% of business rates by 2020-21 was “exciting and important to get right”.

This comes as the local government secretary James Brokenshire told the Local Government Association yesterday that the government was to “shortly” publish a prospectus for a further round of business rates retention pilots for 2019-2020.

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Call for business rates to be scrapped

Business rates should be scrapped and local authorities should be handed a swathe of new powers to revitalise struggling town centres, a major new review has urged.

Bill Grimsey, the former Wickes and Iceland boss, today published a follow-up to his 2013 report on the British high street. He called for business rates to be scrapped and replaced - perhaps by a sales tax - describing the current system as a ‘monolithic giant that needs to be strangled’.

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Millions of children 'fending for themselves' and facing 'serious risk' at home

More than two million children in England are growing up in families where there are serious risks, the Children's Commissioner has said. Anne Longfield's report states the dangers include domestic violence and living with parents who are alcoholics or have substance abuse problems.

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: "It's our most vulnerable children who are paying the price for the punishing central government cuts to council budgets, and being left without the early help they desperately need."

Roy Perry, vice chairman of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, said: "We want the Government to heed these increasingly urgent warnings and accept the critical need for properly funded children's services, which face a funding gap of £3billion by 2025 just to keep services running at current levels.

"We have long warned of the rising demand councils face, with an average of more than 270 children taken into care or placed on a child protection plan every single day to keep them safe from harm."

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Local councils at risk of bankruptcy due to government 'complacency', MPs warn

Local councils face a funding gap of £5bn by 2020 because of “complacent” government ministers’ failure to plan for the future, an influential committee of MPs has warned.

In a damning report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said government-imposed budget cuts of almost 50 per cent in the last seven years have left a number of councils under “enormous pressure” and “in a worrying financial position”.

It is “unsustainable” to expect town halls to continue to draw on cash reserves to fund day-to-day spending, MPs on the committee said.

They accused the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) of being “overly reliant” on hopes that councils will be given more money in next year’s spending review – an outcome that looks less likely after the Treasury committed an extra £20bn a year to the NHS, depleting government coffers.

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Authorities expect to make almost £900m from parking fees this year

Local councils expect to make almost £900m from parking fees this year after imposing punishing hikes on shoppers driving into town centres.

According to the RAC analysis, the 354 local authorities in England made an estimated surplus from parking of £786m in 2017/18 but they are expecting this figure to rise by 13% to £885m this financial year.

They made £658m in 2013/14, meaning profits are set to soar by 34% in just five years.

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Tory Peer Tears Into Government Over Social Care Crisis

[Contains language which some may find offensive]

Social care will only improve if the Government cuts through the “horseshit” which sees the NHS and councils not working together, the Tory chief of the Local Government Association warned today.

In a forthright attack on his own party, Lord Porter claimed Theresa May wasn’t going to “fix” the social care crisis facing local authorities, and argued her rebranding of the Department of Health to include “Social Care” in the title was merely window dressing.

Speaking at the Local Government Association’s annual conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, Lord Porter also tore into the Government’s aim to solve the housing crisis – again questioning his own party’s desire to “fix” the problem.

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Surge In Children's Social Workers Quitting Profession Amid Violent Crime Wave

One in seven children’s social workers quit the profession last year amid a spike in violent youth crime.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner called the drop-off rate a “national scandal” as hard-up social workers’ caseloads are left overflowing, due both to a scourge of gang violence and poverty-stricken families struggling to cope with life on the edge.

Speaking at the Local Government Association conference in Birmingham, Rayner highlighted Department for Education statistics which showed 4,500 left the profession last year and the turnover rate of children’s social workers is now 50% higher than in 2011.

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Countryside facing a ‘demographic time bomb’

The countryside is facing a “perfect storm” caused by a rapidly ageing population, a dearth of affordable housing, a skills shortage and inadequate mobile and broadband coverage, local authorities have warned.

A “demographic time bomb,” caused by an exodus of young families and an influx of retirees, is threatening the survival of rural communities, the LGA said.

“It is increasingly difficult for people to buy a home in their local community, mobile and broadband connectivity can be patchy, and people living within rural and deeply rural communities face increasing isolation from health services,” Mark Hawthorne, from the LGA, said.

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Brokenshire dodges funding commitment pledge

Communities secretary James Brokenshire has failed to make a firm commitment to fighting for more funding for councils despite warnings the 'bank of local government is running on empty'.

Speaking at the Local Government Association's (LGA) annual conference today, Mr Brokenshire said he was under no illusions of the financial challenges facing the sector.

However, when questioned whether he would follow the example of other ministers by 'knocking on the door of the chancellor to fight for more funding' he would only pledge to listen 'carefully' to the sector.

In his speech, Mr Brokenshire said: 'Everyone agrees that the current formula needs fixing and I want to see a robust, straightforward approach, where the link between local circumstances and resources allocated is clear.

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Funding for support buses slashed by 45%, campaigners warn

Local authority funding for supported buses has been halved since 2010 leaving many parts of England and Wales without public transport, campaigners warn.

A new report from the Campaign for Better Transport has found that council bus budgets in England and Wales were cut by £20.5m last year - the eighth year in a row budgets have been cut. The report, entitled Buses in Crisis, also warned that since 2010-11 supported bus budgets in England and Wales have been reduced by £182m. This amounts to a 45% cut.

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Thousands of children facing abuse ‘repeatedly’ referred to social care services

Thousands of children are ‘repeatedly’ referred to children’s social care but get no help until their problems escalate to crisis point, a children’s charity has discovered.

New research from Action for Children has revealed that more than 120,000 children were referred to children’s social care in both 2013/14 and 2014/15. However, about 36,000 had their case closed in the first year and were referred again the following year. The charity found that two thirds of these referrals, i.e. 23,000 children, were found to be ‘children in need’ and the remaining third did not get statutory support for a second time.

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Councils withheld just £32m last year on underperforming PFI deals

Councils withheld £32m last year from underperforming PFI providers, according to new research published today.

Law firm Collyer Bristow found only 0.3% of annual payments to all PFI providers were held back, suggesting local authorities are paying for poor or undelivered services.

The research shows that Birmingham City Council accounted for nearly half this figure after it held back £14m following a long running dispute with Amey.

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LGA in social rents plea

Ministers should drop plans to ditch social rents from the official definition of affordable homes while Britain continues to struggle to build new council housing, Smith Square has urged.

