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News Headlines

Shopping centre owner Intu seeks emergency cash

Intu, which owns some of the UK's biggest shopping centres, has approached its shareholders to ask for more money amid a downturn in the retail sector.

Reports suggest that the company could be asking for £1bn from investors. Intu owns Manchester's Trafford Centre, and Lakeside, at Thurrock, Essex.

Last year, retail sales fell for the first time in a quarter of a century, according to trade body the British Retail Consortium.

The tough trading conditions have hurt landlords, who are struggling to fill vacant stores. Firms like Debenhams, Toys R Us, House of Fraser, New Look and HMV have all tried to negotiate with landlords to reduce rent.

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Hull asks to be first UK city to trial universal basic income

Hull wants to become the first UK city to test a weekly universal basic income for its residents after a cross-party group of councillors formally backed the idea.

The proposal would mean every adult would be paid a basic sum – potentially between £50 and £100 a week – regardless of income, and do away with the need for welfare.

People receiving disability payments would instead get the equivalent sum in universal basic income (UBI) and there would be higher payments for pensioners and lower sums for children.

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Youth services suffer 70% funding cut in less than a decade

Spending on youth services in England and Wales has been cut by 70% in real terms in less than a decade, with the loss of £1bn of investment resulting in zero funding in some areas, according to research.

Analysis by the YMCA youth charity found that local authority expenditure on youth services dropped from £1.4bn in 2010-11 to just under £429m in 2018-19, resulting in the loss of 750 youth centres and more than 4,500 youth workers.

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Other Headlines

Boris Johnson sends the House of Lords up north

Boris Johnson is planning to move the House of Lords permanently to York, The Sunday Times can reveal. The city has emerged as the frontrunner to host the new second chamber, with Birmingham also in the running.

The prime minister last week ordered work to begin on the practicalities of a move, in further evidence that the Conservatives are serious about cementing their gains in what were once Labour’s heartlands.

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Local buses clocking lowest mileage in decades

Local buses are travelling almost 150 million fewer miles than they were 10 years ago and have fallen to their lowest level since the mid-Eighties, new analysis by the Local Government Association reveals.

The LGA, which represents councils, says an increase in fares – which are up 71 per cent in real terms since 2005 - and a £700 million annual funding gap for the concessionary fares scheme are contributing to the decline in services and bus usage.

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Brexit: Price rises warning after chancellor vows EU rules divergence

Businesses have warned that food prices may rise and jobs may be affected after the chancellor vowed to end alignment with EU rules after Brexit.

Sajid Javid told the Financial Times the UK would not be a "ruletaker" after Brexit, urging businesses to "adjust".

The Food and Drink Federation said the proposals were likely to cause food prices to rise at the end of this year.

The Confederation of British Industry said for many firms, keeping existing EU rules would support jobs.

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Business rates avoidance costs councils £250m a year, study suggests

Councils are calling for tougher laws to counter business rates avoidance after new research suggested it is costing local services £250 million a year.

Money is lost when firms go into insolvency while local authorities sometimes have problems establishing ownership of a property, said the Local Government Association (LGA).

Short-term periods of occupation, which leads to three months empty property exemption, is adding to the problem, said the LGA.

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Lift-off for bonds agency as Lancashire agrees first deal

The council has hailed the move as a “great first step” in allowing the local government sector to “take control of its own financial destiny”.

The UKMBA is due to issue its first bond worth £250m to £300m with duration of five years at a rate “well below” that of the Public Works Loan Board, subject to LCC’s “usual governance processes”.

The agency has been dormant for five years but was given new life in October when the government announced a 1% interest rate hike for the PWLB – the main source for local government borrowing.

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‘Government must give at least £2bn to replace EU regional funds’

The Industrial Communities Alliance, which represents councils in industrial communities in England, said the overall budget of the forthcoming UK Shared Prosperity fund must be at least £1.8bn – or £4bn a year if the UK’s own local growth fund is rolled in.

ICA noted that after Brexit no new EU-funded projects will be possible beyond the end of 2020, but the government has failed to produce details of the replacement fund.

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Dozens of social housing blocks still covered in Grenfell-style cladding

There are still 91 social housing buildings covered in Grenfell-style ACM cladding over two years after the tragedy, official figures have shown.

According to government data just one private tower block has received full funding for removal of the cladding despite a £200m pot created last summer to fund such work.

The government had initially provided £400m for local authorities and housing associations to remove the dangerous cladding after the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died.

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Ministerial intray: Signs so far are social care will not be a top priority

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock appeared to deliver a statement of the government’s intent following the general election by declaring that the time for “analysis” of options for a sustainable social care system was over and decisions must now be made.

Despite a more than two-year green paper process under the previous administration, which considered well-established proposals for funding and reform to the system, the Queen’s speech appeared to confirm the government would not use its majority to back a specific approach and instead stick to its manifesto pledge on seeking a cross-party agreement.

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Councils losing £250m a year through business rates avoidance

Councils are losing £250m a year due to businesses avoiding paying their rates, new research has found.

A survey by the Local Government Association (LGA) found eight in 10 councils said they do not have enough power to tackle the problem.

Almost half of respondents said the practise of ratepayers using rates mitigation firms in return for a percentage of the rates saved was widespread

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Empty business rates relief 'costs £1bn'

Empty businesses cost UK taxpayers £1bn a year, prompting calls for urgent reform of the system.

Some councils lose out on millions of pounds of potential business rates income through a tax relief on empty properties, BBC analysis shows.

A local authority mayor in northern England said the money "added up to a lot" and the system was unfair.

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Scores of tower blocks with Grenfell-style cladding have no plan in place to remove it, figures show

Two and a half years after the fatal blaze in Kensington, government data reveals that more than 21,000 households are still living in flats wrapped in the Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding that allowed the flames to spread so rapidly in the early hours of 14 June 2017.

The figures, published on Thursday, show that of 450 high-rise residential buildings in England found to have the combustible cladding, 315 are yet to undergo works to remove it, with 76 of these not having any plans in place to do so.

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Officials have no idea how many people were forced to sell their houses to pay for social care, report reveals

No one knows how many people have to sell their houses to pay the bills for a place in a care home, an official report admitted yesterday.

It said almost all the information available on the crisis-ridden care system came from local councils – which do not find out about people who have to pay for themselves.

There are 'significant gaps' in what is understood about how much money is paid for social care and where it comes from, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) watchdog said.

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Work to start on devolution deal for South Yorkshire

Political leaders in South Yorkshire have agreed to work towards a devolution deal after two years of deadlock.

Leaders from Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham hailed the breakthrough as a “significant step forward in securing additional powers and resource for our region”.

A deal will go out for public consultation later this year following a mayoral combined authority meeting at the end of this month.

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Officials have no idea how many people were forced to sell their houses to pay for social care, report reveals

No one knows how many people have to sell their houses to pay the bills for a place in a care home, an official report admitted yesterday.

It said almost all the information available on the crisis-ridden care system came from local councils – which do not find out about people who have to pay for themselves.

There are 'significant gaps' in what is understood about how much money is paid for social care and where it comes from, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) watchdog said.

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20% spike in pothole-related breakdowns

Vehicle breakdowns caused by potholes increased by a fifth during the last three months of 2019, new figures suggest.

The RAC received more than 2,000 call-outs for problems such as distorted wheels, broken suspension springs and damaged shock absorbers between October and December, an increase of around 300 compared with the same period in 2018.

Pothole-related faults represented 1.1% of all breakdowns attended by the company last year.

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Fall in inflation raises prospects of interest rate cut

The UK's inflation rate fell to its lowest for more than three years in December, increasing speculation that interest rates could be cut.

The rate dropped to 1.3% last month, down from 1.5% in November, partly due to a fall in the price of women's clothes and hotel room costs.

December's inflation rate was the lowest since November 2016.

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90 online abuse crimes against children recorded a day, NSPCC estimates

Ninety cyber crimes a day have been recorded against children since the introduction of Government plans to tackle online harms, the NSPCC estimates.

The charity predicts that more than 25,300 child abuse image and sexual grooming offences have occurred since the Online Harms White Paper was released in April 2019, plans which aim to make the UK one of the safest places to be online.

Based on police data from April to June 2019, it estimates an average of one online abuse offence against a child was recorded every 16 minutes in England and Wales in little over nine months.

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Care firm's leadership criticised by Care Quality Commission

The CQC found that patients under the firm's care were more likely to be restrained.

Higher rates of self-harm were also noted by inspectors who quizzed managers and analysed records at the company's headquarters.

Cygnet runs more than 100 services for vulnerable adults and children, caring for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and eating disorders.

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Care fee divide gets worse as new report reveals nursing home residents who pay their own bills are charged £250 a week more than those who are state-funded

Care home residents who pay their own bills are now being charged £250 a week more than those whose fees are funded by the state, a report has found.

In 30 areas of England, councils pay care home operators less than £500 a week to house those who need their bills covered because they have few savings or assets of their own.

The figure means that those paying their own bills – in many cases homeowners forced to sell their house to do so – are typically paying £125 a week to subsidise those unable to cover their costs.

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Boris backtracks on cross-party social care solution

Prime minister Boris Johnson has said the government’s majority means it will present a plan for adult social care this year and implement it within this parliament, having previously pledged to seek cross-party consensus on the issue.

In a BBC interview, his first this year, Mr Johnson said a sustainable solution to the social care funding crisis was “potentially a massive change” and involves “quite a lot of moral and social issues”.

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Sector accused of ‘overreacting’ to PWLB rates rise as alternatives line up

Local government overreacted to the Treasury decision to increase the cost of borrowing from the Public Works Loans Board, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy’s associate director has said.

Andrew Burns said the November move to increase the cost of borrowing by one percentage point was unsurprising given the widespread expectation that the government was close to having used up all its borrowing ‘headroom’.

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Government lifts four-year freeze on Local Housing Allowance

Around 900,000 people in the UK private rented sector will benefit from an average of £10 extra a month but charities have said the rise is still not enough.

Minister for welfare delivery Will Quince said: “This government is levelling up opportunity across the UK and this will be a welcome increase for around 900,000 people as we provide more money to help pay for housing.

“We are committed to tackling all forms of homelessness – ending the freeze on housing benefits is just one part of achieving this.”

LHA rates, which are calculated for every local area based on local rates, have been frozen since 2016 and research has found that rising rent prices have priced people out of the private rented sector.

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Commercial income could be excluded from council funding calculations

The government is minded to exclude councils’ commercial income from calculations on how much funding they receive from central government, according to a senior official working on the Fair Funding Review.

Stuart Hoggan, deputy director for local government finance at the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), said that the department is cranking up technical work on the review following the general election.

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Lisa Nandy: 'Councils must have the power to run bus services for people, not profits'

In the House of Commons 18 months ago Jeremy Corbyn challenged Theresa May about the shocking state of Britain’s buses. He was mocked by Tory MPs and commentators but back at my home in Wigan people cheered him on.

It showed a political system that is staggeringly out of touch with the things that matter. Nearly 60% of all public transport journeys are made by bus. In many parts of the country buses are the only public transport there is.

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Millions left unspent on NHS as councils fail to cash in on money from housing developers

The NHS is missing out on tens of millions of pounds from housing developers because councils are failing to ask for the funds, it has emerged.

And even when councils do collect the funds, the NHS often fails to spend it – £34m is currently unused.

Property developers are required to stump up this cash to obtain planning permission. The funds are intended to be spent on developing and creating buildings to alleviate pressure on the health service after an influx of residents.

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Climate emergency: Boris Johnson faces calls to step up action as poll shows public support for accelerated cuts in carbon emissions

Boris Johnson was today facing calls to step up action on global warming, after a poll for The Independent found overwhelming support for radical change to end the UK’s net carbon emissions by the end of the decade.

Some 70 per cent of those questioned by pollsters BMG said they supported the target of net-zero emissions by 2030, with only 7 per cent opposing it.

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Rural motorists more likely to drive on pothole ridden roads as figures show cities spend three times more on repairs

Rural motorists have been condemned to drive on pothole ridden roads after figures showed that cities spend three times more on repairs.

A combination of lower funding for shire counties and regional investment that has been disproportionately skewed towards urban areas has left motorists outside of major cities “poor relations”.

According to the County Councils Network (CCN) in the current financial year 36 shire counties had £20,885 per mile to spend on road repairs, pothole filling and the construction of new junctions and networks.

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Sugar tax is WORKING: Britons' consumption of sugar has dropped by a teaspoon a day since tax on sweetened drinks was launched

Britons’ consumption of sugar in drinks has dropped by more than a teaspoon per person each day due to the ‘sugar tax’, a major study has found.

Since 2015 the sugar in soft drinks sold in the UK has dropped by 30 per cent – equivalent to a daily reduction of 4.6g per person.

That is the equivalent of cutting out more than one teaspoon of sugar each day. The Oxford University researchers behind the study credited the soft drinks levy for the reduction.

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Boris Johnson urged to tackle climate emergency as poll shows huge support for carbon emission cuts

Boris Johnson was today facing calls to step up action on global warming, after a poll for The Independent found overwhelming support for radical change to end the UK’s net carbon emissions by the end of the decade.

Some 70 per cent of those questioned by pollsters BMG said they supported the target of net-zero emissions by 2030, with only 7 per cent opposing it.

And support for swift action over the next 10 years was high across all age ranges, social groups and parts of the country, countering perceptions of a generational or urban/rural split on the climate emergency.

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Unitary leadership ordered to seek support over children’s failure

The leadership of Medway Council has been ordered to accept significant external support in order to drive improvement in its failing children’s social care services.

A Department for Education direction published today has extended the appointment of children’s commissioner Eleanor Brazil, who was sent to Medway last year.

This was after an Ofsted report in July found “many vulnerable children who have experienced long-term neglect, and those at risk of exploitation and who go missing from home or care, live in situations of actual harm or are at risk of harm for too long”.

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Roundtable: Making NHS-council collaboration work

The increasing push for local government and health to integrate makes it more important than ever to understand why successful initiatives have worked.

The NHS and local authorities frequently work together to improve the lives of the people in their area – but successful initiatives are often limited in scope and do not get scaled up to cover a wider population.

However, there now seems to be momentum towards spreading such schemes – partly driven by the wider view of sustainability and transformation partnerships which bring together health and local government bodies in an attempt to provide more integrated care.

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South west launches growth alliance to rival Northern Powerhouse

Councils in the south west have joined forces with local enterprise partnerships, businesses and universities to call for formal central government recognition of an economic “growth alliance” across the region.

The 26 organisations have today launched a prospectus aiming to deliver economic benefits worth £45bn and 190,000 new jobs over the next 15 years.

The Great South West partnership said it is seeking to work with central government to rebalance the economy by sitting alongside established arrangements in the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and Western Gateway economic areas.

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UK GDP: Pound slips on unexpectedly weak growth figures

Sterling has slipped following news that the economy shrank unexpectedly in November, extending earlier losses against the dollar.

The UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 0.3 per cent during the month as the manufacturing and production sectors declined more than expected. The figure was expected to be flat.

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Crimes next to primary schools go up sharply

The number of drug offences committed within a few paces of English and Welsh primary schools has jumped by nearly a quarter in a year, triggering calls for a police crackdown.

Analysis by The Sunday Times of street-by-street crime data found 1,656 drug offences in the year to November 2019 that were within about 30ft of primary school grounds.

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Families sending relatives with dementia to Thailand for care

British families are sending elderly relatives with dementia overseas to Thailand in a small but growing trend.

Researchers visiting private care homes in Chiang Mai have found eight homes where guests from the UK are living thousands of miles away from their families, because suitable care in their home country was impossible to find or afford.

“Thailand already has a long history of medical tourism and it’s now setting itself up as an international hub for dementia care,” said Dr Caleb Johnston, a senior lecturer in human geography at Newcastle University.

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Councils under huge pressure as number of children in care soars

The number of children in care has gone up by 28% in the past decade with council leaders warning of unsustainable pressure being placed on support services for young people.

Official figures show there are now 78,150 children in care in England, up from 75,370 in 2018 and almost 20,000 more than in 2009 when 60,900 children were looked after.

The Local Government Association (LGA) warned the huge increase in demand, combined with funding shortages, is putting immense pressure on the ability of councils to support vulnerable young people who need help.

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Housing-benefit errors 'making families homeless'

The Local Government Ombudsman found some local authorities in England were miscalculating housing benefit payments and then curtailing rights of appeal.

It upheld eight out of 10 of the hundreds of complaints it investigated about the benefit in 2018-19.

Town hall bosses said the report raised some important issues. It also said the funding councils received to administrate housing benefit fell short of its true cost.

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A&E staff 'despair' as NHS delays are at their worst ever level

A&E staff feel “despair, anguish, anger and frustration” that they have too little time to provide proper care because they are so busy with the sheer number of patients seeking help, doctors and nurses leaders say.

Intense workloads are leaving emergency department personnel exhausted, stressed and worried that they have missed clues about a patient’s condition because their units are so overwhelmed.

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Ministry creates new hub to oversee Towns Fund

A new ‘Towns Hub’ is being set up by government to help steer 101 towns in working up their Towns Fund proposals.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government will have designated contacts in each of the towns lined up to receive a slice of the £3.6bn Towns Fund.

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County’s unitary call ignites reorganisation row

Somerset CC has called for the creation of a single unitary council after an independent report found it would deliver savings of up to £47m a year – but faces opposition from the area’s four districts.

A report commissioned by Somerset and the four districts within its boundary published yesterday said there is an acceptance among councils that the current model of service delivery is not sustainable, with a collective forecast funding gap of £41m in 2021-22.

An option to abolish Somerset’s districts and create a single unitary council, which would not include Bath & North East Somerset Council and North Somerset Council, would cost an estimated £82m to implement and create potential savings of £35-£47m a year, the report said.

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Quarter of minimum wage workers underpaid, says study

A quarter of people aged 25 and over who should be receiving the minimum wage are being underpaid, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank.

The group's research shows the number of firms not complying with minimum wage payments has increased since the National Living Wage started in 2016.

Before then, about one in five workers aged 25 and over was underpaid but this figure is now more than one in four.

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Ofsted seeks judgement-free approach to 'stuck schools'

Ofsted is urging a new judgement-free approach for schools which have been stuck for many years on poor ratings.

It said the 410 "stuck" schools in isolated areas of England needed extra support, not to be inundated with unsuccessful improvement schemes.

Chief inspector of schools Amanda Spielman said a new non-judgemental approach was needed, offering the schools tailored support.

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MPs reject Labour's call to reinstate child refugee pledge

MPs voted 348 to 252 against the amendment, which would have guaranteed the right of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with family living in the UK after Brexit.

The pledge was included in a previous version of the Brexit bill, but was removed after the Tories' election win. The government said it had "a proud record of helping vulnerable children."

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Council buys £10m out-of-area commercial property

The council said it must continue to look for “new opportunities which could generate income” as it deals with a “complex financial climate” and has bought a 38,880 square foot office block in Welwyn Garden City.

SSDC said it has endured a 70% reduction in government grant funding since 2010 and that it must deliver savings of up to £6m each year by 2022.

John Clark, SSDC portfolio holder for commercial strategy, said: “This is an important investment for the council, with a high quality building and tenants in an area where we can expect to see rental growth.

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Scottish fury at ‘unprecedented’ Budget delay

Scottish councils may need to set their council tax rates before their spending plans are agreed as a result of the “problematic” delay to the UK Budget, according to the public spending watchdog for local government.

The decision of chancellor Sajid Javid to postpone the announcement of his Budget until 11 March has sparked an outcry among Scottish councils, which are required to set council tax rates by that date.

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LGA calls for seat at table in children's care review

The Local Government Association (LGA) is pressing for close involvement in the Government’s pledged children’s social care review. Its call follows publication of figures showing the number of children in care is at its highest level in the past decade, at 78,150 compared to 60,900 in 2009.

Councils have reported a 53% increase in children on child protection plans – an additional 18,160 children – in the past decade and a 139% increase in serious cases where a child may suffer significant harm, an additional 117,070 cases up to 201,170.

Chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, Cllr Judith Blake, said: ‘These figures show the sheer scale of the unprecedented demand pressures on children’s services and the care system this decade. ‘This is unsustainable.'

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'Infrastructure revolution' in March Budget

Chancellor Sajid Javid has set 11 March as the date for his first Budget - the first since the general election.

Mr Javid says billions of pounds will be invested "across the country".

The Treasury will "prioritise the environment", he said and reiterated a plan to make use of low borrowing rates to spend on public services.

John McDonnell, Labour's shadow chancellor, said he doubted whether the government would deliver on its investment or climate goals.

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UK budget date is 'disrespectful to devolution', says Derek Mackay

UK government plans for a March budget are "disrespectful to devolution" and could have "profound consequences" for Scotland, Derek Mackay has warned.

Chancellor Sajid Javid has announced he will set out his tax and spending plans on 11 March.

Scottish ministers want to see these plans before drawing up their own, but will now have little time to do so.

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Number of children admitted to A&E with mental health problems jumps 330 per cent over past decade

‘People are being made to wait longer for help and more children are reaching crisis point’ – Andy Bell, Centre for Mental Health think tank.

Reduced community services and rising mental health issues among Britain’s youth have fuelled a 330 per cent surge in crisis admissions at hospital emergency departments.

A crackdown on the use of police cells for youngsters needing a specialist mental health hospital bed has also meant hospital A&E departments are increasingly the default option, The Independent has been told.

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HS2 spending ‘out of control’, says former review official

Lord Tony Berkeley said the project, to build a high-speed rail link between London and northern cities, is likely to cost £108bn by the time it is completed, compared to a 2015 projection of £55bn.

Berkeley was part of the independent HS2 review led by Douglas Oakervee but demanded his name be removed from the report after a leaked draft version recommended the project should be built in full despite disputes over total cost.

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Troubled families will be helped to get their lives back on track with a new funding boost

Mentors assigned to the whole family will benefit from £165million of new funding, the Government has announced.

The scheme has already led to the number of children going into care - two years after receiving support - dropping by a third and adults and juveniles on the scheme ending up in prison has also fallen.