On the eve of its annual conference in Birmingham, the Local Government Association (LGA) urged the Government to retain social rented units within the definition of affordable housing covered by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Proposed reforms to the NPPF could lead to social rents dropped from the current definition - yet ministers currently plan to include starter homes and other, less affordable, housing units.

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Financial pressures could turn unitary to district

A unitary council is considering reverting back to district status in a bid to avert a financial crisis.

Torbay Council has instructed chief executive Steve Parrock to carry out a review into all options, including returning to the district model following 20 years as a unitary council.

The original scope of Torbay’s community governance review was to look into establishing town councils, but members voted to expand this to ‘all local government reorganisation options’ at a council meeting last week.

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Learner drivers ‘should have to spot potholes to pass test’

Learner drivers should have to prove they can spot potholes to pass the test, according to a motoring firm.

The AA wants poor road surfaces to be included in the hazard perception test because of the damage they cause to vehicles. It also called for advice on what to do when drivers encounter a pothole to be added to the Highway Code.

One in five local roads in England and Wales is in a poor condition as councils face a huge funding deficit to tackle potholes, a recent report by the Asphalt Industry Alliance warned.

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Regions left behind by London-centric transport investment, MPs warn

Transport investment overwhelmingly favours London and leaves regions struggling playing “catch up”, a group of MPs has said. The cancellation of three rail electrification schemes across the country epitomises a failure to invest in transport outside the capital, according to the transport select committee.

Lilian Greenwood, chair of the committee, said that the debate around disparities in rail infrastructure investment “unsurprisingly re-ignited” after the government cancelled three schemes in the Midlands, south Wales and Lake District, only to announce funding for Crossrail 2 in London four days later.

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Rise in children's services spending

The amount expected to be spent on children’s social care in 2018/19 is up 6.8% or £542m compared to the figure in 2017/18 budgets, latest figures have shown.

According to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statistics, the £8.6n budgeted is about half of the £16.1bn expected to be spent on adult social care in 2018/19, which is up £496m or 3.2% compared to 2017/18 budgets.

Total revenue expenditure by all local authorities in England is budgeted to be £95.9bn in 2018/19 – 1.6% higher than the £94.5bn budgeted for 2017/18.

Shire districts’ total budgeted revenue expenditure for 2018/19 is 2.6% lower than it was for 2017/18.

Across all local authorities, council tax is expected to bring in £29.6bn in 2018/19, 7% higher than in 2017/18.

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‘Worst yet to come’ without extra funds for county budgets

More than a third of county council leaders are uncertain whether they will be able to deliver a balanced budget next year, according to a major survey.

A poll taken by the County Councils Network (CCN) found that 17% of county leaders are “not confident” and 19% “neutral” on whether they will be able to meet their budget requirements in 2019–20 without extra resource.

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MPs call for national ‘premium’ to pay for social care

Local government finance reform alone cannot solve the long-term funding crisis within social care, according to a report by MPs.

MPs on two House of Commons committees said in a joint report that the government should also scrap plans to give councils extra responsibilities as a result of the forthcoming 75% business rates retention plans.

The report added that in addition to other local government finance reforms, a new social care premium should be collected at a national level to support the sector.

The report said: “Local government funding will only ever be one part of the solution for social care, and it is clear that extra revenue will also need to be raised nationally.”

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Dan Bates: Searching last year’s accounts for signs of resilience

Accounts have now closed but it’s hard to find the signs of financial resilience. Dan Bates reveals his observations on reserves and capital finance requirements.

I’ve spent years doing local authority final accounts closedown, chasing down accruals, trying to get my head around the code of practice and scrapping with auditors about rounding errors. And every year, I tell myself: This is the last year.

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CIPFA to consult on index to help test councils’ financial resilience

Local authorities could be rated on their financial resilience to help them with financial management under proposals from CIPFA.

The institute is due to release a consultation on its plans for a financial resilience index imminently.

Its aim is to offer reassurance to councils that are financially stable as well as noting where some authorities can improve their financial resilience.

CIPFA is proposing to use a range of indicators to come to its conclusions, including the rate at which a council is depleting resources, its level of resources generally and of borrowing.

Demographic pressures such as older populations contributing to increased social care spending will also be considered.

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By 2020 our local councils will be in utter financial chaos – but the government has chosen to do nothing

Last week’s NHS funding windfall ticked all the right boxes – irrespective of how ultimately it will be financed – [local government] could be forgiven for feeling neglected when the prime minister made her big announcement.

After eight years of austerity, 2018 was the year when the dire straits facing local government hit the headlines.

New research this week by the County Councils Network (CCN) shows that England’s largest, mainly Conservative-led, councils face a combined funding pressure of £3.2bn over the next two years; due to projected demand for services, inflation, and government cuts.

Last month, research pointed out that due to unavoidable reductions in home to school travel, some 20,000 less pupils receive free travel to local schools.

This week’s budget survey shows more of this is on the way, with at least £466m in savings being made to frontline areas – think adult social care, children’s social services, pothole filling, and bus services.

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Latest Whole of Government Accounts shows £2.4trn net liability

The WGA balance sheet values 2016-17 liabilities at £4.2trn, much higher than the £1.9trn in the value of assets. Almost 80% of government liabilities were made up of government borrowing (£1.3trn), provisions (£0.3trn) and pensions liabilities (£1.8trn).

The WGA noted that some of these liabilities are due to be paid over a number of years, decades or even, in the case of the nuclear provision, over a century. It also noted that accounting rules do not allow future tax revenue to be recognised as an asset.

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Peer calls for tax rises to pay for social care

In the Lords, former civil service chief Bob Kerslake called for a “dedicated tax” funded by forcing older workers to pay National Insurance contributions even after state pension age. Currently, more than one million people working beyond the state pension age are exempt from the levy.

Meanwhile, over-40s and their employers should contribute to a “Social Care Premium” fund to pay for any care needed by over-65s, according to a joint report by MPs on the Commons housing, communities and local government and health and social care committees.

Crossbench life peer Lord Kerslake said: “I passionately believe taxes need to increase to pay for social care and I think there should be a dedicated tax to fund health and social care.

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Neglected children never get to learn about ‘normal’ life

When Sally Bayley was four her baby brother disappeared from under the rose bushes in their garden. After that her mother “fell under a thick, dark spell”. Random men came in and out of the house in West Sussex but the children were very poor, living off cheese on toast in cramped, mouldy conditions and ruled over by a tyrannical aunt.