Nearly 300,000 families have benefited from the Troubled Families scheme - with more than 25,000 families seeing one or more adults moving off benefits into work.

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Nearly 3.5 million UK working age people have never had a job, report says

The proportion of people of working age who have never been in a job has increased by 50% over the past two decades, a new study suggests.

According to think tank Resolution Foundation, 8.2% of people aged 16-64 in the UK today (3.4 million in total) have never had a paid job. This is a 50% increase since 1998 when 5.4% had never worked.

Its report said the employment rate of 16 to 17-year-olds has virtually halved over the past two decades - from 48.1% in 1997-99 to 25.4% in 2017-19.

Two-thirds of the fall is driven by a declining employment rate among 16 to 17-year-olds at school or college, it was indicated.

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More pupils to get access to free school breakfasts and meals in the holidays in fight against child hunger

The Government has said thousands more disadvantaged school pupils will be offered free morning meals after it extended two programmes aimed at addressing child hunger.

Around 1,800 school breakfast clubs are currently operating in poorer areas of England via the National School Breakfast Programme.

Charities Family Action and Magic Breakfast - the latter of which was supported by i in its 2017 Christmas appeal - have been given a one year extension, funded by £11.8m, to run the programme until March 2021.

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Rogue landlords who house tenants in freezing homes to be targeted by government crackdown

Rogue landlords who house their tenants in freezing homes will be targeted as part of a government crackdown.

The government has announced funding for more than 100 councils across England as part of a pledge to give renters a “better deal”.

The money is designed to tackle poor standards in the private rented sector, including using technology to identify homes with inadequate heating and forcing landlords to take action.

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Voters tell Boris Johnson they prefer public services to tax cuts

Most voters want more cash for public services before tax cuts, insisting Boris Johnson should make good on his promise to end austerity.

Polling for The Times by YouGov found that 57 per cent believed it was more important to increase spending on services such as the NHS and schools than to cut their taxes, against only 16 per cent who felt the opposite.

Among those who voted Conservative last month, 54 per cent wanted increased spending, with 22 per cent preferring tax cuts, after Mr Johnson overturned the traditional party order by winning the support of working-class voters in the north and Midlands.

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Almost one in 10 children miss lessons without the school's permission to go on holiday, figures show

Almost one in 10 children miss lessons without the school's permission to go on holiday, figures show.

Across two terms in the last academic year, more than 630,000 youngsters were taken out for an unauthorised family trip, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

With the Christmas holidays coming to an end, many families will be turning their thoughts towards potential summer breaks.

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Arts Council boss vows more funding for those at early stages of career

Sir Nicholas Serota

More artists, writers and composers at an early stage of their careers should get public money from Arts Council England, the body’s chairman, Sir Nicholas Serota, has said.

The east of England could also benefit from extra investment in the coming years and libraries are set to get more help to play a larger role in their communities.

ACE will next month publish its 10-year strategy for the arts outlining its strategic visions and goals. It replaces its previous strategy, Great Art and Culture for Everyone, which covered the years 2010-20.

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Charity calls for more adopters

Society must “never forget” about children who are waiting to be adopted, a charity chief has warned.

Carol Homden, chief executive of children’s charity Coram, said she is concerned that the plight of youngsters waiting to find a new family has fallen off the political agenda amid the “turbulence and uncertainty” of the last year.

She urged potential adopters to come forward, saying that adopting a child is one of the greatest, but most rewarding challenges a parent can face.

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Poor white boys are underdogs of the education system

Poor white boys show no sign of catching up with their peers and have become the underdogs of the school system.

The difference in attainment between richer pupils and their disadvantaged classmates has closed slightly since 2011, a cause for much celebration in government. However, when results are broken down by ethnicity, it appears that the improved results among poorer pupils are largely down to the achievement of non-white children. This is exacerbated when gender is taken into the equation.

White boys from poorer homes are the least likely of any category, other than Roma or gypsy, to go to university.

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Foster agencies add pressure on UK to take child refugees

Pressure is building on the Home Office to fulfil its promise to give sanctuary to child refugees as it emerged that foster agencies across the UK have offered dozens of places that remain unused.

Estimates suggest there are hundreds of places available for vulnerable unaccompanied minors in addition to the 1,400 offers from local councils that the Home Office is accused of ignoring.

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Call to end ‘scandal’ of child in care costing four times annual fee for Eton

Looking after a teenager in care can cost the taxpayer up to £200,000 a year — more than four times the sum that parents pay annually to send a child to Eton.

According to estimates from the office of the children’s commissioner for England, there are about 15 children in each local authority in England whose care costs the state about £4,000 a week. On average, councils spend similar sums helping these 15 children as they do offering early family intervention, which helps an average of 4,000 children.

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York wants private cars banned in three years

York is preparing to become the first city in the UK to ban private cars under the toughest measures yet seen to combat congestion and pollution.

The council has approved a proposal to end all “non-essential” vehicle journeys into the medieval city centre within three years.

The ban will apply to the area within York’s city walls, with only buses and disabled drivers exempt. It could extend a similar ban to roads immediately outside primary schools during the pick-up and drop-off period.

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Rise in families seeking help for youngsters with special needs

Rising numbers of families are requesting help for children with special needs, but thousands are being denied assistance, an investigation has found.

Figures obtained by the PA news agency show that the number of initial requests for a child to be assessed for an education, health and care plan (EHCP) has risen by more than 10% in just a year.

And while councils are agreeing to the majority of these assessments, there has been an increase in the number of refusals.

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Treasury to rip up public spending rules in cash boost for north and Midlands

The Treasury is planning to rip up decades-old public spending rules in an effort to boost economic wellbeing in the north and the Midlands.

Under proposals being drawn up before the spring budget, ministers will reassess how officials calculate the value for money of government investments in transport infrastructure, business development and initiatives such as free ports.

Investment decisions would be less focused on overall national economic growth and, for the first time, Whitehall resources would be allocated on the basis of improving the wellbeing of people in the north, or narrowing the productivity gap with the south.

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Boris Johnson warned to act Immediately to end social care crisis

Charities and health providers last night demanded immediate action to solve the deepening social care crisis. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to produce a “long-term plan” that provides everyone with dignity and security in old age and removes the need for anyone to sell their home to fund care costs.

But in the wake of the Conservatives’ stunning General Election triumph millions of older people, their families and care providers are waiting for words to be turned into action. The Independent Care Group, NHS Confederation and the Alzheimer’s Society are among those calling for Mr Johnson to follow up his election promise. Fed up with decades-long delays to reform a broken system, The Independent Care Group launched its social care manifesto calling on politicians to commit to investing more from taxation or National Insurance.

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Hedge funds bet against recovery on high street

Hedge funds have placed bets worth £1.6 billion against British retailers as the industry braces for further pressure on the high street.

Retailers including Wm Morrison, the B&Q owner Kingfisher and Marks & Spencer have been targeted by short-sellers as they bet that share prices in the sector will fall.

Morrisons, the supermarket chain, is Britain’s most heavily shorted retailer with 6.12 per cent of its shares, worth almost £300 million, on loan, according to data from the Financial Conduct Authority. Hedge funds including Blackrock, Citadel, Hengistbury, Pelham and Darsana Capital Partners have bet against the company.

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Boxing Day sales 2019: Climate crisis fears will 'drive Britons away from shops'

Shoppers are expected to spend £200m less in the Boxing Day sales than they did last year as the climate crisis weighs heavily on Britons’ minds.

Around four in 10 UK adults will treat themselves in the sales, spending an average of £186 each and £3.7bn collectively, according to research. Yet nearly two thirds (62 per cent) intend to make fewer purchases than in previous years, with environmental concerns outweighing the desire to secure a post-Christmas bargain for many shoppers. For women, this figure rises to 68 per cent.

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Revealed: councils paid inadequate care homes £2.3m to house children

Councils are placing children in care homes that inspectors say do not provide a good standard of care at a cost of millions of pounds, an investigation has found.

The Guardian asked councils across England for information on the number of children being sent to homes run by 78 providers, all of whose properties were listed by Ofsted as being inadequate or in need of improvement to be good at the end of March.

Fifty-eight children were placed in such homes by at least 23 local authorities in the following three-month period, handing more than £2.3m to failing providers, according to freedom of information responses and analysis of councils’ published expenditure.

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Leisure centres close as spending on council-run sports facilities plunges

Spending on council-run sports facilities has fallen by two thirds in a decade, forcing hundreds of leisure centres to close despite government pledges to get Britain active.

Analysis by The Times of council accounts reveals that local authorities spent £244 million on leisure centres, swimming pools, running tracks and other sports sites last year, down from £565 million in 2009 as they have struggled to cope with central government funding cuts.

If the budget had increased in line with inflation, councils would have spent £746 million this year, meaning that the real-terms decrease is more than £550 million or 67 per cent.

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Revealed: thousands of children in care placed in unregulated homes

Thousands of children in care are increasingly being placed in homes that are illegal or unregulated, in what critics have labelled a national scandal, a Guardian investigation has found.

A lack of places to house vulnerable children in the UK is prompting a surge in placements that are less safe. These include those that are unregulated or not registered with Ofsted.

MPs, the police, charities and the children’s commissioner warn that children accommodated in these homes are at risk of exploitation from sexual predators and drug gangs.

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Ministers accused of ‘abject failure’ as fewer people get on their bikes

The government has been accused of an “abject failure” to promote cycling after official figures showed a drop in the number of adults taking to their bikes.

Statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) showed that 16.1 per cent of people had cycled at least once a month in England over a year, the second annual decline in a row.

A league table of cycling across the country shows that participation rates were far lower in some parts of England than elsewhere. In the east London borough of Havering and in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, only 5.9 per cent of adults rode bicycles at least once a month in the year 2017-18.

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Thousands of children in care over 100 miles away from family

Thousands of children in care are living more than 100 miles from their family and friends in places they have never heard of and would not be able to find on a map, according to a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England.

More than 30,000 children who are looked after by their local authority are placed away from home and “out of area”, a 13% increase over five years. More than 11,000 of those live more than 20 miles from their home area and 2,000 are placed more than 100 miles away.

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Amount of flood-prone land used for new houses in England doubles in a year, figures reveal

The amount of land being used to build new homes in England’s most flood-prone areas has more than doubled in a year, figures reveal.

Countryside activists have said the increase signalled future flooding misery for homeowners and headaches for insurance companies.

And they blamed successive governments for forcing councils to accept development without flood risk surveys and without obligatory water-management measures.

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Boris Johnson announces extra money to tackle homelessness

The government has set up a £63m grant scheme to help homeless households in England into accommodation.

The prime minister has also restated his commitment to end rough sleeping by 2024 and an extra £3m to aid rough sleepers during the cold winter months.

But Labour's John Healey said it was "too little, too late for the thousands of people sleeping on our streets this Christmas".

He said rough sleeping had doubled since the Tories have been in power.

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Chaotic diaries of headteachers' weeks expose shocking truth of crippling budget cuts

Teachers are acting as social ­workers, family support workers, mental health practitioners, speech and language therapists, and even the police because of crippling cuts.

Two headteachers shared a snapshot of a working week, giving an insight into how staff are being forced to pick up the pieces left by funding cuts of 8% per pupil since 2010 and chronic staffing shortages.

It paints a picture of staff under extreme pressure to provide an education and support to children in a system that, as one explains, is “fracturing and breaking”.

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Devon town councillor calls for babysitting allowance

A town councillor has called for rules to be changed to allow parents to claim for the cost of babysitting or childcare while they attend meetings.

Ashburton Town Council in Devon is supporting Saskia Hogbin's plea.

As a town councillor, she cannot apply for a carers allowance payable for the care of children under 14 that is offered by Devon County Council.

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State Opening: Queen to outline PM's Brexit and NHS agenda

The Queen is to set out the Conservative government's agenda for the year ahead following last week's decisive election win.

Legislation to take the UK out of the EU on 31 January will be among more than 20 bills announced during Thursday's State Opening of Parliament.

Other measures include guarantees on extra health service funding and longer sentences for violent criminals.

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More than 28% of England's secondary schools now in the red, study finds

More than one in four local authority maintained secondary schools in England are in the red, with an average deficit of more than half a million pounds, while many more are “teetering on the edge”, according to new financial analysis.

Though there has been a slight improvement on last year’s figures with marginally fewer secondaries now in deficit, research by the independent Reform thinktank shows the financial health of many of England’s schools remains fragile. Headteachers have had to make staff redundancies, increase class sizes and even shorten the school week to save money.

The study focusses on schools under local authority control and therefore does not include academies and free schools, but the numbers are still significant and provide an insight into the struggle many headteachers face trying to make ends meet.

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Bank of England keeps interest rates on hold

The Bank of England has kept interest rates on hold at 0.75% but indicated it may cut the cost of borrowing if global economic growth fails to recover or Brexit uncertainties persist.

It said the UK economy was expected to pick up from its current weakness.

However, the Bank said it would monitor companies' and households' reactions to Brexit as well as global growth.

The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted 7-2 in favour of keeping the official rate on hold.

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Government promises to engage with sector in business rates review

Local government will be consulted on the forthcoming review of business rates, amid concerns that councils could lose vital income.

A briefing on the Queen’s speech said the government recognised the role of business rates as a source of council funds and would “consider input from the sector as part of the review”.

The government plans to increase the business rates discount for retail from one-third to 50%, extend the discount to cinemas and music venues and introducing an additional discount for pubs.

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David Williams: Give counties the power and money to level up ‘left behind’ places

n the aftermath of the general election, much has been made of how and why the Conservatives won many of their new seats.

Of course, a great deal of focus has been on the northern geographies of these constituencies and the role ‘levelling up’ these areas will now play in the policy narrative moving forward.

In the early hours of Friday, Boris Johnson said that those communities had ‘lent’ their vote to his party, indicating an awareness that his administration must follow through on promises to create opportunity for the areas that helped secure his victory.

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London Fire Brigade 'slow and wasteful', according to inspectors

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been "wasteful" and "slow to implement changes" needed after the Grenfell Tower fire, a watchdog has said.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found firefighters missed training and attended too many false alarms.

The LFB saw the report six weeks ago and commissioner Dany Cotton stood down earlier than had been planned.

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Brexit bill to rule out extension to transition period

The government is to add a new clause to the Brexit bill to rule out any extension to the transition period beyond the end of next year.

The post-Brexit transition period - due to conclude in December 2020 - can currently be extended by mutual agreement for up to two years.

But an amended Withdrawal Agreement Bill the Commons is set to vote on this week would rule out any extension. Critics say this raises the chance of leaving the EU without a trade deal.

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Bus travel hits record low amid 3.3% fares rise

Bus travel in Britain excluding London has sunk to the lowest point on record amid a 3.3% fares hike, official figures show.

Nine million fewer journeys were made in England, excluding the capital, Scotland and Wales in 2018/19 compared with the previous 12 months, according to Department for Transport (DfT) data.

The total of 2.60 billion journeys in the year ending March is the fewest since current records began in 2004/05.

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No home for 280,000 on Christmas Day in England, figures show

An estimated 280,000 homeless people will be rough sleeping, or living in temporary housing and hostels in England on Christmas Day – about one in every 200 of the total population, according to Shelter.

The housing charity’s figure, which is likely to understate the true level of homelessness because it does not count people who are sofa-surfing or living in sheds or tents, is 3,600 higher than in 2018, and up 23,000 since 2017.

London continues to be the centre of homelessness, accounting for 170,000 of the total England figure. One in every 52 people in the capital are homeless, with the borough of Newham, where one in 24 are homeless, being worst hit.

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Incoming London fire chief to prioritise rebuilding trust of Grenfell community

London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) incoming commissioner says “reaching out” and rebuilding the trust of the Grenfell community will be his first priority when he takes on the role next year.

Andy Roe, who will replace Dany Cotton as London Fire Commissioner on January 1, faced questions from London Assembly members following the publication of a “damning” report into the LFB.

The review said the brigade – the country’s largest fire service – had been “slow to implement changes” following the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017, which left 72 people dead.

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Jenrick’s re-appointment confirmed

Robert Jenrick’s re-appointment as housing and communities secretary has now been officially confirmed.

Mr Jenrick tweeted that it was “fantastic” to return to work with the team at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, alongside a picture of him, Jake Berry and Luke Hall.

Mr Jenrick’s re-appointment was confirmed by the ministry. However, the government is yet to confirm whether Mr Berry and Mr Hall will remain as Northern Powerhouse minister and local government minister respectively.

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Sector remains ‘lukewarm’ about ‘crude’ resilience index

Council treasurers and chief executives remain unenthusiastic about the revised local government financial resilience index and concerned the information in it will be taken out of context.

One finance director described the suite of measures used in the index, which was published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy on Monday, as “crude” while two senior officers told LGC it presented a more favourable picture of their council’s financial health than was the reality.

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Whitehall silence as Gwynne calls for provisional settlement

Shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne has called on ministers to publish the provisional finance settlement immediately amid silence on its timing from Whitehall.

The 2018 Hudson review into how the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) oversees local government finance recommended a date of 5 December for the provisional settlement and 31 January for the final one to give councils time to plan their budgets.

Last year the ministry missed the deadline due to Brexit and this year the General Election got in the way.

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Oxford City Council announces £19m climate change emergency budget

Oxford City Council’s Cabinet has responded to the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change, outlining its next steps and allocating £19m to become a Zero Carbon Council and city.

The Council has published a report in response to the Assembly committing to becoming a net zero Council in 2020.

The £19m investment announcement comes in addition to £84m of ongoing investment to tackle the climate emergency in the region. It comprises of £18m of capital investment and an extra £1m in additional operational funding.

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Former West Sussex leader and chief dispute blame as direction issued

The government has ordered West Sussex CC to establish a company to deliver children’s services, as it emerged the former chief executive and council leader have blamed each other for the council's failings.

A direction dated 7 November but published today and signed on behalf of education secretary Gavin Williamson, confirmed the re-appointment of Hampshire CC chief executive John Coughlan, as the children’s services commissioner.

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[opinion] Rob Whiteman: Tory spending pledges don’t reflect stress on public services

Local government could hold the key to rebuilding trust in our political system, but the chief executive of Cipfa is waiting to see if the new government will use its mandate to deliver meaningful devolution.

Last week’s general election results sent the country into a bit of a tailspin. While many pollsters were expecting a Conservative majority, the overwhelming scale of the victory was what put everyone onto their heels.

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Shropshire faces £51m funding gap over five years

Shropshire Council will have to make cuts across all services after a £14m funding gap opened up in the authority’s budget, chiefly due to “unaffordable and unsustainable” increases in social care costs.

The Conservative-run council’s cabinet approved its budget for 2020-21. Cheryl Sedgley, the council’s head of finance, told LGC that the gap was “predominantly” accounted for by higher than anticipated cost increases within adult and children’s social care.

Growth in these two areas alone had grown by £8.6m more than anticipated when Shropshire’s financial strategy for 2019-20 had been published in January.

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London Fire Brigade 'slow to learn' and needs improvement, says watchdog

Firefighters at the country's largest service are attending a disproportionately high number of false alarms, while some drivers have not received refresher training for 20 years, according to a "disappointing" report.

The latest investigation, by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), analysed performance across one third of the country's 45 fire services.

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Boris Johnson to announce new laws to ban train strikes, toughen prison sentences and stop landlords evicting their tenants this week

Boris Johnson will announce new laws to ban train strikes, toughen prison sentences and stop landlords evicting their tenants when he sets out his policy agenda this week.

The Prime Minister has drawn up an expanded Queen's Speech which will present more legislation than that announced in October. It will include a mix of policies designed to appeal to the right and laws which are meant to bolster Mr Johnson's One Nation credentials.

The Queen will deliver the speech on Thursday, just over two months since the last one. No 10 officials said it would repeat all of the previously announced legislation, with a raft of new measures promised in the Conservative manifesto.

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Abuse of politicians ‘undermining democracy’

Abuse of elected officials is “fundamentally undermining British democracy”, according to the leader of the umbrella body for Scottish councils.

Alison Evison, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), will highlight work to end the abuse at the Local Government Association conference in Westminster today.

She is expected to tell the event that she hopes tackling intimidation would mean that “women and other underrepresented groups feel safe to stand”. Ms Evison, a Scottish Labour councillor for North Kincardine, Aberdeenshire, recently wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons to condemn the use of pejorative and inflammatory language.

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What does business want from Boris Johnson?

Boris Johnson promised his government would "unleash" the potential of British business, once he has fulfilled his core campaign promise to "get Brexit done".

But for business leaders, many of whom lobbied against Brexit, the pledge means that they will soon have to adapt to a more distant relationship with the UK's largest trading partner. Analysis suggests that new trade deals further afield are unlikely to compensate for the economic impact of this shift.

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General election 2019: Hart gets Welsh post in government reshuffle

Boris Johnson is carrying out a limited reshuffle of his government after urging newly elected Tory MPs to "change our country for the better".

Simon Hart has been named as Welsh secretary, replacing Alun Cairns, who quit at the start of the election.

And Nicky Morgan stays as culture secretary, despite standing down as an MP. She is taking a peerage and will sit as a cabinet minister in the Lords.

Opposition parties said she had been "rewarded for political sycophancy".

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Zero-emission street to ban petrol and diesel vehicles

Petrol and diesel cars will be completely banned from a city centre road under plans for Britain’s first 24-hour zero-emission street.

Drivers of pure combustion engine cars will face £130 fines for entering the road in the City of London where levels of toxic air regularly exceed the legal limits.

Electric and hydrogen vehicles that do not release any tailpipe emissions will be permitted. Hybrid vehicles that run on both a combustion engine and battery power will also be allowed provided they are capable of being driven in zero-emission mode for at least 20 miles.

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Shaw to replace Elvery at West Sussex

Becky Shaw is set to take over as chief executive of West Sussex CC following Nathan Elvery's departure from the crisis-stricken council.

Ms Shaw will take on the new role alongside her existing duties as chief executive at East Sussex CC, which has been named as its western neighbour’s corporate improvement partner. The two councils are both expected to approve the plan this week, with Ms Shaw's joint role beginning in January.

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OBR deficit prediction ‘sobering warning’ for new government

Revised Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts show that Britain’s deficit is likely to be £20bn higher in each year to 2023-24 than was projected in March 2019.

Economists have said the figures will be a “sobering warning” for the new government and will mean tax rises are needed in order for it to meet its own fiscal rules.

The overall deficit, the OBR said, will be £33.3bn by 2023-24 – up from a previous estimate of £13.5bn in March 2019.

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CIPFA resilience index shows just 10% of councils are at financial risk

The ‘majority of councils’ are not showing signs of major financial stress, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has claimed.

But around 10% of authorities have ‘some signs of potential risk to their financial stability’, the accountancy body has claimed, after it revealed its latest data tool for assessing councils’ fiscal position.

While councils that have hit the headlines over their finances seem to be getting better, according to the tool, a pocket of risk has emerged around councils in Merseyside.

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Massive £33billion cash boost for NHS will be enshrined in law

In his triumphant Sedgefield speech, Mr Johnson expressed his glee at the prospect of having a Commons majority at the Tory party’s disposal for the first time in more than two years.

The Queen’s Speech on Thursday, setting out the Government’s agenda for the new Parliament, will give legislative force to the policy priorities which secured Mr Johnson’s landslide win – delivering Brexit and pumping billions of extra pounds into the NHS.

When the new batch of MPs assemble to listen to Her Majesty, they will hear her announce the plan to bring back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on Brexit before Christmas, and to pledge that the Government will enshrine in law the first multi-year funding settlement for the NHS leading to a £33.9 billion per year increase in the health service budget by 2024.

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How the parties’ manifestos compare on local government funding

The three main political parties’ pledges to local government during the general election campaign were wildly different in terms of the scale of funding on offer. Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, adapted below by LGC, shows just how stark a choice voters are being offered.

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Reserves grow at county a year on from s114 threat

Somerset CC has partly rebuilt its reserves a year after a corporate peer review by the Local Government Association found it had only had sufficient resources to balance its budget for one more year and a “a recurring pattern of using reserves to fund overspends”.

The review had warned Somerset that “much stronger budgetary control is needed within the overspending services”.

Somerset experienced a 72.9% fall in reserves to £24.3m in the five years to 2017-18 and leader David Fothergill (Con) in December 2018 told LGC the county was “on the right track” to recover its position. This was after chief accountant Lizzie Watkin warned of the possible imposition of a section 114 notice restricting spending.

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Analysis: English councils ramp up charges for services

Council charges for services such as garden waste removal, funeral services and public lavatories have increased above inflation over the last decade, according to The Times.

Analysis of English council accounts by the newspaper found environmental, regulatory and planning charges increased by almost 50% to £2.3bn from 2009 to 2017-18.

The revenue from these charges in the last financial year increase by more than two and a half times the rate of inflation, leaving every home in England paying an average of more than £100 a year in additional charges on top of council tax bills.

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Councils hit out at 'unfair' restrictions on flood repair funding

Councils are being burdened with the cost of supporting flood-hit homes and businesses due to a lack of flexibility in Government aid, it has been claimed.

Local authorities in Worcestershire are understood to have urged the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to look again at criteria, which they have branded as unfair.

Properties affected by the flooding that hit central and northern England last month can claim grants of up to £5,000 for repairs that will improve their flood resilience in the future.

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Official figures ‘hiding true scale of A&E waits’

Different methods of measuring hospital waiting times are hiding the scale of pressure on NHS emergency departments, according to the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

RCEM has found large discrepancies between their own analysis and official data from NHS England on the number of people waiting more than 12 hours before being admitted to A&E.

The analysis showed 38,000 patients have waited longer than 12 hours for a bed across the UK since the beginning of October 2019 but NHS England reports that only 13,025 patients have experienced waits over 12 hours in England since 2011-12.

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West Sussex’s financial position worsens by £15m in two months

Troubled West Sussex CC has moved in only two months from a projecting surplus for 2020-21 of £13.3m to a budget gap of £2.2m.

Councillors heard last week from Katharine Eberhart, director of finance and support services, that over the medium term financial strategy period to 2023-24 the total budget gap now stood at £36.4m.

Her report to the cabinet said that since October, “demand and other service changes amount to £12.4m net additional cost pressures”, the most significant of which were £4.5m for adults and health driven by demand and the national living wage, and a £3.5m increase in the volume of children’s placements.

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Council fined £500,000 after death of woman with dementia

A council has been fined half a million pounds and has apologised following the death at one of their care homes of a woman with dementia.

Audrey Allen, 80, died in hospital a month after falling over at The Grange, in Eckington, Derbyshire, in March 2016. Derbyshire County Council admitted at Chesterfield Magistrates' Court that they had failed to provide safe care.

The first local authority to be prosecuted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the council apologised ‘wholeheartedly for the failings that caused her death.’

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Tim Elwell-Sutton: No party manifesto goes far enough on public health

There are signs that all is not well with the nation’s health. New data shows that a girl born in 2019 is expected to live four and half years less than was projected in 2013. In a world where we are used to constant improvements in health, that’s a remarkable change and one that will not be fixed by ever-greater investment in healthcare.

The three main parties have set out contrasting visions for the country and for improving health. It is encouraging to see that they all have ambitions to improve health as well as healthcare. They all acknowledge that local authorities have a role in this.

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Talk of the towns: the battle to support ‘left-behind’ areas

The challenges faced by some of England’s long-neglected towns are finally getting attention but will the £3.6bn towns fund be enough?

Voters in some of England’s most deprived towns are set to play a decisive role in the general election. The country’s so-called left-behind areas, for the most part long-time Labour strongholds, have increasingly become marginal territory in recent years and under our first-past-the-post system the number of these seats that change hands on 12 December will be crucial in determining whether any party can command a majority.

The Conservatives under Boris Johnson have been particularly alive to the significance of these towns. In the first two months of his premiership, Mr Johnson’s government announced the prospect of more than £3bn of funding for 169 places through the future high streets fund and the towns fund, many of which were in marginal constituencies.

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Labour promises to spend £10bn on free personal care

Labour has costed its pledge of free personal care for older people and working age adults at £10bn by 2023-24.

The package, originally announced at the party’s conference in September, would fund Labour’s National Care Service. Labour said this would help older people live independently while ensuring care workers were paid a real living wage of £10 an hour from 2020.

Since April 2017 9,290 people have approached their local authority to help with social care costs after running out of money to fund it themselves, the party revealed in analysis released alongside the costings yesterday.

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Revealed: one in five school buildings in England require urgent repairs

Nearly one in five school buildings in England require urgent repairs, a Guardian investigation has found, leading to warnings that they are “crumbling around teachers and pupils”.

Almost 4,000 schools across the country have been judged by surveyors to be in need of immediate restoration work, and many more were found not to have the paperwork required by law, including electrical test certificates, fire risk assessments or asbestos management plans.

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General election 2019: Labour pledges more help for smaller firms

Labour is promising to base a network of small business advisers in Post Office branches if it wins next Thursday's general election.

The party says the advisers would form part of a wider agency to help firms access advice and bid for government contracts. The party says it would also help small firms by replacing business rates with a tax based on land value, but the Conservatives said Labour would bring higher taxes and uncertainty.

The Tories have pledged to reduce business rates for smaller firms, and give them a bigger discount on National Insurance payments.

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Blue badge fraud up 18%, say official figures

Prosecutions for misuse of blue badges increased by nearly 18% in the last financial year in England, new figures have shown.

There were 1,432 prosecutions between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, according to a Department for Transport report.

But slightly more than a third (34%) of local authorities do not have a policy for prosecuting those who misuse badges, the release noted.

This is lower than in the previous year. But of the councils still without a policy only 65% are planning on implementing one in the future.

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Social care crisis wastes £½m of NHS money a day

Elderly patients have spent two and a half million nights needlessly stuck in hospital since the last election because of the social care crisis, analysis shows.

Delays because of a lack of help at home or care home beds have wasted half a billion pounds of NHS money since 2017, according to Age UK.

All patients wait longer to be treated because ministers have left hospitals to pick up the pieces of a crumbling elderly care system, the charity said.

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One in eight care homes has closed – despite record numbers of older Brits

One in eight care homes has closed in the past decade – despite record numbers of older Brits.

A damning report reveals the scale of the crisis facing the sector, with 1,612 homes shutting their doors since 2009.

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Does Boris Johnson's pledge to fix social care system stack up? [opinion]

Standing in Downing Street in July on his first day as prime minister, Boris Johnson said: "We will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve."

If Mr Johnson did have a plan back then he is not sharing it now.

The question of how governments fund and resource the care of rapidly ageing populations is arguably the most pressing public policy issue facing developed nations.

By 2066 the number of over-65s in Britain will have doubled to more than 20 million people, or one in four of the population.

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Could 'slow shopping' revive the high street?

Our lives are dominated by fast food and do-it-yesterday demands.

But experts reckon the key to reviving the British high street could be the promotion of 'slow shopping' – allowing the elderly to take their time and having store staff to chat to them instead of rushing them through the till.

The idea was championed at the Future of Ageing conference held by the International Longevity Centre (ILC) in London.

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Poor children lose out on exercise, research suggests

When it comes to getting enough exercise, wealthier children are beating their poorer classmates, research from Sport England suggests. Only about two in five children (42%) from low-income homes do the recommended 60 minutes' exercise a day.

But this rises to 54% for children from better-off homes, a survey of more than 130,000 five- to 16-year-olds suggests. "Significant inequalities remain in the areas of family affluence, gender and race," Sport England says.

Children from more affluent homes also enjoy exercise more, the online survey of 132,835 children and 4,480 parents indicates, with 43% of those from poor homes saying they enjoyed being active, compared with 59% of those from wealthy families.

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£845k in charity grants supporting disabled people in London

One London charity has been awarded £248,000 in funding to develop accessibility in jobs and services for disabled people. City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable arm, presented the money to Business Disability Forum in Southwark.

It comes as part of a collection of charity grants worth £845,000 supporting disabled people living and working in the capital. A free, online self-assessment tool will be made available by Business Disability Forum to all SMEs in London to help them become more accessible and inclusive for disabled employees and customers.

The funding will also go towards the recruiting and supporting of disabled employees through free advice and guidance for businesses. Disability employment rates have risen by 5% over the last decade, but the rate in London is still only 51.4%, compared to 89.9& for non-disabled people.

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Council tax on empty properties set to be raised by Bolton Council

Bolton Council have taken steps to cut down on the number of empty properties in their constituency, by raising the council tax paid on such properties by up to three times. The move comes after a consultation was launched, which was approved by the council on Monday.

Bolton currently has 1,375 empty properties which have remained unoccupied for six months or more, with the local authority keen to significantly raise the council tax costs for those which have stood unoccupied for two years or more.

Of the 1,375 vacant properties, 425 have been empty for two years or more and 215 unoccupied for more than five years.

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Tories announce £4.2bn public transport fund for combined authorities

A Conservative government would make £4.2bn available to combined authorities for investment in public transport if the party has a majority following the general election, it has announced.

A press notice from the Conservatives said the funding would then be topped up from a proposed £100bn for infrastructure investment, the details of which will be laid out in the next Budget.

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Children’s services ‘close to collapse’, says charity chief executive

Kathy Evans, chief executive of Children England, told an Institute for Government event yesterday evening that the current system of care provision is not working for children and the sector should move away from competitive markets.

Speaking at the IfG Election 2019: How to improve public services event Evans noted 75% of children’s homes are owned and run by the private sector, with a significant portion owned by hedge funds.

“The idea of a competitive market place in children’s care is not working for children. Markets do not care about children – people do,” she added.

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Rise in outstanding business rates challenges ‘creating bottleneck’

The number of outstanding business rates challenges jumped by 35% over a three-month period - from 9,260 in at the end of June 2019 to 12,580 by the end of September 2019, official figures have shown.

Since non domestic property rates were revaluated in England in April 2017 there have been 118,390 ‘checks’ registered by businesses – the first step in the appeal process, according to data from the Valuation Office Agency.

Data from the agency – which is part of HMRC – showed that 109,610 ‘checks’ have been resolved at the first stage resulting in a tax rebate.

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Seven charts on the £73,000 cost of educating a child

The amount spent on schools is a major topic in this year's election campaign. So, where does all the money for educating the country's children go?

Spending on schools in England is much higher than it was 20 years ago. But that's not the full picture in a country which has seen a population boom coincide with a decade-long squeeze on public spending.

This means that in today's prices, spending per pupil in England is lower than it was in 2010.

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Tory plans would further squeeze councils’ budgets, says IFS

The Conservatives’ funding plans for local government will lead to “further retrenchment” in council services, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The difference in local government funding proposals from each of the main parties was “stark”, the think-tank said in a briefing note out today.

It warned that all three main parties have unfunded commitments on adult social care spending “suggesting this will be an important and potentially problematic issue whoever forms the next government”.

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General election 2019: Tory and Labour spending plans 'not credible' - IFS

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour are offering "credible" spending plans ahead of the general election. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said it was "highly likely" the Tories would end up spending more than their manifesto pledges.

Labour, it warned, would be unable to deliver its spending increases as it has promised. Neither party was being "honest" with voters, IFS director Paul Johnson said. The Liberal Democrats' manifesto, he said, would involve lower levels of borrowing than under Labour or the Conservatives, but would still be seen as "radical" in "most periods".

However, he added that, given the uncertainty around Brexit, it was difficult to determine what the exact effects of the three parties' offers would be.

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Parts of England 'have higher mortality rates than Turkey'

Regional divides in the UK are among the worst in the developed world, according to a report, which found that parts of England have higher mortality rates than places in Turkey, Romania and Poland.

Research by the thinktank IPPR North found that the UK is more unequal than comparable countries on measures such as health, jobs, disposable income and productivity.

It said mortality rates – the number of people who die relative to the size and age of the population – were worse in Blackpool, Manchester and Hull than in the Turkish cities of Tunceli, Mardin and Mu?la, the Romanian region of Vâlcea, and the cities of Krakow and Wroc?aw in Poland.

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Paul Swinney: What are Labour and the Conservatives offering cities? [opinion]

When it comes to devolution, the Tory plans need more elaboration while Labour is taking a more centralist tone, says Centre for Cities’ director of policy and research.

Much has already been said of the spending and nationalisation plans in manifestos of Labour and the Conservatives. But what have they got to say about issues affecting cities?

The detail is light on the future of devolution. The Conservative manifesto talks about shifting power downwards, mentioning towns and cities 28 times, compared 10 mentions in Labour’s. However, the details of what form they want devolution to take still needs elaboration.

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UK inequality 'among worst of developed countries'

Regional divides in the UK are among the worst in the developed world, according to a report, which found that parts of England have higher mortality rates than places in Turkey, Romania and Poland.

Research by the thinktank IPPR North found that the UK is more unequal than comparable countries on measures such as health, jobs, disposable income and productivity.

It said mortality rates – the number of people who die relative to the size and age of the population – were worse in Blackpool, Manchester and Hull than in the Turkish cities of Tunceli, Mardin and Mu?la, the Romanian region of Vâlcea, and the cities of Krakow and Wroc?aw in Poland.

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Boris Johnson under fire over 'vague' social care funding plans

Nicky Morgan has defended Boris Johnson over his decision to shelve plans to overhaul social care funding in the Conservatives’ manifesto launch.

The Tories have pledged to allocate an extra £1bn a year for the social care sector as part of a cautious manifesto, while guaranteeing that no one should have to sell their home to meet the costs.

But it falls short of Johnson’s rallying cry on the steps of Downing Street when he took office, claiming “we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all … with a clear plan we have prepared”.

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Nearly half of British motorists fear the UK's pothole-riven roads are getting worse, with rural areas the hardest hit

Half of Britain's 41million drivers think the nation's crumbling roads are getting worse.

Forty-nine per cent of motorists said the condition of their local roads – those other than motorways and A-roads – had deteriorated in the last year, according to the RAC.

The majority blamed potholes and other surface issues. Just 11 per cent said conditions had improved, and 40 per cent said there was no real change.

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Nearly half of British motorists fear the UK's pothole-riven roads are getting worse, with rural areas the hardest hit

Half of Britain's 41million drivers think the nation's crumbling roads are getting worse.

Forty-nine per cent of motorists said the condition of their local roads – those other than motorways and A-roads – had deteriorated in the last year, according to the RAC.

The majority blamed potholes and other surface issues. Just 11 per cent said conditions had improved, and 40 per cent said there was no real change.

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Economists warn of deficit rise as borrowing hits 5-year high

UK borrowing has risen to a five-year high as political leaders have laid out large spending plans, official figures have shown.

The Office for National Statistics has said that borrowing in October 2019 was £11.2bn - £2.3bn more than in October 2018.

Borrowing in the current financial year has reached £46.3bn, £4.3bn more than in the same period last year and already exceeds the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast of £40.6bn for the whole of 2019-20.

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LGA to draw up funding alternatives amid fears for ‘antiquated’ business rates

The Local Government Association is beginning work to devise possible alternative ways of funding local government to business rates amid fears for the long term future of the tax and concern about its role in the decline of the high street.

The decision to explore alternative sources of funding for local government was made at a meeting of the LGA’s executive committee on 31 October and follows growing discontent with the current system amongst businesses.

The LGA will explore a range of options for overall future funding of councils, rather than a single replacement for business rates, LGC has been told.

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Promises for councils in ‘£135bn’ Labour manifesto

Local government spending power would be returned to 2010 levels under a Labour government, the party’s manifesto has said.

The manifesto also outlines plans to return local services to in-house provision and review the case for a commercial land value tax to replace business rates.

A costing document published alongside the manifesto says the plans, which include a commitment to build 150,000 social homes a year and introduce a National Care Service, will cost £82.9bn a year.

The spending pledges will be balanced by income from a variety of sources, such as increased corporation tax and more expensive income taxes for those on over £80,000 and £125,000.

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Charity demands action on social care

A charity has blasted the government for the time it has “wasted” on drawing up a social care paper that still has not materialised.

Age UK called on the next government to spend £8bn over the next two years to prevent further decline in the adult social care sector.

The charity pointed out since the 2017 election 74,000 over-65s in England have died while waiting for the care they asked for, equating to a rate of 81 deaths per day, in analysis released yesterday.

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Councils’ income from business rates rises 5%

Local authority revenue from business rates has risen for a fifth consecutive year amid political leaders’ pledges to overhaul the system.

Income from the levy for English councils rose by 5% in 2018-19 compared to the year before, according to the latest data released today by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Total revenue from the levy increased from £23.8bn in 2017-18 to £25bn in 2018-19 for all 326 billing authorities in England.

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'Half of women will be carers by the age of 46'

Research by Sheffield and Birmingham universities shows half of women will care by the age of 46, compared with half of men, for whom the age is 57. The research suggests two-thirds of UK adults can expect to become an unpaid carer during their lifetimes.

The charity Carers UK says carers need five-to-10 days of paid care leave.

For the charity's report - Will I Care? - the academics analysed data from individuals who had participated in both the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society social and economic study for more than 15 years between 1991 and 2018.

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Older people dying for want of social care at rate of three an hour

At least 74,000 older people in England have died, or will die, waiting for care between the 2017 and 2019 general elections. A total of 81 older people are dying every day, equating to about three an hour, research by Age UK has found.

In the 18 months between the last election and the forthcoming one, 1,725,000 unanswered calls for help for care and support will have been made by older people. This, said the charity, was the equivalent of 2,000 futile appeals a day, or 78 an hour.

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Clean air for all: Hedges can halve pollution in playgrounds

Planting a hedge around a park can halve the amount of traffic pollution that reaches children as they play, a study has found.

The researchers found that after it had gained its leaves in spring, the two metre-tall barrier was effective at reducing some of the most damaging forms of particulate air pollution.

It reduced the concentration levels of two classes of ultra-fine particles, known as PM1 and PM2.5, by 52 per cent and 44 per cent, respectively.

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Council service spending grows by 1.9%

English local authorities’ total service expenditure reached £91.4bn in 2018-19, a 1.9% increase on the previous year and its highest level since 2014-15.

The figures were included in the Local Authority Revenue Expenditure and Financing: 2018-19 Provisional Outturn, England has shown.

Revenue expenditure, which both includes and excludes certain payments and grants additional to service spending, was up by 1.2% at £94.2bn, the highest level since 2015-16.

Services spending was also up if education is excluded, which the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said gave a fairer comparison since many schools have moved out of local authority control into the academy sector.

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Social care must be solved by next government, coalition of charities and councils tell Telegraph

The social care crisis must be solved by the next government, a coalition of charities and councils have warned, as they urge politicians to finally 'grasp the nettle'.

Since 2010, almost £8billion has been cut from council adult social care budgets during a time of growing demand.

Writing in The Telegraph today care experts have issued a warning to politicians that “social care must be at the top of the domestic policy agenda”.

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Guidance recommends sale of risky investment properties

Councils should consider disposing of investment properties if they are unable to set aside enough reserves to cover potential losses, according to new guidance.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) this week released long-awaited guidance on investment in property, prompted by concerns over the levels of risk being taken by local authorities in recent years.

The guidance – which is not mandatory – suggests a detailed model for how authorities could calculate whether their property investments are proportional to the size of their revenue budgets.

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Fielding suggests return to revenue support grant

The president of the Society of County Treasurers, Gary Fielding, has suggested local government should continue to be funded by a revenue support grant.

Writing for The MJ, Mr Fielding questioned the move towards retaining 100% of business rates within the sector, arguing there was no correlation between the ability to promote growth in an area and demand for adult social care, children’s services and special educational needs and disability.

He suggested either a return to revenue support grant or for councils to be funded through general taxation.

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Housebuilding data shows dearth of homes for affordable renting

England’s shortage of affordable rented housing shows no sign of ending, as official figures revealed on Wednesday that only 37,825 new homes were built to be let at discounted rents last year, despite a national housing waiting list of more than 1.1 million households.

The number of new homes classed as social housing and available at the cheapest rents from councils remained historically low at a mere 6,287, the second-lowest level in peacetime since council house building began in earnest in 1921.