At 14, inspired by Jane Eyre, Sally stopped eating, escaped to a doctor and asked to be taken into care. After an emergency foster placement she went to a behavioural unit “that was not as grim as home” and asked to go to school. There she met her first friend, who invited her to live with their family and she learnt about “normal” life. She followed the elder brother to St Andrew’s to read English. Her memoir, Girl With Dove: a Life Built by Books, was published last month.

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Over 40s should pay new tax to fund creaking social care, MPs say

The government should introduce a levy for over 40s, retirees, and employers to fund the spiralling care costs of the growing population of older people and those with disabilities, MPs have said.

A report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government and Health and Social Care Committees calls for a “social care premium” for England, to address social care costs which will soon become “unsustainable”.

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MPs highlight weak commitment to transparent financial reporting

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee today issued a follow up to last year’s report, produced by its predecessor committee, which called for “fundamental changes” to how the government reports its spending.

Today’s PACAC report was critical of the government’s slowness to respond to the 2017 recommendations. The government’s official response took almost a year to emerge rather than the two months recommended by the Cabinet Office.

“This unusual response underlines how much needs to change in respect of government accounting,” the PACAC said.

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‘Care should be free with dedicated insurance pot’

Middle aged, older people and employers should pay into a dedicated social insurance fund that would cover free social care on a universal basis, MPs from across the political spectrum said today.

In a joint report, the health and local government committees called for the creation of a ‘social care premium’ payable by those aged over 40, including those over 65.

This premium could operate as an element of national insurance or a standalone fund. Either way, the money should be held in an independent, dedicated and audited fund, which would help gain public trust and acceptance for the measure, the MPs said.

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Unitary moots reverting to district status amid financial struggle

Torbay Council is considering returning to district council status or merging to be part of a larger unitary authority as it seeks reorganisation in anticipation of future financial problems.

Twenty years after the council became a unitary, chief executive Steve Parrock has been instructed to “review all options” for reorganisation as Torbay seeks to balance its budget for the 2019-20 financial year, following a surprise vote in support of the move last week.

In a statement the council said: “Following a motion discussed at last week’s council meeting a decision was made for the chief executive to review all options for local government reorganisation, including Torbay reverting to a district council.”

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English councils warn 'worst is yet to come' on cuts

England’s mainly Conservative-run county councils have warned ministers that the “worst is yet come” over cuts to services and that several authorities risk going bust unless steps are taken to shore up budgets.

Only an emergency injection of funds next year to counter a growing financial “black hole” would head off severe cuts to services and potential unrest among MPs, the County Councils Network said.

It said councils faced having to make “truly unpalatable” cuts to key services such as social care, refuse disposal, libraries, Sure Start centres and roads maintenance while putting up council tax bills and introducing new charges.

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Counties issue budget warning and call for pre-spending review cash injection

Leaders of England’s largest councils have today warned ‘the worst is yet to come’ unless government provides cash-strapped counties with additional funding ahead of the government’s spending review.

A new budget analysis of England’s county authorities reveals that those 37 councils, which cover some 26million people in England, face funding pressures amounting to £3.2bn over the next two years alone, £1.8bn of which is due to projected demand and future inflationary pressures. Leaders of those councils have warned they cannot wait until the government’s comprehensive spending review for badly-needed extra resource.

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Counties call for pre-Spending Review cash injection

Nearly one in five county council leaders are ‘not confident’ they can deliver a balanced budget next year without extra funding, a new survey has revealed.

The survey, conducted by the County Councils' Network, found 17% were ‘not confident’ about balancing their budget in 2019/20.

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‘Worst is yet to come’: Councils fear inability to balance books despite legal duty to do so

Despite being legally bound to do so, councils fear that they will be unable to deliver balanced budgets in the coming years if the government fails to provide much-needed extra funding ahead of the Spending Review.

Research carried out by the County Councils Network (CCN) found that almost 20% of council leaders are not confident that they will be able to balance the books in 2019-20 without more money, whilst 19% remained ‘neutral’ on this.

This year, council tax increases will only meet 36% of the budget gap, with savings of over £700m expected to deliver 41%. Local authorities currently predict that they will have to dip into reserves by up to £200m to balance their budgets in the coming months.

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Ailing cities advised to replace shops with offices and housing

Struggling city centres should end their dependency on retail by replacing shops with offices and housing, according to a report.

The Centre for Cities thinktank said the increasing tendency for consumer spending to shift online was a particular risk for city centres in England and Wales that are overreliant on the consumer.

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Give councils fiscal flexibility to fund local priorities, says think-tank

Councils should have the flexibility to raise taxes to fund areas that are a priority for local people, the Localis think-tank has argued.

People are willing to pay more in council tax to fund local public services as long as they have a say where funds are spent, research for Localis, released today, found.

YouGov polling, carried out for the think-tank’s Monetising Goodwill report, revealed the top five areas where, nationally, the public would be happy to pay more. In order, there were: public health; fire; police; adult social care; and children’s social care.

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Councils' funding gap to exceed £7bn by 2020

Economists expect the funding gap of councils to grow to almost £6bn in 2018.

An annual report by Moody’s puts the likely funding requirement for all UK councils at £5.9bn this year – almost double the figure from three years ago.

Beyond 2018, Moody’s expects the figure to increase annually by around £700m in 2019 and 2020, leaving a funding gap of £7.4bn.

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Children face mental health epidemic, say teachers

Britain’s schoolchildren are suffering from an epidemic of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, yet barely half get the NHS treatment they need, teachers say.

Almost four in five (78%) teachers have seen a pupil struggle with a mental health problem in the past year, with one in seven (14%) cases involving suicidal thoughts or behaviour.

Anxiety is the most common problem, with two-thirds of the 300 teachers surveyed by the mental health charity stem4 having come across a young person at their school dealing with the condition in the past year. Significant minorities of teachers have also encountered at least one pupil with depression (45%), an eating disorder such as anorexia (30%), self-harming (28%) or addiction (10%).

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Britain's most pothole-plagued roads revealed as councils heave with complaints

The Sunday Mirror has done a piece of on the state of potholes in England.

They found the country’s worst road to be Mellor Brook Bypass near Balderstone, Lancs. Motorists and cyclists reported it to the council 545 times in one year.

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Cap on care costs to help elderly keep their homes

Pensioners will not be forced to sell their homes to pay for social care under plans being drawn up by the government.

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is understood to favour a ceiling as well as a floor on social care costs.

This is expected to feature in a green paper on social care, to be published in the autumn at the time of the budget.

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'Lifeline' bus routes for elderly threatened by funding cuts

"Lifeline" bus services subsidised by local authorities could be under threat due to funding cuts.

The warning comes as the Local Government Association (LGA) highlighted a council funding gap which is expected to exceed £5 billion by 2020.

Despite the services being the only mode of transport for vulnerable residents, bus journeys in England have fallen by 6% in the last four years.

During this time, the operating cost per passenger has gone up by six pence a journey, adding £3 billion to the cost of subsidising the services.

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Philip Hammond hands Bank of England new powers

The Bank of England will be allowed to provide more than £500bn in lending to the economy without seeking the Treasury’s permission, in a move that reinforces the strength of the UK financial system as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

Announcing the plan at the annual Mansion House dinner for bankers in the City of London on Thursday, Philip Hammond, the chancellor, said the changes would help to improve the resilience of the central bank. It would also help with its “ability to meet its monetary and financial policy objectives in the future”, he said.

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Auditors question county's 'unrealistic' savings plan

Auditors have said that planned savings in Somerset CC’s accounts were “not supported by realistic assumptions” and there was not enough understanding of actions needed to meet savings targets.

A report by South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) also found Somerset’s reporting, monitoring, and scrutiny arrangements were ineffective in delivering savings targets.

LGC reported last month how Somerset was warned in a Local Government Association corporate peer review that it had only sufficient resources to balance its budget for one more year beyond 2018-19 if overspending continued and did not get a “grip” on expenditure. Somerset’s mediumn term financial strategy said in January the council faced a £13m funding gap in 2018-19

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Threat to buses as councils fear looming £5bn shortfall

Nearly half of all subsidised bus routes in England are under threat, the LGA has warned. Councils in England face an overall funding gap that is expected to exceed £5 billion by 2020 and are struggling to maintain current subsidies for bus routes across the country, which could leave many people isolated. The concessions come at the cost of other discretionary subsidised bus services - such as free peak travel, community transport services and post-16 school transport – and other services like collecting bins and filling potholes.

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Six Classrooms' Worth Of Youngsters Put On Child Protection Plans Every Day

Six classrooms’ worth of young people are being placed on child protection plans every day, shocking new town hall figures show.

The number of vulnerable youngsters on so-called CPPs - put in place by social services to protect them from harm - has doubled in the last decade, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

The organisation, which represents councils across the country, warned Theresa May the spike in demand has seen local government services “pushed to the brink”.

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Councils should take schools back from struggling academy chains, says education report

The government should allow some academies to return to local authority control, a new report says.

Strong performing councils should to be able to take on schools in struggling academy trusts – in the same way a local authority-run school can be moved to an academy chain, a think-tank has said.

The study, from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), found little difference in the performance of schools run by academy chains and those run by councils – as standards vary between the different types of schools.

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Police Prepare for Surge in Domestic Violence Around England Matches

Police forces across the country are preparing for a rise in domestic violence surrounding England’s World Cup games.

Research into the link between domestic abuse and the football has shown that reports of domestic abuse increase when the England team win or lose a football match and that the instances increase with every World Cup tournament.

The National Centre for Domestic Violence, the National Police Chiefs' Council and the BBC have all conducted research into the correlation, but the largest research into the topic came from Lancaster University in 2013, which analysed domestic violence figures from the 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

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Britain needs an investment revolution. Labour will provide it [opinion]

The last eight years has been a period of almost unparalleled waste and destructiveness in British economic policy. Even the prime minister now admits that the NHS has been damaged by the austerity spending cuts. But the problems with our economy run deeper than brutal political choices to prioritise tax giveaways for the super-rich and giant corporations over spending on public services. They run even deeper than the uncertainty and damage being inflicted by this government’s bungling of Brexit.

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Council demanded payment card details via email

A London council's data protection efforts are under review after it told residents to email in their payment card details for parking bay suspensions via a Word document.

Islington Council had required residents to share the security code from the rear of their cards, as well as their address, among other details.

One security expert said this appeared to be a breach of the payment card industry's security rules.

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UK government borrowing falls more than expected

Public sector borrowing fell to £5bn in May, down £2bn from a year earlier, official figures show.

The fall was bigger than expected and brings borrowing for the financial year to date to £11.8bn, £4.1bn less than in the same period in 2017.

At the same time, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revised down its figure for government borrowing in 2017-18 to £39.5bn.

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Another week, another warning

Another week, another warning. If we don’t address the funding pressure building in the system around adults and childrens’ social care services then local government’s ability to fulfil its more general responsibilities to its communities, will implode.

So will Government address this impending catastrophe through new fiscal raising proposals in the autumn’s social care green paper or deal with it in next year’s comprehensive Spending Review? Or will we remain like mindless zombies on a relentless march to fulfil the predictions contained within various versions of the Graph of Doom? That money will run out for anything other than statutory services and even then such protection will be tested.

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Councils warn about ‘dangerously’ inadequate funding for SEND education

The School Cuts Coalition and 39 local authorities have written to the Government to warn they do not have enough funding to meet their statutory obligations for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

The letter to the education secretary highlights the ‘unacceptable’ fact that more than 2,000 SEND children are left with no education provision at all due to inadequate funding.

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Councils sell off 4,000 public buildings a year, FOI requests reveal

Local authorities have sold-off thousands of public buildings and spaces to private developers in order to cover the loss of central Government funding, charity finds.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made by the charity Locality to all councils in England have revealed that more than 4,000 buildings and spaces were sold off each year between 2012 to 2016.

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Sector hits out at ‘unacceptable’ delays to social care reform

The social care sector has expressed its disappointment and frustration at the delay in the government’s long-awaited green paper.

The Government announced yesterday the Social Care Green Paper will be postponed until the Autumn.

However, the National Care Forum (NCF) said the delay would cause further disruption to an already ‘fragile’ sector.

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Fresh finance warning for Northamptonshire County Council

Northamptonshire CC’s finance director has issued an early warning the county already risks missing key savings targets that enabled it to agree a legal budget.

In an early assessment of Northamptonshire’s financial position, Mark McLaughlin, said that, as things stand, around £11m of the £35m savings the council targeted may not be achieved.

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Academies no better than council schools, think tank finds

There is ‘little difference’ between academies and local authority schools when it comes to performance, according to an education think tank.

A new study by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has found that the type of school is less important in determining performance than the group the school is in.

In March 2016 the Department for Education announced that all schools should become academies - or be in the process of becoming one - by 2020 despite scepticism from teachers about the effectiveness of academy status.