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Councils’ income from business rates rises 5%

Local authority revenue from business rates has risen for a fifth consecutive year amid political leaders’ pledges to overhaul the system.

Income from the levy for English councils rose by 5% in 2018-19 compared to the year before, according to the latest data released today by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Total revenue from the levy increased from £23.8bn in 2017-18 to £25bn in 2018-19 for all 326 billing authorities in England.

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PF and CIPFA to monitor election spending promises

PF in association with CIPFA has created a ‘promisometer’ to which spending pledges by the three main parties will be added ahead of the election on 12 December.

A bar graph will compare the amounts of money pledged to public services by the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems.

CIPFA’s chief executive, Rob Whiteman, said: “The Public Finance promisometer provides a fantastic snapshot of this election cycle’s spending pledges and offers a visual representation of what each party’s plan looks like against the other.

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Data reveals the 20 UK cities with declining high streets

This research reveals the top 20 cities with the best high street in terms of retail growth and less store and ATM closures compared to the top 20 cities with the biggest declining high street.

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Gary Fielding: Is there a better way for business rates?

How keen should councils be to bind themselves to a business rates tax that appears to be in demise both financially and reputationally, asks Gary Fielding

With the election pending it now looks like we will face the prospect of a further pause in some areas of local government policy. This presents challenges, but may also provide some opportunities

I would suggest business rates retention is one such area. When the idea of retaining business rates within local government was first floated, it was attractive to many as it was seen – alongside council tax and fees and charges – as a way of insulating local councils from decisions in Whitehall to cut council funding even further.

In other words, we thought this could promote self-dependence. It is now clear though that business rates is a deeply unpopular tax and Whitehall has not been shy to intervene on business rates matters despite a policy of promoting local retention (e.g. small business relief) so I suspect that any self-dependence will be illusory.

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One visit to care home shows why we can't go on like this

A nurse rushes up the corridor putting on surgical gloves as she goes. Another runs in the opposite direction slinging on a plastic apron.

A panel on the wall is full of flashing red lights, each representing a room in which someone wants help. And as well as the lights, an alarm bell rings constantly and never seems to shut off.

Medicines are being prepared by another nurse at a table in the corridor; tablets of all shapes and sizes all carefully stacked and ready to be dispensed.

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Why more people are talking about the issue of social care

The care system helps older and disabled people with day-to-day tasks like washing, dressing, eating and medication.

It is under pressure across the UK after past governments failed to reform or fund the council-run system properly.

Experts believe the problems are now so acute that politicians who ignore the issue at this election, do so at their peril.

The system is devolved across the four nations, meaning parties need to develop solutions unique to their region.

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Killer potholes: More than 250 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured in crashes caused by potholes in the past five years

Department for Transport figures show ten died and 262 were badly maimed.

The findings, released under Freedom of Information rules, come a year after cyclist Carolyn Dumbleton, 52, was killed.

She suffered a cardiac arrest after being flung into the road when her bike hit a pothole in Cromford, Derbyshire.

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General election 2019: PM puts corporation cuts on hold to help fund NHS

Planned cuts to corporation tax next April are to be put on hold, Boris Johnson has told business leaders, with the money being spent on the NHS.

The rate paid by firms on their profits was due to fall from 19% to 17%.

But the PM told the CBI conference the move could cost the Treasury £6bn and the cash would be better spent on the "nation's priority".

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Business rates: 'We might as well hand back the keys'

James O'Hara has spent £120,000 converting a disused public toilet in Sheffield into a popular cocktail bar.

But after a more than seven-fold increase in business rates, he says he "might as well hand back the keys".

It's stories like Mr O'Hara's that elevated the subject of business rates to take centre stage at the CBI conference on Monday.

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Children’s services budgets blown as spend continues to rise

Funding for children’s social care is failing to keep up with demand, with even the best performers struggling

Blackpool Council recently issued a stark warning that an increase in the levels of looked-after children, already stubbornly the highest in the country as a proportion of the child population, placed the local authority at “financial crossroads”.

Blackpool’s predicament, compounded by a high level of cheap housing that attracts families in challenging circumstances, is unique. But there is a growing sense among a significant number of councils that, despite some extra funding being made available for this year and next, the funding crisis is now threatening to go beyond critical.

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Surge in number of council tax fraud cases

The number of council tax fraud cases uncovered by local authorities increased by a fifth over the past year, new research has found.

Figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) showed that council tax accounted for more than three-quarters of all fraud in local government.

CIPFA’s fraud and corruption tracker revealed that councils identified or prevented 71,000 cases of council tax fraud in 2018/19, compared to 57,894 cases in 2017/18.

Valued at £30.6m, the total included 44,051 cases of single person discount fraud and 8,973 cases of council tax reduction fraud.

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Councils spend more than £1.1bn on temporary housing for homeless people in space of a year

Councils in England have spent more than a billion pounds on temporary accommodation for homeless people in the past year – up 78 per cent in the last five years, new figures show.

Campaigners warned the housing crisis was forcing local authorities to spend vast sums of money on “unsuitable” emergency accommodation after government data revealed £1.1bn was spent on B&Bs, hostels and other temporary shelter in the 12 months to March 2019.

Nearly a third (30 per cent) of this was spent on emergency B&Bs – up 111 per cent in five years – despite the fact that this form of accommodation is considered some of the worst for families with children to live in.

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One in 50 'children in need' are not yet born

Almost one in 50 of those officially classified as "children in need" in England have not yet been born.

More than 7,000 of such vulnerable children have been put into this category before their birth, an analysis of government figures shows.

The number of "unborn" recorded in the total of vulnerable children has almost trebled in the last eight years.

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Public sector leaders call for more joined-up working

The public sector needs to work together to improve the future performance and sustainability of its services, leaders told the official launch of major analysis on government spend.

Speakers at the event debating CIPFA and the Institute of Government’s annual Performance Tracker 2019 – released on Monday - last night outlined serious concerns about the future funding and efficiency of public services.

Sue Murphy, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, and Andrew Hardy, CIPFA vice president and chief executive of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, also told the audience services could be delivered more efficiently if they were planned and funded in a less disjointed way.

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Hundreds of people with autism wrongly being detained in mental health units

Hundreds of people with a learning disability and/or autism (LDA) are being held in mental health units even though they have been identified as no longer needing inpatient care.

According to analysis by Sky News of published NHS data, 635 of the 2,250 with an LDA currently detained in one of these units could be moved to community-based care.

The figures for September 2019 show 130 of the 635 have had their discharge from hospital delayed. This is the highest number since March 2015.

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Inflation falls to three-year low as energy prices fall

UK inflation rose at its lowest pace in almost three years last month as the energy cap kept a lid on the price of electricity, gas and other fuels, according to official statistics.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said consumer prices rose 1.5% in October, against 1.7% in September.

Energy regulator Ofgem lowered price caps last month.

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Councils get just 27p from every £1 collected by bailiffs – and it’s pushing households into debt

Councils are being urged to stop using bailiffs to collect debts over fears this “outdated” regulation is pushing struggling families deeper into debt.

It comes as new research from money help charity Citizens Advice shows councils get just 27p from every £1 collected by bailiffs.

The charity says bailiffs cost 53p for every £1 they recover, of which most of these costs are paid by the indebted person.

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UK wage growth slows as unemployment falls

UK wage growth slowed down in the three months to September, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Unemployment dropped by 23,000 to 1.31 million over the same period, while the number of people in work also fell.

Average earnings excluding bonuses increased by 3.6%, compared with 3.8% growth in the previous month.

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Severe flooding becomes election campaign issue

Opposition parties have criticised Boris Johnson’s handling of flooding emergencies in South Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

This is despite the prime minister convening a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee for this afternoon, which had still not taken place by the time this story was published at 5.15pm.

More than 1,000 homes have been evacuated, about 500 flooded and the Environment Agency still has five ongoing severe warnings, five days after some areas had a month’s worth of rain in just 24 hours.

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Councils 'need billions more to fund adult care as population ages'

Councils will need billions of pounds in funding increases over the course of the next parliament to finance adult social care, an economic thinktank has found.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said a hike in costs was mainly the result of an ageing population, growing numbers of disabled adults and rising wages.

Local authorities depend primarily on council tax and business rates to fund their spending, and a growing gap is likely to emerge between revenue raised and the rising cost of service provision, the IFS reported.

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Cancellations of NHS child mental health sessions jump 25%

Growing numbers of troubled children are having appointments with NHS mental health services cancelled, the organisation’s data show.

Figures obtained by the mental health charity Mind reveal that CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) in England cancelled 175,094 appointments with vulnerable patients between August 2018 and July 2019.

That was 25% more than the 140,327 which were cancelled during the same period in 2017-18.

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Call for reform of pupil exclusions 'as schools unaware of legal duties'

The law reform group Justice has called for a radical overhaul of exclusions amid concerns that too many schools do not fully understand their legal duties and that the appeal process available to parents wishing to challenge an exclusion is inadequate.

According to Justice, there are “serious weaknesses” in a system that excludes, sometimes unlawfully, a disproportionate numbers of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) and those from a minority background.

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Slavery offences soar as county lines are targeted

Modern slavery offences nearly doubled last year as police increasingly accepted that county lines drug couriers were victims rather than criminals.

The Metropolitan Police recorded 1,284 crimes under the legislation, a rise of 82 per cent on 2017.

The figures mirrored the national picture. The National Crime Agency said in March that almost 7,000 potential victims of trafficking and modern slavery were reported to the authorities in 2018, a rise of 80 per cent over two years.

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Thousands of UK workers' pay to rise as living wage increases

More than 210,000 workers in Britain are to receive a pay rise after the charity behind the living wage increased the national minimum hourly rate by 30p to £9.30.

The Living Wage Foundation, which sets the voluntary measure, said London workers’ basic hourly rate will also rise, by 20p to £10.75, compared with the government’s “national living wage” of £8.21 for workers aged 25 years or older.

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UK GDP: Britain ducks recession but annual growth weakest since 2010

The UK has dodged a recession despite seeing the biggest year-on-year slowdown in nearly a decade.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the 0.3% growth for the third quarter signalled the economy "slowing".

That's because the 0.3% figure puts annual GDP at 1% - down from the 1.3% calculated at the end of the second quarter.

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Faith schools contribute millions of pounds less towards own costs, figures suggest

The funding that faith schools contribute towards opening and maintaining their own buildings has fallen sharply over the past decade, The Independent can reveal.

Voluntary aided (VA) faith schools, which can admit all their pupils on religious grounds, now provide millions of pounds less to their own capital costs, figures obtained via a freedom of information (FoI) request suggest.

In the last financial year, faith schools contributed £18m towards capital spending projects from central government, compared to more than £67m in the 2009-10 financial year, the government data shows.

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Government activates Bellwin scheme to support local communities hit by flooding

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has activated the government’s emergency Bellwin scheme to reimburse eligible local authorities for the qualifying immediate costs they incur as part of their response to the flooding in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Under the scheme, local authorities dealing with the flooding can apply to have 100% of the eligible costs they incur, above a threshold, reimbursed by the government. This could be for items including rest centres, temporary accommodation and staff overtime.

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GDP monthly estimate, UK: September 2019

Gross domestic product (GDP) measures the value of goods and services produced in the UK. It estimates the size of and growth in the economy.

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Commissioner details ‘disturbing narratives’ in West Sussex

West Sussex CC has an “idiosyncratic” approach to the leader and cabinet model and is “in denial” about the scale of the problems it faces, a draft of the final report of the government’s children’s services commissioner has warned.

The report, yet to be published by the Department for Education but seen by LGC, concluded there was a “striking lack of organisational corporate self-awareness and self-criticism” in the the council. It said this would have “contributed profoundly” to failures identified by Ofsted which prompted the government intervention.

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Care home operators accused of extracting 'disguised' profits

Care home operators are making up to £1.5bn a year in profits, which include fees to directors and an array of questionable financial arrangements, according to research undertaken by a thinktank.

Many of the firms that provide most of the UK’s 465,000 care home beds are owned or backed by hedge funds, while some of the biggest are based in overseas tax havens.

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Tories and Labour announce spending plans

Chancellor Sajid Javid and his shadow counterpart John McDonnell have outlined major fiscal promises to kickstart their parties’ election campaigns.

Javid scrapped the government’s previous set of fiscal rules and set out three new ones, which he said will allow the government to borrow £20bn a year more to invest in major infrastructure projects.

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Council finance settlement timing “up to new government”

The government has confirmed that the timing of the 2020/21 local government finance settlement will be a matter for the incoming government following December’s general election.

Last year, the government agreed to publish the provisional settlement earlier than usual – around 5 December, following criticism of the normal timetable in a review published by HM Treasury director general Andrew Hudson.

However, these plans have been thrown off track by Parliament’s decision last month to hold a general election on 12 December.

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Business rates retention rise ‘will make council income inequality worse’

The government’s business rates retention plans will exacerbate income inequality between councils in England in its first four years, analysis has shown.

Weak incentives for business rates growth and an insufficient safety net in the case of low revenues will undermine the policy, while authorities will face a funding gap of £27.8bn a year by 2024-25, according to the New Economics Foundation.

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Councils asked to avoid using schools as polling stations

Funding has been announced to help councils find alternative polling station venues for the December elections to avoid schools having to cancel their Christmas events.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has written to returning officers asking them to keep disruption to school activities “to an absolute minimum” in their search for venues to serve as polling stations.

It comes as school leaders warned the timing of the polling day – December 12 – could prove “particularly disruptive” for primary schools as it is likely to clash with traditional festive events.

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Ofcom selects Melanie Dawes as chief executive

Ofcom has chosen Melanie Dawes, one of the UK’s most senior civil servants, to be its new chief executive, the Guardian can reveal.

The 53-year-old, the most senior woman in the civil service, is currently permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which she took over from Bob Kerslake in 2015.

The UK media and telecoms regulator’s selection panel, led by the Ofcom chairman, Terry Burns, is ready to appoint Dawes, who is understood to be keen to take up one of the biggest regulatory jobs in Britain.

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Williamson derided over ‘don’t disrupt children’s Christmas’ poll demand

An intervention by the education secretary in the planning for the December general election in which he urged returning officers to "keep disruption to school activities" to a minimum at Christmas has been branded "unhelpful" and an "extreme disappointment".

With schools and other community venues inevitably being used as polling stations, Gavin Williamson tweeted: "Christmas is a special time for our children. There's no reason that nativity plays or carol concerts shouldn't be going ahead as planned this year." His words were accompanied by emojis of a Christmas tree and Father Christmas.

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None of pledged starter homes built, says watchdog

A government plan to create 200,000 new homes in England for first-time buyers has resulted in no homes being built, the National Audit Office has found.

Announced in 2014, "starter homes" were meant to be aimed at those under the age of 40 and sold at a 20% discount.

But legislation to take the project forward was never passed.

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Care review for thousands of patients with learning disabilities and autism

Thousands of mental health hospital patients with learning disabilities and autism will have their care reviewed over the next 12 months, the health secretary has announced.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said the case reviews for all 2,250 patients will see each person provided with a hospital discharge date or a plan to move them closer towards one.

It comes as a report by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights said on Friday that mental health legislation must be overhauled to stop the “horrific” and inappropriate detention of young people with autism or learning disabilities.

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Public health cuts have ‘hit poor hardest’

Public health cuts worth nearly £900m over the last five years in England have impacted communities that need the funding most, research has found.

More than £1 in every £7 that has been cut from public health services in England over the last five years has come from the ten most deprived communities, according to analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research, out today.

It also called for reform of the funding formula that is used to allocate money to local authorities and designing it to target funding to deprived communities. The government is currently reviewing the way local authorities in England are funded, through the Fair Funding Review.

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General Election 2019: Public spending 'to rocket' in next parliament

Government spending is likely to head back towards 1970s levels over the next parliament whichever party wins the general election, research suggests.

Think tank the Resolution Foundation said both Labour and the Conservatives were planning big increases in the size of the state.

However, the Resolution Foundation said that given current economic uncertainty facing the UK - and the growing cost of an aging population - both parties needed to explain how they intended to pay for their plans.

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Care children sexually abused or exploited while missing from homes

More than 60 young people were sexually abused or exploited after going missing from unregulated homes, the BBC has learned.

Information requests also indicate that missing episodes have doubled in the past three years in England and Wales.

The charity Missing People said the government must "urgently" address the lack of quality placements.

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Benefits freeze to end in 2020, government confirms

The freeze in benefit payments is to come to an end next year, the government has confirmed. Working-age benefits such as universal credit and jobseeker's allowance will rise by 1.7% from April 2020, the Department for Work and Pensions said.

Labour called it a "cynically-timed" announcement ahead of the general election on 12 December. BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley said the move will be seen by some as an election pitch to poorer Leave-backing areas.

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Home-to-school transport for special educational needs children under threat as costs rise and funds are cut

Home-to-school transport for children with special educational needs (SEN) in under threat as councils struggle to keep up with rising costs and lack of funding.

A report commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) and County Councils Network found councils in England are spending more on home-to-school transport than they spend on children’s centres, family support and youth services.

In 2017/18, councils spent £323m on SEN transport, up by 30 per cent compared to 2013/14. It’s predicted this could rise by a further £127m by 2024.

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Chancellor announces £250m ‘infrastructure revolution’

More than £250m in funding will be made available to provide infrastructure for thousands of homes, the chancellor has said, in a move condemned as a pre-election ‘publicity stunt’.

The funding, from the Housing Infrastructure Fund, will pay for roads, schools, public transport and utilities in seven places across the Midlands, the East of England and South East.

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Number of new rough sleepers in London increases by 50% in one year

The number of people recorded as sleeping rough in London for the first time has risen by 50% on the previous year, new Greater London Authority (GLA) figures have revealed.

Last week, mayor of London Sadiq Khan claimed that Londoners were being “driven onto the streets” by changes to the welfare system such as the Local Housing Allowance freeze.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s, said: “There is a rough sleeping crisis on our streets – not just in London, but across the country. This is a national scandal.

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Single tier fear reignited

County councils are being offered the option of unitary local government as part of a devolution deal, The MJ understands.

As the sector awaits central government’s plans for a White Paper, which was announced as part of the Queen’s Speech, proposals for devolution outside metropolitan areas are being touted around local government. It follows chancellor Sajid Javid’s speech at the Conservative Party conference, where he promised to ‘level up’ devolution for all areas.

The second option would include a move to unitary local government and is believed to include a similar proposal to level up powers, but details of the reorganisation plans are still under development.

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PWLB interest rate rise won’t have dramatic effect on council costs, says minister

The Public Works Loan Board interest rate hike will not have a “significant impact” on council house building, the communities secretary has told MPs.

Appearing in front of the housing, communities and local government committee yesterday, Robert Jenrick said he does not want to overstate the impact of the 1% rise, which increases borrowing costs for councils looking to fund capital projects.

Jenrick confirmed that the Treasury had completed its own analysis of the estimated cost of the rate increase. Although he could not give details at yesterday’s meeting, he told the committee: “I can write to you and advise you on the work the Treasury has done.”

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High streets in danger as planning applications from retailers plummet

High streets are in a state of “emergency” as retail planning applications to district councils in England have nearly halved since 2015, a network group has said.

The DCN found that there were 1,258 applications received by district councils for retail and service developments in the year ending June 2019, down from 2,216 since June 2015.

DCN claimed the figures – which show a drop in applications of 43% - represent an “emergency” for the future of English high streets.

The network – which represents 191 district councils – called for long-term funding from government to revive high streets and give them flexibility to raise finance locally for instance to set business rates relief.

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Councils pessimistic about impact of Brexit

Nearly three quarters of council leaders expect Brexit to damage their local economy, a poll has found. A survey by the New Local Government Network think-tank found that 71% of council chiefs are bracing for a hit to their local economies. This figure was 55% in March 2018.

Certain areas have been diverting resources more readily than others, with 92% of leaders from Yorkshire and the Humber claiming to have done so. But just 50% of leaders in the North East have taken resources from other public services.

Adam Lent, director of the New Local Government Network, said: “As the Brexit saga roles on, hope is being drained from the people in the driving seats of our local areas, with optimism hard-to-come-by even in Tory-led councils.

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City could become first in UK to completely ban diesel cars

Bristol could become the UK’s first city to introduce a ban on diesel vehicles to boost air quality and reduce congestion.

Under the proposals, diesel vehicles will be banned from entering a central Clean Air Zone between 7am and 3pm every day.

A second, wider area will affect commercial vehicles, including buses and taxis, which will not be barred but owners will be charged if they enter the zone with vehicles which do not meet Euro 6 emissions standards.

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Government careers advice scheme will fail to reach thousands of young people, councils warn

The government’s much-vaunted careers advice programme will fail to reach thousands of young people despite claims the most disadvantaged children in England will benefit, councils have warned.

Too many students are at risk of making poor career decisions that could have a “devastating” impact on their futures and worsen skills gaps, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

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Local government sector guide to tackling loneliness launched

Local authority leaders have joined forces to produce a guide on how to tackle loneliness for commissioners, service providers, councillors and others working in the sector.

Loneliness affects millions of people across the country and has far reaching implications, not just for the individual, but for families, the wider community and local services.

It can place additional pressure on services by increasing referrals to adult social care and visits to GP surgeries. The significance of this has been likened to issues such as obesity and smoking.

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MPs to vote on Boris Johnson's 12 December election call

The prime minister says he will restart moves to get his Brexit deal bill into law if the motion is passed.

But he looks unlikely to get the support of the two-thirds of MPs he needs by law to agree to an election, with opposition parties against it.

The UK is due to leave the EU on Thursday, but the bloc is considering an extension to that date.

They agreed to delay Brexit in principle last week, but EU ambassadors are meeting again this morning, with BBC Brussels reporter Adam Fleming saying there were "high hopes" of a final decision.

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£400m for school buildings is 'too little, too late', says union

The government has announced £400m investment to repair school and college buildings in England, but the money will only be available to academies that can demonstrate pay restraint on executive salaries.

Academies and sixth form colleges have been invited to bid for a share of the money which can be used to replace roofs, upgrade sports halls or science labs, and deal with general wear and tear in ageing school buildings.