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Delay to green paper caps dismal 48 hours for social care

When Jeremy Hunt finally admitted to MPs on Monday evening that the green paper on older people’s social care would not now appear before their summer recess, as he had promised, reaction in the care sector was more weary resignation than righteous anger. Disappointment comes with the territory these days.

The news capped a particularly miserable 48 hours for social care, which had been obliged to stand awkwardly by, empty-handed, while ministers proudly unwrapped the English NHS’s 70th birthday present of an extra £20bn a year in real terms by 2023-24 in return for a new 10-year plan for the service.

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Half of council staff considering quitting their job, survey finds

Half of council workers are thinking of leaving their job for less stressful work elsewhere, according to a new survey by trade union Unison.

Six out of ten council workers surveyed said they don’t feel secure in their job, with over half (53%) saying their workload is unmanageable.

The survey also found eight in ten (79%) council workers have no confidence in the future of local services due to spending cuts, with 83% saying cuts have had a negative impact on their ability to do the job as well as they can.

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Half of council staff considering quitting their job, survey finds

Half of council workers are thinking of leaving their job for less stressful work elsewhere, according to a new survey by trade union Unison.

Six out of ten council workers surveyed said they don’t feel secure in their job, with over half (53%) saying their workload is unmanageable.

The survey also found eight in ten (79%) council workers have no confidence in the future of local services due to spending cuts, with 83% saying cuts have had a negative impact on their ability to do the job as well as they can.

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Defence, schools and police set to miss out from big spending increases as Theresa May focuses on NHS

Defence, schools and police budgets are set to miss out on big spending increases because of Theresa May’s decision to pump £20billion into the National Health Service.

In recent weeks both Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, and Sajid Javid, the Home secretary, have signalled they want to see increases in their spending at the next spending review.

However Government figures have told The Telegraph that the Prime Minister's commitment to increase NHS spending by an average of 3.4 per cent from next March means that other key departments will have to settle for less.

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Make social care ‘free at the point of need’, former health minister says

Social care should be ‘free at the point of need’ like the NHS, a bold new report into the health and care system recommends.

The progressive think tank IPPR has published a study by Lord Darzi and Lord Prior which sets out a 10-point plan for improving struggling health and care services.

The fourth point in the ‘investment and reform plan’ proposes extending the NHS’s ‘need, not ability to pay’ principle to social care and fully funding the service as part of ‘new social contract’ between the citizen and the state.

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Children’s services per capita spend down 20%

Spending per head on local authority-led children’s services will regress 20% to 2005 levels, according to a report out this week.

The report, commissioned by the Children’s Commissioner For England and produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, also found that spending on prevention and youth services has been cut by 60% over the past decade.

Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “Councils across the country have worked incredibly hard to protect funding for the most vulnerable in our communities, despite significant and ongoing government funding cuts.

“However, this report paints a stark picture of the reality facing councils, who cannot keep providing this standard of support without being forced to take difficult decisions and cut back on early intervention services, which help to prevent children entering the care system in the first place.”

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Over 15,000 delayed transfers of care down to delays in arranging care packages

The proportion of delayed transfers of care due to shortcomings in social care has decreased over the last year, according to the latest figures from NHS England.

In April 2018 there were 145,000 total delayed days, a decrease from the previous year, where there was a total of 176,900 delayed days.

Both the NHS and social care sectors have seen reductions in the volume of delayed transfers of care over the last year, with the proportion attributable to social care down to 30%, compared to 62.5% attributable to the NHS.

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Spending on social care down by 9%

Spending on social care is 9 per cent lower per person than a decade ago despite extra government funding and councils trying to protect services by switching money from other budgets, an analysis has shown.

Local authorities’ spending on adult social care fell by 10 per cent in real terms between 2009-10 and 2014-15, a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies said. This was partially offset by extra funds from central government, the National Health Service and higher council tax receipts.

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NHS announces ambition to cut delayed transfers by 25%

The NHS has announced that it intends to work with local authorities to reduce the number of long staying patients by around a quarter in preparation for the winter ‘surge’.

Speaking at the annual NHS Confederation conference at Manchester Central yesterday Simon Stevens and Ian Dalton, the chief executives of NHS England and NHS Improvement, set out their plans to free up 4,000 beds before winter.

The number of delayed transfers of care (DTOCs) fell to 4,880 in January, 1,780 fewer than the baseline month of February 2017.

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Hunt admits imminent long-term NHS plan likely won’t include social care

The health and social care secretary has clarified that long-term plans for the NHS and for social care will both happen, but very likely not at the same time.

His comments, made at this year’s NHS Confederation conference, seemed to suggest that contrary to extensive campaigning from organisations, the long-term NHS funding settlement won’t include social care just yet.

Hunt recognised that both sectors represent two sides of the same coin and rely on each other to thrive.

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'There were a lot of strangers around - I didn't feel safe'

"I lived in a B&B with my mum for over two months, I was the same age I am now, 12," says Ellen.

"It was always cold. I don't think there was heating. There were a lot of strangers around. I didn't feel safe.

"You didn't know who was living there or what they might be capable of."

Ellen was interviewed about her experiences of homelessness as part of a child-led campaign, calling for more to be done to stop children in England being placed in unsuitable accommodation.

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Legal system of child protection is in crisis, says senior judge

The family justice system is in crisis, fuelled by an “untenable” workload created by a glut of applications to take vulnerable children into care, the senior judge about to become the next head of the family courts has said.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, who takes over as president of the family division of the high court of England and Wales in July, questioned whether the courts saw too many cases that may not be sufficiently serious enough to warrant the breakup of families.

McFarlane said the courts had to be careful to ensure that the increase in cases that sat relatively low on the spectrum of harm, such as those involving child neglect and poor parenting, properly met the high legal thresholds justifying intervention by the state.

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Sir William Worsley, the new tree champion, will give residents a say on chopping

Councils will be forced to consult residents before felling trees under government plans to save thousands from being axed for cost-cutting reasons.

More than 110,000 have been chopped down since 2015 by UK councils, some of which have been accused of sacrificing much-loved trees to save money on maintaining them.

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133,000 business rates appeals from 2010 remain unresolved

More than 133,000 businesses are still waiting for an appeal of their business rates valuation from 2010 to be resolved, council leaders reveal today.

More than 1 million businesses have challenged their business rates bill since 2010. The Local Government Association said figures published this month show 133,060 appeals have still yet to be ruled on.