Teaching unions condemned the money available as woefully inadequate. In 2017, the National Audit Office calculated that it would cost £6.7bn to return England’s schools to a satisfactory condition or better.

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Some parts of UK ageing twice as fast as others, new research finds

Parts of the UK are ageing twice as fast as other areas of the country, while in some cities the population is getting younger, a divergence that will have a lasting impact on local economies, local government and national politics, according to new research.

A study by the Resolution Foundation, an independent thinktank, found that the populations of Maldon in Essex, Copeland in Cumbria and Richmondshire in Yorkshire are ageing twice as fast as the rest of the UK, while Nottingham and Oxford are growing younger.

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‘Nearly a fifth of parents quit jobs because of childcare costs’

Almost one in five parents have had to leave their jobs because of the cost of childcare, a new study suggests. A similar number want to work but cannot afford to because of the cost of childcare, while two out of three parents have to work fewer hours, according to research.

A survey of 1,800 parents found that most said childcare costs caused financial anxiety in the home.

Campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed said its study showed that the cost of childcare is “exorbitant”, with women mainly bearing the brunt of the impact, adding to the gender pay gap and “motherhood penalty”.

The group said parents have two years of high costs even though there is tax-free childcare for those who are employed, and 30 hours’ free childcare from the age of three if criteria are met.

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Labour calls for release of forecasts for Javid’s scrapped budget

Labour has demanded Sajid Javid immediately publish economic forecasts prepared for the budget to ensure the government does not avoid public scrutiny before a potential election.

In a letter to the chancellor seen by the Guardian, John McDonnell called for the urgent release of forecasts compiled by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the independent Treasury watchdog.

He also demanded Javid set a new date for the budget, warning Britain’s standing in the world had been tarnished by the chancellor tearing up his plans for delivering tax and spending pledges on 6 November.

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Northamptonshire Council 'failed' grandmother by demanding £11k

A grandmother was "failed" by a council that ordered her to repay £11,500 after officials did not spot she had been overpaid for two years, a report found.

The woman, the sole carer of her three grandchildren, said she got the money in "good faith" and thought it related to her disabled grandchild's needs.

The Local Government Ombudsman found several failures in how the woman was treated by Northamptonshire County Council. The council accepted the findings.

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Opinion: Spending Review needs to address ‘plague of potholes’

In response to a transport committee report from earlier this year the Department for Transport agreed with a recommendation to create a five-year, front-loaded settlement to help councils fix and maintain road surfaces.

“The DfT continues to work closely with Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that the priorities for funding for local highways maintenance are well understood, and this includes the benefits of a longer-term funding settlement for local highways maintenance,” the response said.

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Pace of fracking slower than anticipated

England’s shale gas industry has not progressed as quickly as the government had hoped, the National Audit Office has found.

In 2016, the Cabinet Office expected up to 20 wells to have been fracked by mid-2020, but so far there have been only three.

The government has committed to developing the industry in England despite public concern over risks to the environment and to public health from fracking, whereby liquid is forced into rock at high pressure to force open fissures to extract the gas.

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Transport department bids for long term funds to fix Britain's potholes

A long-term funding settlement for councils to tackle potholes has been backed by the Transport Department in a submission to the Treasury.

MPs had warned the Department that the failure to guarantee ring-fenced funding to tackle the £9 billion backlog in road maintenance meant councils had diverted money to other “core” services rather than repairing potholes.

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Robots capable of caring for the elderly are being developed in £34m government project amid staffing crisis in social care

As Britain’s broken care system faces a staffing crisis, the Government is investing £34million in a project to develop robots to look after the elderly.

A programme to develop machines ‘capable of providing support for Britons and making caring responsibilities easier’ was launched by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy yesterday.

But charities for the elderly say there are huge challenges to overcome before machines can replace carers, and warned there is ‘no substitute for the human touch when it comes to personal care’.

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Ten new towns to bolster regions after Brexit

Ten new towns have been promised by ministers hoping to kick-start post-Brexit regeneration.

Developments billed as “Canary Wharfs of the North” and “Milton Keynes of the Midlands” will be backed by ministers to bolster growth outside the southeast of England.

The head of Canary Wharf will oversee a competition for local areas to bid for funding to develop plans for large-scale development.

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Overhaul exclusions to beat knife crime, say MPs

Too many excluded pupils get only a couple of hours teaching each day, says the report. There is evidence this leaves them at risk of being drawn into knife crime, it adds. Ministers warned that "simple causal links between exclusions and knife crime cannot not be drawn".

However, research by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime found only a third of councils were able to confirm they had space for newly excluded pupils in their pupil referral units (PRUs).

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Brexit: EU considers extension as MPs mull election

The talks come after Chancellor Sajid Javid admitted the deadline to deliver Brexit next Thursday "can't be met". Most EU states are understood to favour delaying it by three months, but France has argued for a shorter extension.

The PM has said he will give MPs more time to debate his Brexit deal if they back a 12 December poll. The government is planning to give the House of Commons a vote on an early general election on Monday, if the EU offers a Brexit delay until 31 January.

Mr Javid told BBC Breakfast the government had to "accept we won't be able to leave on 31 October". He added that ministers "had done everything possible" to leave the EU by the end of the month, but "everyone expects an extension".

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Error found in UK public finances, official statistics body admits

The UK budget deficit is £1-£1.5bn less than what had been previously reported after a statistical error, the Office for National Statistics has said (ONS).

Britain's official statistics agency reported earlier this week a year-to-date budget deficit of £40.3bn, excluding public-sector banks.

The ONS now says there was "an error in the measurement of local government social benefits".

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UK’s health capital funding ‘lags behind that of other developed countries’

The government’s NHS capital funding plans will not be enough to bring spending in line with other OECD countries, a health charity has found.

The value of capital spend per health worker in the UK has fallen by 35% between 2000 – 2017 while it has increased in comparable counties over the same period, according to analysis by the Health Foundation.

The government recently announced a £2.8bn NHS Infrastructure Plan to address “years of underinvestment” but the Health Foundation said this would not be enough to align the UK with other OECD countries.

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Javid writes to new treasury committee chair to announce Budget cancelled

Chancellor Sajid Javid wrote to the incoming chair of the treasury committee to say the Budget planned for 6 November is now cancelled.

In a letter to Mel Stride, who was named as the new chair of the treasury committee yesterday, Javid explained that the Budget was being delayed because the government is now calling for an election.

“Parliament has voted for a delay to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, so the government is now calling for a general election,” the chancellor wrote.

“I can therefore confirm that I have decided not to bring forward the Budget on 6 November.”

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Failure of £350m Four Seasons deal proof social care is not ‘properly’ funded

The failure to sell the struggling social care provider, Four Seasons, is further proof that the Government is not funding social care properly, union says.

Britain’s second-largest care home provider was due to sell 185 freehold properties to H/2 Capital, the US hedge fund that is its principal creditor. However, the £350m deal fell through because ‘certain conditions’ were not met on both sides.

The public sector union, UNISON, pointed to the failed sale as evidence that the Government is not investing in social care. ‘The Government is failing to fund social care properly,’ said UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea.

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First council built care home in decades opens in Liverpool

Liverpool's first new council-commissioned care home in more than 25 years is set to open today. The £8 million Brushwood care home in Speke is the first built by the local authority since the early 1990s.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said the city had invested heavily in social care but that meeting future capacity is a "significant challenge" for the city.

The mayor said: “This is against a backdrop of rising demand, significant cuts to our budget from central Government of £436 million between 2010 and 2020 and increasing pressure on wider healthcare services .

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School funding boost 'too little too late', say hundreds of protesting parents

Parents at hundreds of schools across the country are set to take part in a demonstration condemning the government’s education cash boost as being “too little too late”.

Families of children at nearly 350 schools in England are staging a day of action to demand an urgent increase in funding to reverse the negative effects that years of cuts have had on schools.

It comes after Boris Johnson pledged in August to increase school spending by £7.1bn by 2022-23 after years of campaigning by headteachers, teachers and parents for more funding.

But a recent analysis from unions found that thousands of schools are expected to still face real-terms funding cuts under the plans as they say an inflationary increase will not cover rising costs.

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Extinction Rebellion: Met Police’s London-wide ban on protests was unlawful, court hears

The Metropolitan Police’s London-wide ban on Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests was “an abuse of power”, High Court judges have heard.

Scotland Yard imposed a blanket ban across the capital last week, after XR’s ”autumn uprising” action shut down areas around Parliament and the Bank of England, and targeted London City Airport and government departments.

The ban made any assembly of more than two people linked to the action – which ended on Saturday – illegal.

Lawyers for the campaigners at a hearing on Thursday argued that the ban, made under the Public Order Act, was unlawful because the Met Police went beyond their powers by prohibiting “multiple assemblies, both ongoing and intended”.

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‘Flawed’ Safety Test Leaves Thousands At Risk Of Grenfell-Style Fire, Government Warned

Thousands of people are at risk of a Grenfell-style fire because of a “flawed” test that stated a type of cladding covering hundreds of tower blocks is safe, the government has been told. Fire safety experts have called for all HPL cladding to be “urgently” removed as they raised major concerns with a parliamentary committee over the laboratory tests of the material.

HPL - or high pressure laminate - is thought to be covering 440 tower blocks that house 26,000 people. The covering is different to the ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding used on the side of Grenfell Tower, where a devastating fire killed 72 people in 2017.

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'Unlawful practices and buck passing' over special needs

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

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

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

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High Street: How many UK shops have closed?

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

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

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

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Funding cuts take toll on support for visually impaired pupils

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

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

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

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Airbnb probed by UK tax authorities

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

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

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

"Some of these matters may result in litigation."

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UK government borrowing up by a fifth over past six months

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

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

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

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Business rates reform key, says Labour business chairman Rachel Reeves

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

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

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

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

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Powys council plans to open children's care home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boris Johnson Confirms Agreed Brexit Deal

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

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Chanceller urged to scrap inflationary business rate rise

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

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

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

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Pension tax relief to cost public purse nearly £40bn

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

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

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

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Free schools ‘not helping disadvantaged pupils’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Troubled fund shut down leaving Kent council waiting for repayments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chancellor Sajid Javid reveals date of next Budget

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

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

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

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County publishes business case for single unitary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NHS sets out to tackle homelessness crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Government accused of wrecking plans to build more social housing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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South east seeks rail fare freeze to help double economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CIPFA proposals to 'revolutionise financial reporting'

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

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

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

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

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Extinction Rebellion could disrupt Queen opening Parliament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NHS bosses warn of social care timebomb

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

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

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Brexit casts its shadow over budgets

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

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

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Living wage boost would benefit hundreds of thousands of council staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leaked Brexit planning memo offers no new guidance for departing EU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Consultation opens on local government finance settlement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘Councils should be reduced in size to make savings’

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

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

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

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Auditors get tough new rules after high?profile collapses

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

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

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Tories tot up cost of free social care

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

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

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

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Javid announces white paper as devo ‘regains its Bojo’

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

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

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

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

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Government takes the first steps in a bus revolution?

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

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

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Javid announces £4.3bn Brexit 'funding guarantee'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IFS: Johnson’s tax plans will cost economy billions

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

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

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

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Social care for smokers costing councils £720m a year

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

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

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

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England's most deprived areas named as Jaywick and Blackpool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boris Johnson reveals £5bn broadband bonanza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Minister confirms creation of Northamptonshire unitary authorities

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

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

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

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Council to 'terminate' care company

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

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

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

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Peterborough City Council to tackle homelessness with its own housing company

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

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

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

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Government announces over £10 million for 5 more coastal communities

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

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

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

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Where not to live if you want a good care home

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

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

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

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Johnson ignores LGA social care deadline

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

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

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

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Think-tank calls for more local taxes

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

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

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Minister handed Brexit cash demand in Portsmouth

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

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

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

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Liverpool ‘in crisis’ over £57.6m funding gap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Call for views on the financial reporting of local authorities

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

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

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

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Call for views on the financial reporting of local authorities

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

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

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

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Why audit needs auditing

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

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

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Research reveals councils' top Brexit risks

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

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

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

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‘Wasteful’ Treasury slammed for impact on services

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

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

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

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Councils spend £1bn on shopping centres

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

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

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Positive results found for axed project

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

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

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

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Legal action threatens council income

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

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

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

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Stinging criticism over ministry's double rates error

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

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

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

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‘Armchair auditors’ frustrated by attempts at accounts scrutiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chief executives demand 10% pay rise

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

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

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

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Council PWLB borrowing hits record level in August

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

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

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

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Somerset auditors recognise improved finances

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

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

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Number of households in temporary residence highest since 2007

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

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

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

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Spending Review saves council from depleting reserves

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

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

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

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Retailers call for action as high street store closures soar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Peterborough capital receipts episode prompts prudential framework review

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

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

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

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Tory conference: Government confirms £25bn for road upgrades

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

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

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

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Major Review into Support for Children with Special Educational Needs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Government pledges £62m flood funding for communities in England

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

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

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Spending review: Outlined

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

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

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

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

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

A £6.2bn increase in NHS funding

A 2.6% rise in funding for the Ministry of Defence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chancellor set to unveil government spending plans

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

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

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

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Burns to be Cipfa director

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

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

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

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Spending Round 2019: what you need to know

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

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

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

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Spending Review: What's it all about?

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

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

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

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Food banks increasing in schools for pupils' families

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

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

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

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Surge in defence spending catches chancellor Sajid Javid off guard

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

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

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

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Labour could give private tenants chance to buy their rented homes

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

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

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

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

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

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

A figure below 50 indicates the sector is contracting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Combined authority moots buses takeover

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

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

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

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

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[BBC] General Election expected should Opposition Brexit Bill succeed

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

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Sajid Javid pledges £400m further education funding

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

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

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

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Teacher starting salaries could rise to £30,000

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

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

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

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Umbrella groups make Spending Round plea for social care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Parliament suspension sparks furious backlash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Price collapse threatens paper recycling collections

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

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

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

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£4bn school funding boost set to be confirmed

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

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

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

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

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Javid pledges spending review cash for schools, NHS and police

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

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

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

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

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£3.5bn education package not enough, say school leaders

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

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

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5G: Rural areas could see bigger and taller masts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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£800m overspend on children's social care

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

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

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Stabilising Northamptonshire County Council

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

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

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England school places shortage 'made worse by academies'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Schools set for long-awaited cash injection

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

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

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

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Call to abandon coastal towns before sea claims them

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

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

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

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Universal credit 'forces tenants into rent arrears'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Council reserves rise to record levels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Government's budget surplus shrinks in July

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

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

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

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Disadvantaged teenagers more likely to score low GCSE grades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No-deal papers reveal council fears over food supply

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

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

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District had ‘no choice’ in leaving LEP

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

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

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

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Brexit blow as councils miss MHCLG deadline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CIPFA index 'must be forward-looking'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Special educational needs crisis deepens as councils bust their budgets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Northamptonshire trebles deficit projection

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

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

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

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Hike in council spend on external legal advice, research finds

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

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

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

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A love letter to my hometown high street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Care homes forced to drop nurse provision amid staffing crisis

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

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

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

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Leaders call for £39bn for Northern Powerhouse Rail project

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

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

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

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Homeless person dying every 19 hours in UK, figures show

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

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

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Stop cuts to adult social care, petition urges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Asda and Boots urge reform of 'broken' rates system

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

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

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

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High Streets hit as shop vacancy rate worst since 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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David Davies MP: General election will be called next month

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

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

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

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Real pay cut for millions since 2010, TUC study suggests

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

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

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

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Government activates emergency funds for flood-hit councils

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PSAA records dramatic rise in delayed audit opinions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Million more young adults still living with parents

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

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

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

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Northants finance director to leave after 12-month term

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dame Barbara Windsor calls on Boris Johnson to improve dementia care

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

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

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Thousands of sexual offences reported against children aged four to eight

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

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

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

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John McDonnell questions chancellor's suitability for office

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

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

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

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Jenrick announces £10m for council ‘Brexit leads’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brexit: How have UK councils prepared?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Councils ‘poor relations of Whitehall’ in no deal funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prime Minister opens first meeting of National Policing Board

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

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

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Disadvantaged pupils 'stuck 18 months behind'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Johnson pledges billions of pounds to ‘left behind towns’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Resolution Foundation says council tax unfairly burdens the poor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Value of PWLB loans to local authorities rises 75%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NI civil servants strike over pay and conditions

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

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

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

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Controversial Help to Buy scheme may be extended

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

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

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

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School funding top priority for Gavin Williamson

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

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

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

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

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Sajid Javid: What should we expect from new chancellor?

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

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

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

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

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

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Robert Jenrick takes over after Brokenshire sacked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Government offers 'inflation-busting' pay rises

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

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

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

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

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Schools face cutbacks to fund pay rise for teachers in England

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

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

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

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Schools face cutbacks to fund pay rise for teachers in England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SEND duties ‘increasing pressure on councils’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SEND duties ‘increasing pressure on councils’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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£2bn public sector pay rise to have limited impact

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

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

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

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Counties warn SEN costs ‘spiralling out of control’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unions united on pay claim as Unite back 10% rise

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

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

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

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CIPFA launches drive for ‘easier to understand’ public accounts

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

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

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

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

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CIPFA launches drive for ‘easier to understand’ public accounts

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

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

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

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Forget the spending review, we should be talking about taxation

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

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

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

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

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‘More clarity required’ despite pension ruling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Audit review raises prospect of new transparency rules for s151s

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

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

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

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Audit review raises prospect of new transparency rules for s151s

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

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

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

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CIPFA backs alternative tool for measuring councils’ financial resilience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Libraries told to focus on books as lending slumps

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

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

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

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Enterprise zones 'failed to deliver' jobs boost in England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Councils welcome government review of guidance for youth services

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

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

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

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Essex drops library closure plans following sustained public protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inner London boroughs back fair funding delay

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

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

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

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Katherine Fairclough: Sparsity tests your leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NHS waiting lists surge due to pensions row

Waiting lists for routine surgery have risen by up to 50% in England because senior doctors say they cannot afford to work extra shifts.

Consultants have begun refusing to work beyond their planned hours after receiving unexpected tax bills, following new pension rules in 2016.

NHS hospitals said delays are becoming increasingly routine as a result.

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Court date set for NHS business rates challenge

A court date has been set in the long running legal battle between councils and NHS trusts over whether they should be classified as charities and so receive an 80% discount on their business rates bills.

The High Court trial, which opens on 4 November, will hear the case brought by Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and 16 others against 45 councils.

Analysis of government data by the real estate adviser Altus Group shows that NHS Hospitals in England and Wales will pay £408.6m in business rates for 2019-20, a rise of £122.4m (42.8%) since the 2017 rates revaluation came into effect.

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A proper plan is needed for local government funding

Whoever replaces Theresa May as prime minister will need a very large in-tray on their desk at Number 10. Many of the papers they’ll have to read will relate to Brexit, of course.

Others will be about the tax and spending pledges they have made – which already amount to billions of pounds. Eventually though they’ll come across a paper setting out the issues and options for local government funding – or at least they should. After years of muddling along, a proper plan is needed for local government funding, and that plan should be subject to full and frank national debate.

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LEPs ‘lack transparency’ despite receiving £12bn of Government funding

The Government has ‘no real understanding’ of the impact which the Local Growth Fund has had on local economic growth despite investing £12bn of taxpayers’ money, MPs say.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) claims that every £1 of local growth funding paid to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) could generate £4.81 in benefits.

However, a new report from the Public Accounts Committee has criticised the MHCLG for a lack of transparency and accountability, and argued that the £4.81 claim is an ‘unsubstantiated estimate’.

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County Councils Network announces new chairman

The County Councils Network (CCN) has announced today that councillor David Williams has been elected leader of the Conservative group for the network, and will now be chairman elect for the organisation.

This follows a leadership contest between Cllr Williams, who is leader of Hertfordshire County Council, and Cllr Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council.

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Future High Streets fund shortlist revealed

Fifty-one local areas have been picked to go through to the next round of the Future High Streets fund.

The successful areas will now each receive up to £150,000 of funding to work up detailed project proposals to regenerate and transform their town centres. Some of them will eventually receive multi-million pound funding to complete their projects.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said it will work closely with them, focusing on places that have “shovel ready” projects where there might be opportunities to accelerate these.

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Matt Hancock: social care green paper held up by 'partisan politics'

Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health and social care, has blamed “narrow partisan politics” for the ongoing failure of the government to produce the long-awaited social care green paper.

The issue of how to provide social care for the growing number of older people in the UK has troubled successive governments.

Admitting that social care has “for many years not received the attention and support that it deserves”, Hancock blamed the delay in the government’s green paper – which has been delayed at least six times over the last 18 months – on “narrow partisan politics”.

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Northamptonshire CC delivers ‘remarkable’ multi-million underspend

Northamptonshire County Council has delivered a balanced budget for 2018-19 with a “remarkable” underspend of £4.5m, a £34.6m improvement compared to July 2018. Last year the cash-strapped council was twice forced to issue spending bans, the first issued in 20 years, as it faced a £64m deficit.

“Severe financial difficulties” had seen government commissioners appointed to oversee its finances, but the local authority said it actually underspent by £4.5m in the last year. The leader of Northamptonshire CC, Matt Golby called it a “remarkable achievement” and said the extra money would be put into its reserves, which now stands at £39.8m.

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Twelve children's homes closed down by Ofsted

Twelve children's homes in England were closed down by Ofsted last year due to concerns about the quality of care.

The children's social care inspectorate said it was the highest number of enforced closures since 2007.

A further 25 homes de-registered, after receiving warning notices about breaches of regulations.

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Spending on children number one worry, says Hillier

Financially squeezed social services and schools have become the top concerns for the chair of the government’s public spending watchdog.

Academy failures, schools dipping into reserves and councils overspending on social care have all contributed to public spending on children rising up the agenda for Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier.

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Funding of local authorities’ children’s services: government response to the Select Committee report

A response by the government to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on funding of local authorities’ children’s services.

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Government has to answer questions on council funding

Today I finish my term as chairman of the Local Government Association with a sense of sadness about leaving a role I have loved but also with a huge sense of pride.

I am proud about what the team has achieved for our member councils and the communities they serve: successfully convincing the government to — finally — scrap the housing borrowing cap. This will mean more families enjoy the security of a roof over their heads, extra funding for social care has seen councils drastically reduce the number of people stuck in hospital unnecessarily and the ban on the use of flammable cladding will keep more people safe in their homes.

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The Communities Secretary's speech at the LGA Conference 2019

Speech by Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP at the Local Government Association Annual Conference.

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Childcare might become 'available only in rich areas'

Childcare in England risks becoming the preserve of the wealthy, unless a £660m funding gap in a free childcare scheme is plugged, MPs are warning.

Severe financial strain has been placed on private and independent nurseries offering the government's flagship free 30-hours scheme, they report.

And those operating in poor areas are more likely to be threatened with closure, they say.

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Young people face ‘renting into retirement’, council chiefs warn

Young people today are half as likely to get on the housing ladder than they were 20 years ago, local government leaders have revealed.

A new report from the Local Government Association (LGA) has found that just 11% of people born in 1996 own their home today, compared with 21% of those born in 1976 who owned their own home by the time they were 22.

Titled ‘Understanding Local Housing Markets’, the LGA report says that the high cost of the private rental sector is preventing households from being able to save for a deposit and it warns that many young people face renting into retirement.

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Councils 'in the dark' over future funding amid cash warnings

Councils in England and Wales have warned they are "completely in the dark" about how much money they will get from central government next year.

The Local Government Association says councils need "urgent guarantees" they will get enough to provide key services like child protection and social care.

More than 90 of its members fear they will run out of money to meet their legal obligations within five years.

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The Guardian view on the social care impasse: hurting people and politics [opinion]

Someone is going to have to pay for the social care that older people need and English councils cannot afford to buy. Last week’s warning from social services directors that cuts could lead, within a few months, to people being denied help with tasks such as washing and dressing themselves, while policymakers drift in a “sea of inertia”, is only the latest cry for help from a sector whose neglect is shameful. Eight years ago this week the economist Andrew Dilnot delivered a set of proposals that was supposed to be the basis of a cross-party solution. The failure to fix a lacuna in the welfare state lies with all parties, but falls most heavily on the Tories, who have been in power and promised two years ago to publish a green paper on social care....

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Apprenticeships pledge 'will be missed'

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has confirmed the government's promise of three million apprenticeship starts in England by 2020 is going to be missed.

Pressed by Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee, Mr Hinds accepted that the manifesto target is "not going to be reached".

Mr Halfon warned of declining numbers in some levels of apprenticeships.

But Mr Hinds said the training in apprenticeships was now of "much higher quality".

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Councils save over £1bn by sharing services, council chiefs say

More than a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money has been saved by councils sharing services, the Local Government Association has calculated.

The LGA’s latest shared services map, published today, shows that there are now 626 individual shared service arrangements across the country resulting in £1.34bn of savings.

‘Councils have embraced efficiency and innovation in a way that is not seen anywhere else in the public sector and these fantastic new figures show they, once again, remain at the forefront of cost-effective service delivery,’ said LGA chairman Lord Porter.

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Variation victory as LGA lobbies Treasury

LGA efforts to lobby for extra cash have repeatedly been met with scepticism from the Treasury due to wildly different spending levels between councils. Latest figures show that spend per 0-25 year old adjusted for area costs varied from £274 to £1,057. The £782 difference has led the Treasury to reject calls for cash by claiming that big spending councils should be able to reduce their costs without affecting outcomes.

Last year detailed analysis by consultancy Newton for the LGA identified five major factors – largely outside the control of councils – that together explained just over half of the variation in spend. But now further LGA research has found that a collection of 17 factors can explain 71% of the variation in spend per 0-25-year-old between councils.

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Landmark High Court case told of ‘genuine crisis’ in special educational needs funding

A “genuine crisis” in funding for young people with special educational needs could “blight their lives forever”, the High Court has heard.

Lawyers representing three families who are bringing a landmark legal challenge against the Government said funding intended to support those with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) was “manifestly insufficient”.

10-year-old Dakota Riddell has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and many other disabilities. It means she needs support at school but her mother told ITV News that a lack of funding means it is a non-stop battle to get her daughter what she is entitled to.

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Striking the right balance - James Maker

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with county chief executives at the Association of County Chief Executives (ACCE) spring seminar. It’s the fifth year I have attended, and every time I feel privileged to listen and learn from some of the most experienced chief officers in our sector.

The County Councils’ Network (CCN) and ACCE have always had a close relationship, but 18 months ago we entered a new partnership arrangement, deepening our formal ties and providing greater support to internal and external activities of chief executives. This is alongside our established CCN officer groups on adults, children’s services and corporate policy, and strong collaboration with the Society of County Treasurers.

For a representative organisation like the CCN, which is member-led and politically driven (and consists of just six members of staff) we need to carefully consider the balance between expanding our support offer for officers and retaining our core focus on national advocacy led by our elected members. CCN’s journey over the past six years has shown just how crucial striking the right balance is to being an effective special interest group.

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Cambridge school PTA asks parents to raise £60k to plug budget gap

A parent has said she was "appalled and outraged" at being told her daughter's state school had a £60,000 funding gap.

St Matthew's Primary School's Parents Teachers Association has asked parents for monthly donations to help make up the budget deficit it faces.

"This is a state school, it should be funded by the state," added Donna, mother of seven-year-old Flora.

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UK's problem debtors to get 60-day 'breathing space'

People struggling with serious debt are to benefit from a new two-month “breathing space” during which they cannot be hassled by debt collectors and bailiffs, the government has said.

During the 60-day period, those eligible will be protected from enforcement action from creditors, and will also see their interest, fees and charges frozen.

Those experiencing mental health issues will also benefit from extra protection, said the Treasury.

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Cuts to social care funding went too far, admits Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt admitted last night that the government had not spent enough money on social care and was now paying the price.

During a fractious debate, the foreign secretary said that “some of the cuts in social care did go too far”.

The admission came after he had identified the social care crisis as among his top priorities if he were to become prime minister. He was Britain’s longest-serving health secretary, in the post between 2012 and last year.

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Calls for 195-year-old Vagrancy Act to be scrapped

A leading homelessness charity, police and politicians are calling on the government to scrap a 195-year-old law that criminalises homeless people for rough sleeping and begging in England and Wales.

A report by Crisis, backed by MPs and police representatives, outlines the case for repealing the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which critics warn makes poverty a crime and pushes rough sleepers away from help.

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Rising levels of poverty in working families

As care worker Liam Doherty knows all too well, if you're in a low-paid job, the slightest setback can capsize your finances.

The Irishman moved to the UK in September 2013, bringing his wife Debbie and four children from County Limerick to take up a job in Dawlish in Devon.

"We were struggling to get by," he says. With his wife unable to work because of ill-health, he was the sole provider in the family.

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Concern as county cancels integration deal

A council’s decision to withdraw from joint working with a mental health trust could lead to a model of delivery which is “uncoordinated and duplicative” for patients, the trust has warned.

Surrey CC has given notice that it will end a section 75 agreement to provide integrated community mental health services with Surrey and Borders Partnership Foundation Trust, the Health Service Journal reports.

For the last seven years, social workers and other staff employed by the council and SABP’s mental health practitioners have worked closely together, often co-located and accessing each other’s computer systems. SABP has line managed the social care workers.

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Jeremy Hunt admits Tory social care cuts went too far

The longest-serving Health Secretary in British history has admitted social care cuts went too far on his own watch.

Jeremy Hunt - who headed the department for six years - made the jaw-dropping admission about the social care crisis as he made a pitch to be Prime Minister.

He told a BBC debate last night: "I think having been responsible for health and social care that some of the cuts in social care did go too far.”

And today, quizzed on his admission, he went even further.

He gave a devastating verdict on the years of Tory austerity cuts driven through by ex-Prime Minister David Cameron and ex-Chancellor George Osborne.

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'£3.8bn needed to reverse school cuts'

A one-off increase of £3.8bn would be needed to reverse 8% cuts in per pupil school spending, new analysis shows.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says a further £1.1bn would be needed each year up until 2023 to maintain spending in real terms, once rising costs were taken into account.

Candidates for the Conservative leadership have been making competing promises on education spending.

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Campaigners renew calls for UK to accept 10,000 child refugees

There have been fresh calls to bring 10,000 child refugees to safety in the UK amid events celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport trains that saved many children from the Nazis.

The home secretary, Sajid Javid, announced a new resettlement scheme for the most vulnerable refugees on Monday but did not say how many children would be included.

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Fifth of lead finance officers not at top table

More than a fifth of section 151 officers do not report directly to the council chief executive while a similar proportion have been in post for a year or less, sparking concerns their influence is being weakened at a time of unprecedented financial challenge.

LGC’s exclusive research saw us collect information from 147 top-tier councils in response to concerns councils’ leading financial role – which is a requirement of the Local Government Act 1972 – is being downgraded.

The research found all section 151 officers who did not report to the chief executive had been appointed since 2010 with almost two-thirds starting in the role in the past three years, potentially suggesting a growing trend.

The research, conducted during March and April, also found 22% of section 151 officers had been in post for a year or less while 13% were interim or acting up.

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'Stuck in the past'

Campaigners have claimed parts of local government are ‘still stuck firmly in the past’ after a chief broke cover to reveal her council’s sexist culture. The outgoing head of paid service at Stratford-on-Avon DC, Isabel Edgar Briancon, walked out the door after just seven months, listing a series of complaints of ‘inappropriate behaviour’.

In a now-deleted Facebook post, Ms Edgar Briancon said a councillor had told her that she had ‘good breeding hips’ and that if she wanted fertility support he would do a pagan ritual for her. Another councillor told her that he thought it was a ‘disgrace to have to enforce gender equality on a public board’.

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Councils sitting on billions in reserves while cutting back services

English councils have amassed huge cash reserves while blaming budget cuts for reduced spending on services, official figures suggest.

Some local authorities, particularly county councils with social care responsibilities, have struggled with chronic shortages and have been dipping into their reserves but others have fared better. District councils, which benefit from business rates and provide less resource-intensive services such as leisure centres or bin collections that can be scaled back or made chargeable, have found their reserves swelling as a proportion of spending.

Since 2010 district councils have grown their non-ringfenced reserves from 50 per cent of service expenditure to 130 per cent. By comparison the savings ratio for county councils has risen from 20 per cent to 30 per cent. This does not include spending on education and public health, which have ringfenced corresponding reserves.

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Review concludes public health should stay with councils

Responsibility for commissioning public health services will remain with local government, it has been announced.

Speaking at a meeting of the Local Government Association councillors’ forum today, Mr Hancock reportedly said the evidence for maintaining current council responsibilities for public health was “comprehensive, compelling and clear”.

There was widespread criticism from within local government of proposals in the NHS long term plan to review public health responsibilities and consider a “stronger role for the NHS” in commissioning services currently the responsibility of councils, such as sexual health, health visitors and school nurses.

In a statement released this afternoon, Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie said the review had recognised local government is best placed to lead on commissioning local public health services “and the invaluable skills [councils] bring to this”.

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Truss admits spending review 'unlikely' in time for 2020-21

The spending review is “unlikely” to take place this year, the chief secretary to the Treasury has admitted.

Giving evidence to the Lords economic affairs committee on Tuesday, Ms Truss blamed “goings on” within the Conservative Party for the anticipated delay, a reference to the ongoing Tory leadership contest which is not expected to conclude until late July.

As LGC reported last week, the resignation of Theresa May as prime minster had led to a growing expectation within local government that the spending review would be delayed.

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Rough sleeping: Arrests fall as police brand law 'archaic'

Police have criticised a law allowing beggars and rough sleepers to be arrested, as figures reveal they are using their powers less.

Arrests under the Vagrancy Act have halved over two years, data obtained by the BBC suggests.

Forces have said they are "moving away" from the "archaic" law which charities say "criminalises" the homeless.

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Jeremy Corbyn unveils plans for 'progressive' tax raid on homes and gardens of the middle class

Jeremy Corbyn has unveiled plans for a new tax raid on middle-class homeowners which will see those with larger family homes and gardens pay significantly more.

A new report, commissioned by Labour, suggests that council tax should be scrapped and replaced with a "progressive property tax".

The tax would be payable by property owners, rather than tenants, and would be based on "regularly updated" property values.

The report says there would be a "progressively higher rate of taxation" for each of top four property bands by value.

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Sure Start centres 'big benefit' but face cuts

Sure Start centres, aimed at improving early years health and education in England, brought "big benefits for children's health", researchers say.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found a positive impact from the scheme, launched 20 years ago as a flagship of Tony Blair's Labour Party.

But the think tank warns that funding has been cut and 500 sites have closed.

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Labour report calls for radical tax and planning reforms

Replacing council tax and business rates are among the radical policies proposed in a report commissioned by the Labour Party. However, Labour councillors have questioned why they were not consulted in the writing of the Land for the Many report.

Chief among the recommendations for future Labour policy is the creation of a ‘progressive property tax’ to replace the ‘regressive and unpopular’ council tax. Centrally agreed and payable by owners - not tenants - it would require annual property valuations with higher rates for empty and second homes.

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Councils slam ‘misleading’ BBC reserves danger list

A number of councils have complained after the BBC last week named them as at risk of running out of reserves. In December, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy published a briefing on its emerging financial resilience index which claimed that 12 councils could run out of reserves within four years at current rates.

Last week, the BBC published a list of 11 councils it claimed its own analysis revealed would be on the list. However, a number of councils this week described the figures as “misleading”. Dubbing the BBC report as “spurious”, Rob Gledhill, leader of Thurrock Council, said: “This report appears to be based on incorrect assumptions and faulty maths.

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Amazon to open 10 pop-up shops in UK town centres

First it battered Britain’s high street retailers with its convenience, low prices and huge range of products. Now the online shopping giant Amazon is moving in on their turf, with a chain of pop-up shops selling everything from food and drink to electronics, beauty products and homewares.

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Councils across the UK have spent £74million in just two years on maintaining 6,000 empty buildings

Cash-strapped councils frittered away £74million in taxpayers’ money on empty shops, offices, warehouses and other commercial buildings in just two years, an investigation found.

More than 6,000 commercial properties that are no longer used by local authorities continue to be owned and expensively maintained by taxpayers.

The price of keeping unwanted offices, shops and other business buildings includes the cost of security, routine maintenance, insurance and refurbishment.

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Ministry offers 'goodwill' cash after repeating rates pilot blunder

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government is preparing to make £15m of “goodwill” payments to councils involved in new business rates pilots after publishing incorrect guidance for the second year running.

Last year, then communities secretary Sajid Javid decided not to recover £36m wrongly paid to the 27 councils and the Greater London Authority involved in the 2017-18 business rate pilots due to an error in the MHCLG’s formula.

In a letter to outgoing auditor general Sir Amyas Morse, published on Saturday, MHCLG permanent secretary Melanie Dawes says while there has been “no mistake in any of the calculations” for the 2019-20 pilots, officials had failed to correct the original guidance before issuing it again in December.

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19 face audit delay due to EY staffing issues

Almost 20 local authorities are facing delays of up to three months in the auditing of their accounts due to a staff shortage at their audit firm EY, LGC has learned.

Public Sector Audit Appointments, which appoints auditors to local public sector organisations, confirmed to LGC that 19 bodies, mainly district councils, have been informed their accounts will not be audited until after the 31 July deadline for their 2018-19 accounts to be signed off.

Councils affected include the six districts in Northamptonshire.

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Ministry offers 'goodwill' cash after repeating rates pilot blunder

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government is preparing to make £15m of “goodwill” payments to councils involved in new business rates pilots after publishing incorrect guidance for the second year running.

Last year, then communities secretary Sajid Javid decided not to recover £36m wrongly paid to the 27 councils and the Greater London Authority involved in the 2017-18 business rate pilots due to an error in the MHCLG’s formula.

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Austerity to blame for 130,000 ‘preventable’ UK deaths – report

More than 130,000 deaths in the UK since 2012 could have been prevented if improvements in public health policy had not stalled as a direct result of austerity cuts, according to a hard-hitting analysis to be published this week.

The study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) thinktank finds that, after two decades in which preventable diseases were reduced as a result of spending on better education and prevention, there has been a seven-year “perfect storm” in which state provision has been pared back because of budget cuts, while harmful behaviours among people of all ages have increased.

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May resignation sparks fears for fair funding in 2020

Expectation is growing that reforms to local government funding will be delayed due to the “political upheaval” resulting from the Conservative party leadership contest, sparking fresh calls for the government to provide certainty over funding for 2020-21.

There has been long running concern that the government’s focus on Brexit may leave little time for the completion and implementation of the fair funding review by April 2020, with Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy chief executive Rob Whiteman calling for it to be delayed on 13 May.

However, the prime minister’s announcement last Friday that she will resign, triggering a contest to replace her that is expected to last until mid-July, has prompted a growing acceptance amongst finance chiefs that a delay is now all but inevitable.

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Three-quarters of councils move to insource services

Local authorities are rejecting the outsourcing of services in favour of delivering services in-house, a not-for-profit local government body has found.

A new study from the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) has revealed an increase in popularity for bringing services in-house.

Based on a 2017 survey which attracted 208 respondents, the report shows that 73% of councils indicated that they had started – or were in the process of starting – insourcing a service.

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Special needs: Petition demands end to 'national crisis'

Thousands of disabled children and their families will take to the streets across England and Wales on Thursday to demand action on "the national crisis" in special needs funding.

Send National Crisis campaigners will deliver a 13,000-signature petition to Downing Street at 12:00 BST, and will then hold a rally in Parliament Square.

They say special needs funding is failing to keep pace with demand.

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Families rally against special educational needs funding cuts

Thousands of families with children who have special educational needs and disabilities have staged protests across England against funding cuts.

On Thursday afternoon, children, parents and teachers marched in 28 towns and cities including London, Bristol, Leeds and Birmingham in the first national action of its kind.

Organisers of Send National Crisis said about 1,000 people attended a rally in Parliament Square in Westminster. Among the speakers was the campaigner Emma Parker, whose son James has spent 29 months out of school over the past five years because of exclusions and reduced timetables.

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BBC Panorama: Crisis in Care

On Wednesday 29 May 2019 at 9PM, BBC Panorama will reveal 'the failings of our social care system, as our population gets older and more of us need help with day-to-day living.'

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Council spending on local services down 21% over past decade

Council spending on local services has fallen by more than a fifth since 2010, according to a report from Britain’s leading independent economics thinktank.

In a reflection of the austerity drive imposed on local authorities by Conservative-led governments during the past decade, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said spending on services in England had fallen by 21% between 2009-10 and 2017-18.

In a sign of the increasing difficulties facing local authorities across the country, the leading tax and spending thinktank also said the funds available to councils would become increasingly inadequate in the 2020s, rendering the current financing system for the country’s local authorities through council tax and business rates unsustainable.

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English councils warned about 'exhausting' reserve cash

Some councils in England have been warned they risk running out of cash reserves if recent spending continues.

Analysis by the BBC has identified 11 authorities the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) said would have "fully exhausted" reserves within four years unless they topped them up.

The Local Government Association said councils faced "systemic underfunding". However, the government said councils were responsible for managing their funds.

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Why councils are bringing millions of pounds worth of services back in-house

Chris Morgan got a job as an electrician repairing council houses in Stoke-on-Trent just over five years ago. Although he enjoyed his job, Morgan, 36, says he did not always feel he could raise issues with his line manager. “Our supervisors weren’t always in the trade we were in,” he says. The city council had outsourced its housing repairs service to Kier group in 2008. But since the council brought the work in-house last year, Morgan says he feels happier. “I know my supervisor knows what I’m on about. It makes me more confident,” he says. “We have had extra talks, health and safety training. They have put in a new canteen and showers, so the facilities are better too.” And with a £1,000 pay rise, plus an extra £500 for doing asbestos work, Morgan is also a bit better off.

Now all repairs, maintenance and home improvements to the council’s housing stock, as well as public building maintenance, are in-house.

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Council funding 'unsustainable' as budgets cut by 20%

There must be a national conversation about how much people want from their councils and what they'll pay, amid "unsustainable funding", researchers have said.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says funding for English councils has fallen by 21% between 2009-10 and 2017-18.

Spending on housing and planning services has dropped by more than 50% while leisure and transport departments saw cuts of more than 40%.

The IFS report also warns that areas which already face more severe deprivation are disproportionately affected.

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English 'short-changed on care funding'

Public spending on care for the elderly and disabled is much higher in Scotland and Wales than England, figures show.

In England, £310 per person is spent each year on services such as care homes and home help for daily tasks such as washing and dressing.

But in Scotland, £445 is spent - 43% more than in England - and in Wales it is £414 - 33% more.

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Council funding system ‘unsustainable’, financial experts warn

Spending on local services by English councils has fallen by more than 20% over the last decade and the funding available to local authorities will become ‘increasingly inadequate’, according to financial experts.

A new analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has calculated that overall spending on local services fell by 21% between 2009-10 and 2017-18, with some – such as housing services – falling by over 50%.

Spending cuts in some areas, such as planning and development, have enabled councils to protect social care services. Spending on adult social care fell by 5% between 2009–10 and 2017–18 and acute children’s social care services spend rose by 10%.

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Funding gap forces national cycling targets off track

A national target to double the number of cycling journeys by 2025 is likely to be missed because of a lack of money for dedicated bike lanes.

The Department for Transport said that it expected to fall dramatically short of its goal as the current policy was only projected to fill about a third of the gap towards the target. This has fuelled demands for a funding increase across the UK, particularly in rural areas.

The DfT published a cycling and walking investment policy blueprint in 2017, which said that 800 million trips were made by bike in 2013, expected to grow to 1.6 billion by 2025. By the end of 2017 only 991 million trips were taken.

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Pupils with special educational needs to stage funding protests

Thousands of families with children who have special educational needs and disabilities (Send) are to stage protests across England over funding cuts they say have left many pupils without adequate support and unable to attend school.

Parents, disabled children and their supporters will march in more than 25 locations on Thursday, including London, Bristol, Birmingham, Widnes, Worthing, Stevenage, Leamington Spa, Matlock, Colchester and Dorchester.