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Councils tighten reins on personalised care

For the past 10 years, Edwina McCarthy, 63, has lived contentedly in her own home in south London with the support of personal assistants she employs through a personal budget for needs arising from cerebral palsy. In many ways, she is an advertisement for the merits of the personalisation of care and health.

But McCarthy feels her lifestyle is under threat. “They tell you, ‘there’s the money. You can be independent’,” she says. “But you can’t. They monitor every action you take.”

What bothers McCarthy is that, in common with more than 30,000 other people with personal budgets, her funding is no longer sent to her bank account as a direct payment, but is loaded on to a prepaid card. Not only does this enable her local council to check exactly how she is spending it, but it gives it the power to veto expenditure it disapproves of.

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LGA calls for business rates reform to minimise appeals risk

The business rates system must be reformed to protect councils against “unfair” appeals risk, council leaders have said today.

Currently 133,000 business rates appeals from 2010 remain unresolved, according to analysis of government figures by the Local Government Association.

An LGA spokesperson told PF that even though two thirds of appeals were not successful, “councils must assume that they will be” meaning they must set aside cash in case a rebate is necessary.

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Child protection costs 'threaten local councils' financial stability'

Failure to support families at risk and reduce pressure on the care system will lead to child protection services becoming financially unsustainable, the chair of an expert care review group has warned.

Nigel Richardson, a former director of children’s services at Leeds city council, said that the struggle to cope with the rapid surge in children being taken into care at a time when budgets were shrinking could tip some councils into financial crisis.

Launching the Care Crisis Review on Wednesday, Richardson called on ministers to make up a £2bn shortfall in children’s social services and create a multi-million pound fund to give councils the breathing space to find ways of reducing pressure on the system.

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Public support ‘compelling evidence’ for increased social care spending

More than 80% of the British public support an increase in social care spending, new figures reveal.

The new study, ‘Securing the future: Funding health and social care to the 2030s,’ carried out by the Health Foundation and Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), sets out “strong evidence” for an increase in spending, according to NHS Confederation, which commissioned the study.

It highlights that since 2010, spending on adult social care has fallen, despite a growing demand and ageing population.

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Unresolved business rates appeals divert £2.5bn away from public services

Over 130,000 business rates appeals from 2010 remain unresolved, according to the LGA.

In the past eight years, over a million businesses have challenged their business rates bills, but the latest figures show that 133,060 appeals have yet to be ruled on.

Although councils do not set business rates or rule on challenges made by businesses, the result of appeals is that they must set money aside, which diverts funding from delivering the services that local taxpayers pay for and expect.

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Philip Hammond to raise billions in extra tax for the NHS

Philip Hammond is preparing to raise up to £10 billion in extra tax to help to boost the NHS on its 70th birthday. He has proposed adding 1p to income tax to raise the additional money.

Theresa May is also to lift a cap on skilled workers from outside the EU that blocks foreign doctors from coming to Britain. The move will precede the expected announcement next week of a package of measures to improve the health service.

The prime minister has promised a “multiyear” funding settlement for the NHS to address long-term financial needs, which were highlighted this winter when thousands of nonemergency operations were postponed.

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Early years cuts 'pushing more children into care' in England

Increasing numbers of children will “fall through the gaps” into the care system, risking school exclusion or falling prey to gang violence, because of cuts to early years and youth services, the children’s commissioner for England has warned.

Anne Longfield said cuts of 60% to Sure Start and other preventative services since 2009 had effectively removed vital safety nets for at-risk youngsters and families and left them vulnerable to falling into extreme need.

She called for a reversal of trends in recent years which have resulted in shrinking resources focused on rapidly expanding and increasingly financially unsustainable high-cost child protection and care services at the expense of prevention budgets.

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Adult social care services on brink of collapse, survey shows

Social care services for vulnerable adults are on the verge of collapse in some areas of England, despite the provision of extra government funding, senior council officials have warned.

The fragile state of many council social care budgets – coupled with growing demand for services, increasing NHS pressure, and spiralling staff costs – is highlighted in research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass).

It says councils “cannot go on” without a sustainable long-term funding strategy to underpin social care and warns that continuing cuts to budgets risk leaving thousands of people who need care being left without services.

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More cuts to care on way - council chiefs

Vulnerable old and disabled people will see cuts to vital care services and higher charges, council chiefs say.

The annual budget survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services shows councils expect to spend £21.4bn this year in England.

While this is a rise from £20.8bn last year, the cost of inflation combined with growing demand means this will not be enough, ADASS said.

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Sending children in care to boarding school reduces risk, says minister

More children in care should be sent to boarding schools, a minister has said, after a study showed it can significantly reduce the risks faced by vulnerable youngsters.

A report which tracked the impact of being sent to board over a decade found that 63 per cent of children were removed from the risk register, and 71 per cent showed a reduced level of risk.

Lord Agnew, the schools minister, welcomed the study, which followed 52 children who were in care or could be taken into care, in Norfolk.

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Our UK public services don't need 'reform', they need hard cash [opinion]

If the whispers in lobby correspondents’ ears are to be believed, Theresa May and her ministers are contemplating taking steps towards alleviating austerity, perhaps as part of their attempt to manage or distract attention away from Brexit. It’s not inconceivable that a bung for the NHS on its anniversary might just be accompanied by moves to stop local authorities, the police and other services spiralling downwards.

But May may not survive and who knows what shape politics will be in as the 2019 public spending review is concluded? While more money and/or an end to the cuts look like a possibility, there is a catch. Before they break out the prosecco, public managers would be well advised to look at the small print and listen to ministers’ caveats: the words to look out for include efficiency, innovation and (the killer) reform.

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Tony Travers: Grenfell inquiry must consider the public policy context

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry will, eventually, tell us a great deal about the nature of government and also about public sector contracting in the UK.

After decades of efforts, by successive governments, to deliver affordable housing to lower-income households, the impact of the stresses and strains caused by lowest-cost administration and competitive tendering are being examined by a senior judge. This is happening because of the catastrophic fire in June last year.

It would be wrong to speculate over-much on the inquiry’s likely findings. But everyone involved in local government knows how the past 40 years have seen policy changes and spending squeezes whose intention has been the delivery of ever-more ‘efficient’ public provision. Whitehall-originated policies including compulsory competitive tendering, efficiency drives, housing stock transfers, the private finance initiative and cuts to local government house-building have together created the policy environment within which Grenfell Tower operated.

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New bus figures show 'slow death of local buses'

The number of people using buses in England fell again in the last financial year in the face of real-terms fare increases and cuts to local routes.

The latest statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that the number of local bus passenger journeys in England fell 1.4% to 4.38 billion in the year ending March 2018, compared with 2016/17.

The figure for the year ending March 2017 of 4.44 billion passenger journeys itself represented a 1.5% fall on the previous year, according to DfT statistics published in December.

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Health and social care reforms must be better communicated, MPs warn

The government and the NHS must improve how NHS reforms are communicated to the public, the Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) has warned.

Rising demand and cost of health care means that services need to be changed and better organised around patients, and examples of NHS and care services working together to deliver better care has been happening for some time.

According to the committee’s report ‘Integrated care: Organisations, partnerships and systems,’ the government and national bodies are yet to explain the case for change clearly and persuasively, with a failure to consistently engage with local leaders in the design of service changes.

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Somerset should form three unitary authorities, MP suggests

Bath and North East Somerset Council leader, Tim Warren, has revealed that he would be open to a council merger, backing MP James Heappey’s recent suggestion of forming three new councils.

Writing for the Western Daily Press recently, Heappey suggested that it is time to remove the boundary that runs from Brean Down in the west to Farleigh Hungerford in the east, arguing that the communities and economy of Somerset have changed “immeasurably” since the Somerset was split to form the county of Avon in 1974.

When Somerset County Council proposed forming a unitary authority, Heappey proposed forming three unitary authorities covering the whole of the pre-1974 county.

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Adoption and care rates higher in some areas

For a child born in England in 2011-2012, the chances of being placed for adoption by the age of five varied starkly by local authority, research suggests.

For a child in Southampton, which had the highest rate, almost one in 50 children was put up for adoption.

For a child in Greenwich, an authority with similar socioeconomic profile, it was less than one in 600.

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Digital and social media firms should be forced to protect children from addiction, experts say

Social media and online gaming firms should have a statutory “duty of care” to protect children from mental ill health, abuse and addictive behaviour, a coalition of the country’s leading experts demands today.

Data amassed by charities, academics and doctors links children’s use of social media and gaming to a range of serious and lasting harms, many of which build gradually over time and go undetected by parents or teachers.

They accuse businesses such as Facebook and Snapchat of cynically targeting children as young as eight, using addictive “hooks” from the worlds of behavioural psychology and gambling to capture “new skins” to keep them logged on for as long as possible.

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Majority of schoolchildren buy takeaway for lunch at least once a week, child obesity study finds

Most children are buying takeaway for their lunch at least once a week, according to a new study from the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF).

The research found that 60 percent of 11 to 16-year-olds said they bought food such as chips or fried chicken from takeaways at lunchtime or after school at least once a week

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LGA in Right to Buy warning

Councils’ ability to replace homes sold under Right to Buy (RTB) will be effectively eliminated within five years, a new study for the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

Research by real estate firm Savills, published today, found that two-thirds of councils will have ‘no chance of replacing homes sold off under RTB on a one-for-one basis in five years’ time unless a significant restructuring of the scheme take place’.

Around 12,224 homes were sold under RTB last year, but, faced with ongoing borrowing restrictions, the Savills study suggested that by 2023 councils would only be able to replace around 2,000 of those homes.

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Local government figures celebrated in Queen's birthday honours

Key figures in local government have been recognised on the Queen’s birthday honours list for their services to the sector.

The former interim chief executive of Birmingham City Council, Stella Manzie, has been made a Dame in the honours list.

Ms Manzie was appointed Birmingham’s interim chief in April 2017 until the recent appointment of Dawn Baxendale as permanent chief and has had a long career in local government, as well as with the Scottish Government.

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£30m cash boost to tackle rough sleepers

Communities secretary James Brokenshire has announced a £30m cash boost to tackle rough sleepers in the worst hit parts of the country.

Councils across England with the highest number of people sleeping on their streets will benefit from the extra funding, which will be used to provide an extra 1,750 beds and 531 homelessness workers.

Announcing the cash, Mr Brokenshire said: ‘No one should ever have to sleep rough. I am determined that more people living on the streets and those at risk this coming winter get the help they need now.

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Tesco boss blames business rates for retail woes

The boss of Britain's biggest supermarket has blamed the collapse of some retailers partly on the expense of business rates.

Dave Lewis, Tesco chief executive, said the charges that firms must pay on their buildings played a "large part" in sending some retailers to the wall.

Last year a revamp of business rates saw some bills rise, while others fell.

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Most leaders expect some councils to face ‘serious financial crisis’ next year

Almost three-quarters (74%) of council leaders are expecting some local authorities to plunge into a “serious financial crisis” next year.

The ‘Local state we’re in 2018’ report surveyed 81 local authority chief executives and leaders across the UK, along with a poll of over 2,000 members of the public.

A whopping 74% of council respondents said that they expect some councils to get into serious financial crisis in the next year – a 20% increase in the dear of failure compared to last year.

A major recent example of this is Northamptonshire County Council, which effectively went bankrupt, while Somerset is now rejecting claims that it too is on the brink of collapse.

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Store landlords push back against rent cuts

Landlords have called for a government review as more struggling retailers ask for rent reductions.

The British Property Federation (BPF) says too many companies are abusing an insolvency process called a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).

The pushback from landlords comes as House of Fraser became the latest retailer to finalise a restructuring plan that involves a CVA.

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Carillion collapse to cost taxpayers £148m

The collapse of construction giant Carillion will cost UK taxpayers an estimated £148m, the National Audit Office has said.

There will also be wider costs to the economy, Carillion's customers, staff, the supply chain and creditors, the NAO said in a report.

When it was liquidated with debts of £1.5m in January, the firm had about 420 UK public sector contracts.

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How debt kills

The BBC have a very serious piece on the effects that spiraling debt can have on people.

The article follows Jerome, who gets himself into debt from Camden council during his time working as a delivery driver. His debt goes from just a couple of parking tickets to well in excess of a thousand pounds in a matter of weeks.

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Hope for children’s services amid the cuts

The efforts of councils and others to convince government of the need to act in support of the delivery of adult social care has resulted in changes designed to help meet growing demand, including the introduction of the adult social care precept and the promise of a green paper.

Children’s social care has not yet received the same attention, despite clear warning signs – not least CIPFA’s annual CFO confidence survey – that the strains on local authorities are just as great, if not greater, for children’s social care as they are for adults.

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Council mergers on the rise as almost 500 shared services deals agreed to cope with austerity

Local governments around England have made at least 486 agreements to share services with other councils in the past seven years in an effort to trim costs in times of austerity.