It is part of a campaign by families whose struggle to secure the support their children need to access education has pushed the issue of Send funding up the political agenda before the government’s forthcoming spending review.

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Council tax ‘only regressive tax in the UK’

The UK’s taxes on the whole are progressive – with council tax being the only one that is regressive, an economic think-tank has said.

Direct taxes including income tax and National Insurance Contribution work alongside benefits to reduce inequality, the Institute for Fiscal Studies claimed in a briefing note today.

Council tax, however, is markedly regressive as it is not linked to income, with the poorest tenth of the population paying 8% of their income on council tax, while the next 50% pay 4-5% and the richest 40% paying 2-3%.

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Rise in special needs pupils forced to attend out-of-area schools

Almost 20,000 children with special educational needs such as autism are attending school outside their council area because of shortfalls in local provision – with the number rising by nearly a fifth in two years, the Observer can reveal.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that some children are studying hundreds of miles from home as the special education needs and disability (Send) system struggles to cope with a funding crisis.

Parents of children with Send are preparing for a national day of action on May 30 in protest at the lack of funding, with more than 25 demonstrations across England and Wales and a rally in Westminster.

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Treasury ‘must do better’ on Whole of Government Accounts

The spending watchdog has called for “further progress” on the level of information given by departments for the Whole of Government Accounts.

Total government expenditure for 2017-18 reached £815bn for the year ending March 31 2018, according to the WGA released yesterday.

It also showed the UK government’s income in 2017-18 was £760.9bn – compared to £720.8bn in 2016-17. Its expenditure was £814.8 billion – expenditure in 2016-17 was £760.7 billion.

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Bus services outside London need reform, MPs warn amid passenger decline

Funding of bus services in England is uncertain and needs reform, MPs have warned in a move that has been welcomed by campaigners hoping for services to be re-regulated.

The Transport Select Committee has urged the Government to produce a bus strategy to halt the decline in use and give passengers a fairer deal.

the 'i' was told last month how campaigners in one region, Greater Manchester, want the metro mayor to use new powers under the Bus Services Act 2017 to become the first city outside of London to re-regulate buses.

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Free social care for the elderly could save NHS £4.5bn a year, think tank says

The introduction of free social care for everyone over 65 would save the NHS in England £4.5bn a year and help improve care in the community, a think tank has said.

IPPR argues that this reform would increase the number of people with access to state-funded care from 185,000 to 440,000, reducing unmet need and relieving pressure on unpaid informal carers.

They also claim it would shift hospital patients back into the community, and deliver a higher quality and better integrated service.

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Even ‘draconian cuts won’t be enough’ as councils face £50bn funding blackhole

Councils in England face a funding black hole of over £50bn across the next six years, according to a new report warning that local authorities will soon be forced to resort to providing the “bare minimum.”

In the new report, the County Councils Network (CCN) has called for the Treasury to urgently allocate funds towards local government, stating that rising demands and escalating costs are driving councils towards an “untenable” situation.

The independent analysis of the future financial sustainability of English councils concluded that they face a £51.8bn funding shortfall over the next six years unless Westminster does not provide more money.

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Tory council chief warns of social care funding shortfall

England faces a growing social care funding crisis which, if not fixed, will potentially leave hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and their families without the care they need, a senior Conservative council leader has warned.

Cllr David Fothergill, the leader of Somerset county council – which last year made big cuts to Sure Start centres and libraries to avoid bankruptcy – was speaking ahead of the transmission of a fly-on-the-wall Panorama documentary that shows the traumatic effects of cuts on families reliant on the county’s adult social care services.

Fothergill said: “There is a national crisis and we need to sort it because it is only going to get worse.”

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MPs call for coordinated bus strategy to address decline

The country’s most popular form of public transport is in serious decline due to fragmented government policy and reductions in council funding, a cross-party committee of MPs has said.

In England, funding for bus services fell by £171.6m between 2010-11 and 2017-18 to £202.7m, with more than 3,000 routes reduced, changed or withdrawn over the period.

The committee has called for the government to set out plans on how it will support councils to improve bus services.

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County director takes on lead STP role

Hertfordshire CC’s director of adult care services has been appointed to a shared lead officer role with the county’s sustainability and transformation partnership.

Iain MacBeath will share the role at the Hertfordshire and West Essex STP with Beverley Flowers, chief executive officer of the area’s clinical commissioning group, and support STP independent chair Paul Burstow.

Mr MacBeath and Ms Flowers will focus on the development of an integrated care system, which is due to operate in shadow form from April 2020, and the integrated care partnerships that sit within it.

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'Broken' care system for most vulnerable

Patients with mental health problems, autism and learning disabilities are being let down by a "broken" care system, a report warns.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) says it knows of at least 62 adults and children that have been living in segregation in mental health hospitals for long periods of time.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who commissioned the work, said he was appalled by the distressing stories.

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English councils 'face £50bn funding black hole'

English councils face a funding "black hole" of more than £50bn over the next six years unless extra cash is made available, a lobby group has said.

The County Councils Network said rising costs and demand for services, like social care, could mean councils resort to providing the "bare minimum".

It said yearly council tax rises and making services more efficient will "not be enough" to plug the gap.

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Norfolk County Council: Extra cuts to hit children's services

Major budget cuts to children's and adult services are being planned by Norfolk County Council as the authority seeks to save an extra £40m in 2020-21.

The council said the cuts may be necessary if its bid for more money from the government fails.

Its plans include a £9m cut to adult services and £4.5m to child services.

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£200m boost for rural super-fast broadband

Householders in the most remote ten per cent of UK properties are to receive vouchers worth £1,500 to pay for ultra-fast broadband connections.

Under a £200m initial government scheme being rolled out today, the vouchers will provide remote and rural homes with full fibre-optic broadband at speeds of 1 gigabit per second (1Gbps), about 20 times the national average.

It means they will be able to download a high-definition feature film in seven minutes.

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Teens in care 'abandoned to crime gangs'

Thousands of teenagers in care are being "dumped" in unregulated homes and "abandoned to organised crime gangs", the BBC has been told.

The number of looked-after children aged 16 and over living in unregistered accommodation in England has increased 70% in a decade, Newsnight has found.

Police forces have raised concerns, saying criminals see the premises as an easy target for recruitment. The government said children in care "deserve good quality accommodation".

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Social care shake-up delayed again after row over who will pay for new system

Matt Hancock's plans to shake up OAP care have been delayed by at least another five months, The Sun can reveal.

Sources claim a bitter funding stand-off mean the Social Care Green Paper will not now be published until the Spending Review this autumn.

And one insider said the disagreement between No10, Treasury and the Department for Health was so wide it could be shelved altogether. They said: “There’s a chance it may just be dropped”.

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Councils urged to take control of bus services

Councils have been reminded they can take control of bus services under new powers introduced by the Government.

Buses minister Nusrat Ghani has written to local authorities today reminding them they have the freedom to take greater control of their areas' bus services such as franchising or enhanced partnerships.

Figures show that passenger numbers in several areas have risen between 2009 and 2018, including a 50% increase in Bristol and a 38% rise in Poole.

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Home Secretary Sajid Javid calls for tax reforms to cut red tape as small business deserts Tories, with 62 per cent saying Government is no longer on their side

Sajid Javid will today back a radical overhaul of small business taxes amid growing evidence that the Tories are losing the support of entrepreneurs.

The Home Secretary will launch a think-tank report which calls for drastic simplification of the tax system to reduce red tape.

The Centre for Policy Studies study by Nick King, a former special adviser to Mr Javid, includes findings that small company owners are losing faith in the Conservative Party.

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MHCLG oversight of local authority governance 'reactive and ill-informed'

A damning report from the Public Accounts Committee has called on the government to strengthen audit and governance of the “complex and fast-moving” environment that local authorities find themselves in.

The cross-party group of MPs warned that local authorities are now pursuing shared services and taking on commercial risk, but are simultaneously dealing with a “significant” reduction in resources.

The report noted that while some authorities have robust arrangements, others are under strain and have “audit committees that do not provide sufficient assurance, ineffective internal audit, weak arrangements for the management of risk in local authorities’ commercial investments, and inadequate oversight and scrutiny”.

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Knife crime prevention being ‘seriously hampered’ as councils left in dark about youth offending funding

Efforts to tackle soaring levels of knife crime and county lines activity are being “seriously hampered” because funding for doing so has not yet been announced by central government, council leaders have warned.

Local authorities are still waiting to hear how much money they will receive to tackle youth offending this year – more than two months after they had to set their budgets.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, told The Independent this was making it “extremely difficult” for councils to plan the services that support young people and keep them out of the justice system.

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Whiteman calls for fair funding delay

The chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy Rob Whiteman says the fair funding review should be delayed until after the Spending Review.

He told the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on Monday that the Fair Funding Review has “quite a bit of work to do yet”, and that it might be best delayed to avoid “unintended consequences”.

He said: “I do wonder whether it might best be delayed in order that there are no unintended consequences to it and that sector is clear on quantum and its abilities to raise money and then any redistributive effects of fair funding …there is a huge amount of work to do to ensure the right foundations for distribution and service specific areas - kids and adult services, and how you look at costs.”

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Central-local relations at 'all-time low' - study

The relationship between Whitehall and councils has broken down, with local leaders feeling ‘disrespected and marginalised,’ according to a think-tank behind a major new report published today.

One council leader spoken to by the report authors accused central government of ‘bludgeoning’ local government financially and treating it ‘disrespectfully,’ with the relationship now at an ‘all-time low’ after being hindered by frequent ministerial reshuffles.

The report, Hitting Reset – a case for local leadership, called for a ‘renewed relationship of trust and respect’ between local and central government.

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Troubled Northamptonshire makes ‘unprecedented’ in-year turnaround

Northamptonshire County Council has turned a projected overspend of more than £30m for 2018/19 into a budget surplus of £1m in a turnaround described by the authority’s executive financial director as “unprecedented”.

But the development will not preserve the financial-crisis-hit authority’s future beyond the next two years.

Yesterday, the government confirmed the county council and its seven lower-tier districts will be scrapped and replaced with two new unitary authorities from April 2021.

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Councils to be placed under legal duty to house victims of domestic abuse

Councils are to be given a legal duty to provide “safe houses” for victims of domestic abuse and their children, under new plans announced by the prime minister.

Theresa May announced the new policy, backed by government funding to be provided to local authorities, in order to end the “postcode lottery” for victims and their children.

Those seeking refuge from violence and domestic abuse currently receive varying levels of support depending on their location, with some unable to find refuge places because there is no provision at all.

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Mental health spending varies widely across England

There is nearly a two-fold difference in mental health spending across England, an analysis suggests.

Mental health charity Mind looked at investment across 42 NHS regions.

It found that Surrey Heartlands spent the least - £124 per person last year - compared with South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, which spent more than £220.

The charity said the differences were huge and would affect the quality of care but, despite the variation, spending was still rising everywhere.

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Instant fines for idling drivers ‘would send message about pollution’

Drivers who repeatedly leave their car engine running while parked could be given instant fines under proposals being considered by the government to give councils stronger powers to tackle pollution from idling vehicles.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is supporting Westminster city council’s call to be given the power to fine drivers without warning if they have previously been caught with an idling engine.

At present officers issue a fine if the driver ignores a warning and continues to idle for at least a minute. The fine is £20 or £80 depending on which regulations the authority uses to enforce the law.

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Female unemployment rate lowest since 1971

Britain's female unemployment rate in the first three months of the year has fallen to 3.7%, the lowest since comparable records began in 1971.

The Office for National Statistics included the figure in data showing the overall unemployment rate in the three-month period stood at 3.8%, the lowest rate since late 1974.

For men the rate was 3.9%, the lowest since mid 1975. Excluding bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees rose by 3.3%.

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Update on Northamptonshire - Written Statement

Northamptonshire will become 2 unitary authorities, although delayed until after April 2021. Establishment of a Children's Trust to cover the whole of Northamptonshire.

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Council pays out over £40,000 for ‘mistakes’ in respite centre closure

Southampton City Council has paid thousands of pounds in compensation after an Ombudsman ruled that the authority had caused ‘avoidable distress’ when it closed a respite centre.

In March the Local Government Ombudsman found that families' needs were not properly assessed when the council closed down the Kentish Road centre in 2017 for adults with learning disabilities.

The city council has paid out £40,375 in compensation with most carers due £250-£500 each in recognition of the ‘avoidable uncertainty and distress caused.’

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Report urges prevention rather than cure in public health spending

A joint report from CIPFA and Public Health England claims that preventative health spending is an investment, not a cost, for communities and called for improved evaluation of public health spending.

The report said that, according to official data, preventative care took up just 5% of the UK's health spending in 2017 at £7.7bn.

CIPFA and PHE claimed that there is “difficulty in forming a coherent, local, system-wide view of prevention investment when costs and benefits are spread across a number of organisations and [when there is] a perception that decisions to invest in prevention are subject to a much higher bar than those to justify treatment spend”.

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Councils restructuring in face of ‘unparalleled cuts’

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman told the housing, communities and local government committee yesterday that “low-hanging fruit went some time ago”.

“Councils are having to deal with the medium restructuring of their services,” he told the committee. “A real worry is [that] prevention is difficult to protect considering the degree of budget cuts being made.”

Tony Travers, a professor at the London School of Economics, told the MPs that “reductions since 2010-11 are without parallel in modern times [because] of [their] scale, intensity and long time period in which [they have] taken place”. He said that although local government spending had gone up, “central government spending had gone up much more”.

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Northamptonshire: Unitary authorities plan approved

A plan for two unitary authorities to replace a cash-crisis council has been approved by government.

Northamptonshire County Council's money problems in 2018 led to a scheme to scrap it and seven other district and borough councils next year.

But the new authorities will not be in operation until 1 April 2021, a year later than originally planned.

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Carillion's ‘relationship with auditors too comfortable’

Ninety-three per cent of construction industry suppliers think the relationship between the ill-fated firm and its auditors, KPMG, was “too cosy”, according to a poll of construction industry leaders.

A further 57% of respondents believed that reforming the ‘big four’ audit firms – PwC, KPMG, EY and Deloitte – is a necessary step.

The poll, which surveyed more than 50 senior managers across the construction sector, found that 76% believed the Financial Reporting Council was too timid in its challenging of questionable financial information.

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Introduce ‘smart bins’ and hand out tax cuts to drive up recycling, urges think tank

Local authorities should use a new generation of “smart bins” and council tax cuts to drive up household recycling rates, a think tank’s new report has recommended.

Bins fitted with sensors could record household recycling rates, cutting councils’ costs using better-planned rubbish collection routes and then passing these savings onto residents with the highest recycling rates.

The new report, published by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), looks at how new technologies can be used to provide better, more efficient delivery of public services.

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Councils get £30m boost to look after asylum seeking children

The government has announced a £30m funding boost for councils looking after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) following warnings that minors are being “left in limbo.”

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes revealed that local authorities will receive £114 for each child for every day that they are in their care, which equates to over £41,600 per year per child.

Council leaders welcomed the announcement, saying they were “pleased” the government had listened to councils by announcing new funding to help tackle this rising cost pressure and meet commitments to support children starting a new life in the UK.

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Government agrees to £30m a year South Yorkshire devolution deal

The government has given the go-ahead for the South Yorkshire devolution deal following a “breakthrough” in March in the stalled £30m a year deal for the Sheffield City Region.

After “years of impasse”, the four South Yorkshire council leaders and mayor Dan Jarvis agreed to a devolution deal, and James Brokenshire the communities secretary has now told the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority (SCR CA) that the deal can go ahead.

The announcement comes more than three years after the initial deal was agreed, with the long delay caused by negotiations and proposals for a One Yorkshire devolution deal.

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Truss: Spending Review will prioritise SEND children

The chief secretary to the treasury has said that children with special educational needs are a “real priority” in the spending review, which she insisted would cover a three year period.

Speaking at a Local Government Association debate on the spending review, Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss (Con) said she knows that the early years are “incredibly important”.

“We recognise that more funding is needed in special educational needs and children’s services, and I am looking at that in the spending review,” she said.

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Tories hold on to LGA by tiny margin

The Conservatives have narrowly held on to control of the LGA, following last week’s local elections.

The results of the elections, which saw the Tories lose more than 1,300 seats, means the party now holds 38.8% of the political balance. This is a steep fall from the 43.4% it had in 2018-19 and only 0.8 percentage points ahead of the Labour party.

As the largest party the Conservatives will elect the next chair of the LGA. Current chair Lord Porter must stand down this year after serving the maximum four year term.

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Deal signed to deliver 3,000 new homes in Nottinghamshire

Rushcliffe Borough Council has welcomed a new deal that will see thousands of new homes delivered in Nottinghamshire.

Homes England has acquired 250 acres of a 605 acre site known as Fairham, and will support all aspects of the delivery to speed up the construction of 3,000 homes.

Working with other land owners, CWC and Rushcliffe BC, the Government’s housing accelerator will also help deliver 100,000 square metres of employment space over the next decade.

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How rural Britain's 'failing' bus routes compare to our European neighbours

Rural bus services do not provide a “satisfactory alternative” to owning a car, a study reveals, and bus users in the countryside in England have a much poorer service compared to passengers in Europe.

Commuters here have far fewer routes connecting towns and villages, and poorer connections to train services than those on the continent.

Researchers studied bus services in Shropshire – as a typical English shire – and rated them against comparable areas in Germany, Sweden and Switzerland and found “striking” differences.

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Whitehall ‘unwilling’ to help the high street, committee says

The Government is ‘unwilling’ to give high streets a ‘fighting chance’ in the battle with online retailers, a select committee has concluded.

A report published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in February concluded that business rates were ‘stacking the odds’ against high street retailers.

It urged Whitehall to initiate reforms to provide relief to high street retailers, including giving consideration to proposals for an online sales tax to level the playing field.

In their response to the report, the Government said that such changes would be ‘extremely challenging’.

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Home Office increases funding for child refugees after warnings lone minors were being left 'in limbo'

The Home Office has said it will increase funding towards the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking children following claims ministers have been “paying lip service” to child refugees as councils struggle to provide for them.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said local authorities would receive £114 for each child every day that they are in their care, regardless of the child’s age or when they entered the UK.

This equates to over £41,600 per year per child and marking a 61 per cent increase on the lowest rate that is currently paid.

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Rising knife crime linked to council cuts, study suggests

Places in England that have seen the biggest council spending cuts to youth services are likely to see the biggest increases in knife crime, a study says.

Research by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime showed the average council cut real-terms spending on youth services - such as youth clubs - by 40% between 2014/15 and 2017/18.

And the four worst-hit areas have seen some of the biggest knife crime rises.

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Youth club closures put young people at risk of violence, warn MPs

Youth club closures are putting young people at greater risk of violence, according to a committee of MPs which has found that English councils have slashed funding on youth services by 40% on average in the last three years.

After a bank holiday weekend which began with news of the fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Tashaun Aird and continued with the killing of an 18-year-old in south London, the 28th knife fatality in the capital this year, the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime revealed new data from more than 100 councils showing cuts to youth services of up to 91%. It claimed areas that had suffered the largest cuts to spending on young people had seen bigger increases in knife crime.

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Excluded pupils' results 'to be part of league tables'

Schools in England will have to stay accountable for pupils they exclude, a government-backed review has said.

It could mean school league table rankings having to include the exam results of pupils who have been excluded and moved elsewhere.

The intention is to stop so-called "off-rolling", where schools remove difficult or low-achieving pupils.

"Exclusion from school should never mean exclusion from education," said review author Edward Timpson.

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Basic income of £48 a week in UK urged

Every adult in the UK should receive a weekly basic income of £48, according to the recommendations in a new report.

The move could be paid for by scrapping more than 1,000 tax reliefs, Professor Guy Standing's report says.

The Labour Party has welcomed the report, but insisted it was an independent report which it would study ahead of drawing up its next manifesto.

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Schools 'should fine parents who swear at teachers, skip parents' evenings and fail to enforce their children's detentions'

Foulmouthed parents who abuse teachers, skip parents' evenings or fail to co-operate with Saturday morning detentions should face fines over their behaviour, a former chief Ofsted inspector has argued.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Sir Michael Wilshaw added the rising level of abuse that teachers now have to confront from parents, coupled with a lack of support from government ministers, has persuaded many to turn their backs on state education for good.

As a result, there are fears of a national shortage of head teachers with the right experience and skills in tackling failing schools.

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Academisation rebellion: parents resist school takeovers

A wave of resistance by parents against their schools being taken over by academy trusts is building across the country, with protests in Essex, Kent, London, West Yorkshire, East Sussex, Dorset, Hertfordshire and beyond, according to campaigners.

This week there were two big protests by parents and teachers: one at Waltham Holy Cross primary school in Waltham Abbey, Essex, last Sunday; and on Wednesday strikes and protests closed three schools in Peacehaven, near Brighton in East Sussex.

Campaigners say there has been a shift in parents’ attitudes, with many now better informed about academisation and more willing to challenge decisions to take their community schools out of local authority control and hand them to private trusts.

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‘Massively unfair’ gulf in bus fares between London and rest of England

Bus passengers across England are paying “massively unfair” fares of up to £6 for a single journey, four times the amount Londoners are charged to traverse the capital, Guardian research has found.

Analysis of a snapshot of five-mile bus trips in local authorities across England found that while a single bus ticket in London costs £1.50, passengers elsewhere pay far more despite often experiencing worse services.

The research showed the most expensive fare for a five-mile journey was in Hampshire, where a single ticket from Winchester The Broadway to Matterley Farm, Tichborne, costs £5.65.

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Schools sports facilities may open in summer to fight child obesity

Downing Street is considering forcing schools to open over the summer so they can be used for activities to boost children’s fitness and stop them getting involved in crime.

Theresa May’s advisers have discussed the change with education, physical activity and sports experts who are lobbying for it.

Under the plan, schools in England would start hosting sporting, creative and other activities in their gyms, halls and on sports pitches, but not in classrooms. The drive is intended to help tackle childhood obesity, give under-18s somewhere to go and help tackle the “holiday hell” facing families needing childcare in July and August.