The signed deals have saved authorities at least £657m since 2010 through sharing of services such as finance, emergency services, property, IT and community safety.

Figures from the LGA show that 98% of the authorities who provided data are sharing services with a neighbouring local government, with agreements made rising every year but one since 2008.

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£9m flagship free school to close just four years after opening

A free school costing £9m is to close just four years after opening due to concerns over safeguarding.

The Discovery School in Newcastle – which left a pupil behind on a trip to London earlier this year – has also admitted problems with poor teaching and leadership.

The specialist science and technology free school will close at the end of the academic year after the Department for Education (DfE) pulled its funding.

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More than 1.5 million Brits are living in destitution as shocking report warns ministers to take urgent action

More than 1.5million Brits are living in destitution, a shock report warns.

The Government was urged to take to take immediate action to tackle the crisis by reforming the social security system.

Of the 1,550,000 suffering in “shameful” squalor, 365,000 are children, the dossier said. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that the destitute often went without food, heating or lighting in their home and sometimes slept rough.

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Theresa May should stop tinkering and start spending [opinion]

Politics is a bit like playing Monopoly. Leaders start the game with a pot of political capital that is gradually eroded by power. As they go around the board dealing with events, they spend more to build up a property empire of popular support. There must be an element of risk-taking and ruthlessness, as well as responsibility. Luck is required, but also the wisdom to know that you must create your own good fortune. The winner is the person with the most capital left when the country goes to the polls, even if everyone is almost bankrupt.

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A revolution to help Britain's army of unpaid carers: Workers who look after relatives will be offered flexible working including extended lunch breaks and ten extra days off

Millions of adults who care for sick or ageing relatives will be offered flexible work hours under a landmark Government pledge announced today.

They could start later, finish earlier or have an extended lunch break to help them look after a loved one.

As part of a package of measures, carers will also be entitled to paid ‘carers’ leave’ so they can attend hospital appointments or look round care homes.

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Britain’s shameful care home time bomb

More than 160,000 of Britain’s pensioners and disabled people are “trapped” in debt because they cannot afford to pay bills. A damning investigation reveals they are racking up financial problems after being forced to pay thousands of pounds for care, either in their homes or in residential accommodation.

But Freedom of Information requests to every local authority in Britain with responsibility for social care showed that nearly 1,200 people have been taken to court by town halls for social care debts.

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Scrap all districts says Heseltine

District councils should be scrapped and 60 unitary counties created instead across England led by directly-elected mayors according to former Cabinet minister Lord Heseltine.

Delivering the inaugural annual Chamberlain Lecture at London’s BT Tower on June 4 Lord Heseltine said: ‘I would move to 60 unitaries with directly elected mayors in each one. We’ve got to get rid of districts. I find it amazing that people talk about a lack of cash and yet we sustain hundreds of organisations we don’t need.’ He also called for salaries of £120,000 for the mayors.

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Councils to oversee 'new town' corps

Councils will be able to seek government approval to set up New Town Development Corporations (NTDCs) under plans announced by housing minister Dominic Raab.

Mr Raab wants NTDCs to become responsible for delivering new towns and garden communities locally, and hopes the more flexible structures will lead to a surge in house-building.

Currently, all NTDCs are accountable to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. But under the new proposals, they will largely be accountable to local authorities.

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Massive 82% of voters would back a tax rise to fund the NHS as new poll puts Theresa May under pressure

An overwhelming majority of voters back a tax rise to fund the NHS, a Mirror poll has found.

The ComRes survey reveals a staggering 82% would be willing to pay 1p more in National Insurance contributions if the money went directly to the health service.

The findings will pile pressure on Theresa May to pump more money into the cash-strapped NHS.

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Liam Booth-Smith appointed Brokenshire's special adviser

Outgoing Localis chief executive Liam Booth-Smith has been appointed special adviser to housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire.

Mr Booth-Smith had been expected to become director of policy and development at Policy Exchange, but LGC understands that role is now open to other candidates again.

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Northamptonshire County Council to sell historic County Hall building

The sale of the listed building will help reduce annual rent costs for the authority, which also aims to generate extra income by sub-letting parts of One Angel Square.

Since council staff relocated to Angel Square last May, the County Hall site in George Row has become underused, the authority says.

The council chamber, coroner’s courts and tourist information centre are based in the George Row building and if the sale of the site goes ahead, these services would be relocated.

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Teacher recruitment agencies face fees crackdown

Recruitment agencies that charge schools in England "excessive" fees to find and hire staff face a crackdown by the education secretary.

The move comes amid repeated warnings from school leaders that their budgets are in crisis.

Last month, Damian Hinds promised head teachers he would work with schools to drive down unnecessary costs.

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'Pinball kids experience too much change in care'

Thousands of "pinball kids" are being moved around the care system with too much instability, the children's commissioner for England has said.

Anne Longfield says nearly 2,400 children changed home, school and social worker during the 2016-17 year, while 9,060 had two of those changes.

Ninety children a day entered care in the last year, and councils saw the biggest annual increase of children in care since 2010. This is against a backdrop of unprecedented cuts to local authority budgets, with children's services alone facing a funding gap of around £2bn by 2020."

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400k frail and vulnerable elderly people lose out on free care at home due to council cuts while others live in ‘care deserts’ where there’s no help at all, warns charity

Around 400,000 elderly people have lost the chance of free help to live at home over the past seven years, a report warned yesterday.

Tens of thousands of frail and vulnerable Britons have been pushed out of the shrinking circle of those who qualify for home assistance as councils cut spending, analysis from Age UK found.

The charity also warned of ‘care deserts’ where shortages of care suppliers and workers means it is impossible for people to find the help they need to live at home.

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Grenfell Tower fire council spends 25% of reserves

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council spent 25% of its usable reserves last financial year as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire, figures out today have revealed.

Its usable reserves dropped by £45m - from £181m in March 2017 to £136m in March 2018 – the council’s draft statement of accounts has shown.

The council has said in the report that it must identify a further £52m of reserves for 2018-19 to help cope with the aftermath of the fatal fire, in which 71 people died.

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We need more school places - but not in grammars [opinon]

The government’s recent announcement it will invest an extra £50m to expand access to grammar schools will be seen as nothing short of an insult to parents and teachers up and down the country – and rightly so.

I can see them now, heads in their hands - the thousands of teachers in local schools, struggling to deliver exciting lessons with dwindling funds, all because of the education funding crisis.

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