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Local elections: Results in maps and charts

Results so far from local elections in England and Northern Ireland suggest voters are unhappy with the two main parties in Westminster.

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Election 2019: Council polls to take place across England and NI

Voters are heading to the polls for council and mayoral elections across England and Northern Ireland.

Elections are being held for 248 English councils, six mayors and all 11 councils in Northern Ireland.

Polling stations for the vote - spanning metropolitan and district councils and unitary authorities - opened at 07:00 BST and will close at 22:00 BST.

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Secret to happiness? A free bus pass in your 60s as researchers link fewer symptoms of depression with concessionary travel cards

Having a free bus pass leads to a happier life, research has found.

Those who receive concessionary travel are more likely to enjoy a better quality of life, have greater life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression than those who do not, according to researchers from University College London.

Their study also discovered that older people with bus passes are more physically active and less socially isolated than those without one. The analysis comes after peers said last week that pensioners should be stripped of ‘outdated’ perks such as free bus passes to make Britain fairer for younger people.

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County chiefs call for government to lead on reorganisation


County council chief executives are calling on the government to set out a firm position on local government reorganisation – and say many politicians support their position.

Nottinghamshire CC chief executive and chair of the Association of County Council Chief Executives Anthony May told LGC minsters’ current bottom up approach, which has seen only proposals with broad local support approved, was not working.

“What we would like is for the government to take a lead on [restructuring],” he said. “It does seem to the association that it’s an issue for central government.”

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Health visiting services on 'knife-edge' as cuts take toll

Health visiting services in England are on a “knife-edge”, a nursing charity chief has warned, as staff numbers continue to plummet in the wake of systematic budget cuts.

Dr Cheryll Adams, executive director of the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), said an extra 5,000 to 6,000 health visitors were needed to be able to “deliver against the research” for early years care.

She cautioned that gaps in services were already leading to more children going into care and more growing up with mental health problems.

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Leeds child obesity: ‘My two-year-old only ate baked beans’

In 2013, more than 20 per cent of children in the Dutch city were found to be overweight or obese, way above the national average of 13 per cent in the Netherlands.

The “Amsterdam model” of tackling obesity, costing £5 million a year, begins with counselling for pregnant women and continues for the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. The results are striking. The council’s health department figures show the number of overweight and obese children in Amsterdam to be down 12 per cent while the national average has remained the same.

Children and parents are given cooking classes to teach, as the council puts it, “healthy varieties of ethnic dishes”.

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Children's services 'at breaking point', MPs say

Children's services in England are at breaking point and need a £3.1bn minimum funding boost by 2025, MPs say.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee said current funding levels were unsustainable.

Its report said as services tried to respond to growing demand, amid severe funding pressures, many were reliant on the goodwill of staff.

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Queen’s speech delayed until Brexit deal reached

The Queen’s speech, which marks the beginning of a new parliamentary session, will be delayed until a Brexit agreement has been reached, the prime minister’s spokesperson has said.

A new session in parliament was supposed to begin in June but the prime minister has suggested this will not happen until a Brexit agreement is reached.

At a lobby briefing yesterday morning Theresa May’s spokesman said that the EU withdrawal bill “is part of the current Queen’s speech cycle and we need to finish that work”.

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Four Seasons Health Care: Care home giant on brink of collapse

Four Seasons Health Care (FSHC), one of Britain's biggest private care home operators, has appointed administrators after months of failed efforts to reduce its mammoth debt pile.

The announcement, confirming a story first reported by Sky News, will see the group - a key player in the UK's social care sector - put up for sale.

Four Seasons, which has 253 residential and nursing care homes, serves about 17,000 residents and patients, employing roughly 20,000 staff.

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Unexpected rise in voter registrations

More than half a million people have applied to register to vote in the upcoming local elections, the Electoral Commission has revealed, 36% more than expected.

In the run up to this week’s poll 570,000 people applied to join the electoral register across England and Northern Ireland, compared to a target or 400,000 in England and 27,000 in Northern Ireland, the commission said.

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Former cabinet minister unveils plan to tackle care funding crisis

A new universal entitlement to adult social care based on the model of the state pension should be introduced to address the current “financially and politically unsustainable” system, according to former cabinet minister Damian Green.

Mr Green, who as first secretary of state was put in charge of delivering the promised social care green paper, says shifting care costs from councils to Whitehall would ease pressure on local authority budgets and boost the delivery of more retirement housing and care homes.

In a report published today by the think tank Centre for Policy Studies, Mr Green suggests that an immediate funding gap of about £2.75bn could be filled by the introduction of a tax on winter fuel allowance or diverting savings from the spending review.

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Social care: Homeowners urged to pay £30,000 towards care by downsizing

Wealthier homeowners should be asked to make a voluntary payment of up to £30,000 for their care needs in old age, a new report argues.

The Centre for Policy Studies proposes a system in which everyone receives a state-funded weekly care payment.

Those able to downsize or release equity from their homes would also be encouraged to contribute more to plug the current funding gap.

But critics say it would not be enough to address the £7bn shortfall.

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Rural areas 'ignored' by Government, Lords claim

City Deals should be adapted and offered to ‘ignored’ rural areas, peers have said in a new report.

The House of Lords Rural Economy Committee argued that local rural strategies akin to City Deals, including devolved decision-making and funding, should be developed to redress an imbalance in favour of metropolitan areas.

Committee chair, Lord Foster of Bath, said: ‘Rural communities and the economies in them have been ignored and underrated for too long. We must act now to reverse this trend, but we can no longer allow the clear inequalities between the urban and rural to continue unchecked.’

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Auditors find ‘significant weaknesses’ in record-breaking investment deal and slam Surrey [district] council’s £1bn ‘property roulette’

Auditors have slammed a district council in Surrey which undertook the most expensive property investment ever made by a local authority after it found “significant weaknesses” in its financial processes.

KPMG delivered a damning assessment of Spelthorne Borough Council’s purchase of a BP research centre in Sunbury for £385m in September 2016, one of a number of costly property investments in the authority’s £1bn portfolio.

The auditors found that the acquisition of the site was decided by council officers without any public scrutiny, and the decision-making process was conducted via email and was “generally poor and difficult to follow.”

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Amount of unpaid council tax rises to £3bn

The total amount of unpaid council tax has risen to more than £3bn, according to the latest figures. Research by Citizens Advice says around 2.2 million households – 10% of the total – are behind with payments.

Council tax arrears grew by a third in the eight years up to 2018, the charity warns, up by 6% in the last year alone. However, it is calling for a series of measures to prevent bailiffs using aggressive methods to collect the debts including setting up an independent watchdog.

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Labour pledges to fund 160k extra care packages

Labour has announced a plan to invest £2.8bn to provide support for an extra 160,000 older people.

The party said today a package of increased investment, including a £350m investment in developing the social care workforce, would reverse reductions in government funding since 2015 and ensure both the over-65s and younger adults would receive the care they need.

Labour said it would invest £350m per year to support people with autism and learning disabilities move back into the community from “inappropriate” inpatient units.

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Spending Review could be next year because of Brexit

Philip Hammond has hinted if the Treasury goes ahead with a three-year Spending Review it might not happen in 2019, to a group of MPs.

The chancellor told the treasury select committee today that it would be “unwise” to make a three-year settlement before details of Britain’s exit from the EU were agreed.

When pressed on whether the six-month extension to Brexit discussion meant the Spending Review would be delayed until next year, Hammond did not answer the question.

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Government to hear Brexit legal base fears

Continuing concerns around the future legal base of regulatory work after Brexit will be raised at the next EU exit local government delivery board. A meeting – pencilled in for the middle of next month – is expected to hear that there is ‘no clear picture’ of the progress that has been made on converting the EU laws that many regulatory services are based on into UK law.

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UK falls behind on public service spending

Spending on public services in Britain would be higher by £2,500 per person each year if the government matched comparable European levels of funding, an analysis shows today.

The Institute for Public Policy Research found that Britain spends about 40 per cent of GDP on public services, down from 47 per cent in 2010. European spending has also fallen, but comparable EU countries still spend an average of 48 per cent of their GDP on areas such as health, education and welfare, the think tank said.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden were classed as the comparable countries.

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Mental health patients detained in hospital wards for up to 21 years

A patient locked in a secure ward for more than 21 years is among hundreds of people with mental health problems being kept in what one MP has called “old-style asylums” in NHS hospitals, an investigation can reveal.

Keeping people in so-called “locked rehabilitation wards” has been condemned as “outdated and sometimes institutionalised care”, by the NHS watchdog, with many patients housed far from their homes. This is despite a 2017 report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that said the model of care had no place in a modern healthcare system.

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Have the poorest councils had the biggest cuts?

analysis found that, across England, the average [median] cut to spending power was £297 per household. That is to say, half of councils had bigger cuts than that and half smaller.

For example, the London Borough of Hackney's spending power per household fell by £1,432, compared with only £1.78 per household in Wokingham in Berkshire. Only the Isles of Scilly had increased its spending power - by £350 per household.

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Homelessness charity wins £3.6m lottery grant

A charity which helps people battling with homelessness, long-term unemployment and addiction is set to expand thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund. St Giles Trust plans to establish a national network of seven 'peer hubs' over the next four years with the potential to help 6,000 people.

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Over 1,500 pubs close since controversial business rates revaluation

Hundreds of local pubs closed down last year due to a ‘myriad of cost pressures’, new research reveals.

According to real estate advisor Altus Group’s annual business rates review, set to be published this week, a total of 914 pubs ‘vanished’ in 2018, an average of about 76 per month.

At the beginning of 2019, the total number of pubs in England and Wales liable for business rates fell to 41,536 with the overall number declining by 1,530 since the revaluation of business rates came into force in 2017.

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Mental health of pupils is 'at crisis point', teachers warn

More than eight out of 10 teachers say mental health among pupils in England has deteriorated in the past two years – with rising reports of anxiety, self-harm and even cases of suicide – against a backdrop of inadequate support in schools.

In a survey of 8,600 school leaders, teachers and support workers, 83% said they had witnessed an increase in the number of children in their care with poor mental health, rising to 90% among students in colleges.

Many described a sense of helplessness in the face of the crisis. One said it was “like a slow-motion car crash for our young people that I am powerless to stop and can’t bear to watch or be part of any more”.

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Warning over pupils moving between schools

There are warnings that some of the 55,000 "unexplained" moves by pupils between schools in England over five years could include schools wanting to remove difficult children.

The Education Policy Institute has looked at cases where pupils have changed school without moving home.

Almost a quarter of these moves have taken place in 330 secondary schools.

David Laws, chairman of the think tank, said it raised concerns "whether some schools are 'off-rolling' pupils".

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County and district push ahead with 'non-structural reform'

A county and district council are set to press ahead with further joint working in a move they hope will “trigger a broader conversation” nationally about how councils can work better together in two-tier areas.

Oxfordshire CC and Cherwell DC have been sharing chief executive Yvonne Rees since October. Since then they have made five other shared senior appointments which a report due to be discussed by the county’s cabinet next week said was forecast to save each council just over £300,000 in 2019-20.

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LGPS governance consultation moots s151 responsibilities split

Local authorities could be required to remove pension fund responsibilities from section 151 officers under forthcoming LGPS governance reforms.

The suggestion is among a raft of measures mooted within four main proposed governance models on which the LGPS Scheme Advisory Board (SAB) launched a consultation this week.

The proposals follow an initial fact-finding exercise carried out by pension consultant Hymans Robertson, following their appointment in January to explore governance improvements.

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What about social care? [opinion]

Social care in England provides employment for some 1.5 million people (not including those working as personal assistants) – that’s more than the number of people who work in the NHS. The largest group are care workers – typically in residential settings or working in home support. The sustainability of social care is therefore founded upon this group of people who, despite their pay grade, have significant skills...

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Four out of 10 teachers plan to quit, survey suggests

Where do you see yourself in five years' time? No longer working in education, 40% of UK teachers surveyed by a teachers' union replied.

It may sound like a cliched interview question, but the National Education Union says that the answer is evidence of a "culture of fear" in schools.

Its survey of 8,600 members found most of those leaving blamed "huge workloads and excessive accountability".

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Families still struggle to find primary school places in English cities

Families in major English cities are still struggling to find places in their preferred primary schools, with demand remaining high in local authorities including Manchester, Birmingham and several London boroughs.

Despite a levelling off in the number of children enrolling for their first year of formal schooling aged four or five, many councils across England reported rising numbers of applications for about 700,000 primary school places this September.

On national primary school offer day, London’s local authorities announced a one percentage point drop to 85% in the proportion of families who were offered their first preference, while there was also a slight dip in those receiving any of their top three school choices compared with 2018.

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Special needs provision in schools cut by over £1bn

Children and young people who have special educational needs and disabilities have lost out on £1.2bn of Government funding over the last four years.

The number of children and young people granted an Education Health Care Plan has risen from 240,000 to 320,000 since 2015. These plans are a legal document stating a child’s entitlement to funding for support for complex needs.

Despite this 33% increase in demand, the National Education Union has calculated that funding for the high needs block has only increased by 6% over the same period, from £5.6bn to £6bn.

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High Court ruling clarifies councils’ SEND funding duties

Local authorities can legally allocate funding for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) using banding levels rather than having to calculate individualised provision costs, a court has ruled.

A High Court judgement last week rejected all 10 grounds of a challenge by a group of families to London Borough of Hackney’s policies on distributing SEND resources.

The court also concluded that the council had not breached its “section 42” duty to provide care for SEND pupils when it reduced one element of the funding by 5% in April last year.

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SEND funding cut by more than £1bn as nine in 10 councils hit ‘massive funding shortfall’

ouncils have seen a £1.2bn drop in real-terms funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) over the last four years as the Nation Education Union (NEU) warns that local authorities have reached “crisis point.”

Nine of out 10 councils face shortfalls of thousands of pounds and do not have enough money to provide adequate resources for the SEND provision in schools because government funding fails to keep up with growing demand.

The number of children and young people granted an Educational Health Care Plan has risen from 240,000 to 320,000 since 2010, but despite the 33% increase in demand the NEU has calculated that funding has only increased by 6%.

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Details delay social care green paper

Delays to the social care green paper are a result of the need for “greater consideration” of proposals, PF has heard.

Sector leaders have warned the pressure on social care in England “does not abate” after the government missed a fifth consecutive deadline for the green paper’s publication.

While Brexit has played a part in delaying the document, issues with the early proposals put to sector leaders have also contributed to the slow progress.

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Children with special needs forced out of school for years as funding fails to meet demand

Hundreds of shocking cases of children with special needs being forced out of school have emerged as figures reveal a £1.2bn drop in real-terms funding over the past four years.

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are out of school for years at a time as government funding to local authorities has failed to keep up with a rise in demand.

In a litany of case studies revealed to The Independent, families say long periods at home have damaged their children’s mental health as they wait for councils to find suitable provision.

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Are we witnessing the return of the council house?

In the 1920s, Stepney library, in working-class east London, was at the centre of a police investigation. A reader had asked the library to obtain a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses, a modernist masterpiece that governments across the world were trying to ban. As Kevin Birmingham shows in his history of the novel, a covert inquiry was launched to determine the identity of the Joyce fanatic. The police concluded that he was a “red-hot Socialist”.

Stepney library is again part of a socialist experiment, which if not red-hot is at least warming up. Tower Hamlets, the local authority, recently revealed plans to replace the library, which closed over a decade ago, with five council-built homes, as part of a drive to put up 2,000 by 2022. It is quite a change for a council which until recently built almost none. What is happening in Tower Hamlets is happening across Britain. Last year councils put up 4,000 homes, the most since 1992.

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Council tax debts in England soar 40% in six years

Council tax debts in England have soared by nearly 40% in six years, Guardian research has found, with charities warning these arrears now rival credit card debts as their biggest concern.

Amid warnings that “heavy-handed” collection tactics are putting severe pressure on those already in financial difficulty, households face a fourth consecutive year of above-inflation council tax rises as local authorities attempt to recoup money cut from their budgets by central government. The annual band D bill will rise by an average of £75.60.

Guardian analysis of government figures found the total amount of council tax arrears across Englandin the 2017-18 financial year was £944m, 37% higher than in 2012-13, when it was £691m.

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Stephen Hughes: Growing national income can fund local services

Gross domestic product, or what the country produces and consumes, stood in 2018 at around £2.03tn in 2016 prices, compared to £1.01tn in 1986.

At an average annual compound growth rate of just over 2%, the country earns and spends twice as much as it did 32 years ago. That is in real terms, including holidays taken, shoes bought, health care and education received, having adjusted for increases in price and consumer tastes.

While current growth rates are not at that level, governments still assume that trend growth rate is going to be 2% a year. For example, the Treasury’s green book for evaluating all spending projects uses a 2% discount rate for ‘wealth effects’ because of assumed GDP growth. Should that come to pass, by about 2054 GDP at 2016 prices will be well over £4tn. That is an extra £2tn of income a year.

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EU foster children should be given automatic British citizenship, charity says

Thousands of EU children living in foster care in the UK should be given automatic British citizenship to avoid becoming the new Windrush generation, say a leading children's charity.

Coram, a legal children's centre specialising in adoption and fostering services, has warned that thousands of children risk being left undocumented when the UK leaves the European Union because they are unaware of the EU settlement scheme or find it too complicated.

The government has launched an online settlement application which all EU nationals must complete in order to remain in the UK and be able to work, access healthcare and education.

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Ofsted uncovers 500 suspected illegal schools in England

More than 500 suspected illegal schools, educating thousands of pupils, have been identified in England over the past three years by the schools watchdog Ofsted, according to data published for the first time.

In some cases local authorities were unwittingly sending children to unlicensed alternative provision. In one case, a council paid £27,000 a year for one of its students to be educated in an unregistered setting. Elsewhere, students were found being taught by teachers who had been banned and untrained staff who had undergone no employment checks, in buildings where hygiene and facilities were poor.

The data, released by Ofsted on Friday and never published before, shows the illegal schools task force has investigated 521 settings, and inspected 259 since January 2016.

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Unregistered schools given council funding

Local authorities are paying for places for children in settings that are not even registered, Ofsted is warning.

England's education watchdog has called for tougher rules on tackling illegal "schools" with risks of poor conditions and a lack of safeguarding.

Inspectors suggest 6,000 children are taught in such unregulated settings.

But the watchdog said councils were subsidising these unregistered alternatives to school, paying up to £27,000 a year for places.

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Care homes 'failing to keep pace with just 10 beds for every 100 people over 75'

Care and nursing homes places are failing to keep pace with the ageing population, a report reveals.

There were just 10.1 care beds for every 100 people over the age of 75 last year, says Public Health England.

This is the lowest figure in at least six years, and a drop from 2012 of 11.3.

Data also recently revealed older people’s social care has faced a £160million cut in the past five years.

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Developers encouraged to fund school places

The Government has published new guidance which sets out how councils can encourage housing developers to fund the school places their developments create.

The guidance, which was published today by the Department for Education, will support local authorities to negotiate what funding and land is required from housing developers for new schools and school expansions.

‘It isn’t enough for developers simply to build houses; we need to build communities. Schools are at the centre of any community and that’s why it’s vital that developers contribute to the cost of the school places they create,’ said schools minister Lord Agnew.

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Corbyn launches attack on fair funding review

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has entered the debate over the fair funding review, claiming it ‘will make poorer areas even poorer’.

In a clash with prime minister Theresa May in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Corbyn said she had ‘pushed councils to the brink’.

Calling the fairer funding formula ‘a phrase that George Orwell would have been very proud of,’ he said removing deprivation as a factor in the review would hit councils in poorer areas of the country hardest.

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Minister: Response to high streets fund 'fantastic'

The union representing chief executives and senior mangers has criticised revived government plans to limit public sector exit payments to £95,000, branding it a “significant interference” by ministers.

A consultation on draft regulations to implement the cap was published today by the Treasury. The rules will affect staff in local government, the police, schools, the NHS and the civil service.

The regulations would implement powers created in the Enterprise Act 2016 which had not previously been acted on, prompting speculation the policy was being rethought. However, as LGC reported in March ministers have decided to revive the policy.

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IMF's Lagarde says further Brexit delay will 'hinder' UK growth

Further uncertainty over Brexit will hinder growth in the UK economy, the head of IMF has told the BBC.

Speaking ahead of the agreement of an extension to Article 50, Christine Lagarde warned that businesses and investors will remain hesitant in the coming months.

She said any prolonged uncertainty would have a "negative impact".

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Wales promotes council tax discounts for mentally impaired

The Welsh Government is making it easier for those living with severe mental impairments to get big discounts and rebates on their council tax bills.

The move follows a long campaign by consumer website MoneySavingExpert.

It's helped Sian Higginson and her 88-year-old mother, Pat Hughes, who suffers from dementia.

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Two-thirds of councils say they can’t afford to comply with homelessness law

The Homelessness Reduction Act, in operation for the past 12 months, is potentially the greatest piece of homelessness legislation for 40 years in England, according to Southwark council in south London. The Labour-run council pioneered the government’s new flagship act, and is upbeat about it. While homelessness went up in the borough last year, as it did across London, the rise was less steep than expected: 8.6% for families placed in temporary accommodation and a similarly small increase for rough sleepers. At the same time, there was also a 50% increase in the number of people the council helped to stay in their home. “It shows the act works,” says the council’s cabinet member for housing, Stephanie Cryan.

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Children who need help with mental health face postcode lottery – study

Children suffering anxiety, depression and other low-level mental health conditions face a postcode lottery when seeking treatment, research has shown.

There are wide disparities in spending per child in different parts of England with more than a third of areas seeing a real-terms fall in spending on these services. This is despite soaring demand and increased government funding for children’s mental health nationally, the study by the children’s commissioner for England found.

Experts said early intervention by school nurses, counsellors, drop-in centres or online support services to address low-level conditions can prevent them developing into more serious illnesses. And the report warned children may be losing out at this crucial point.

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Family's anger as government's social care plans delayed for fifth time

Care providers and families living with the impact of long-term conditions have urged the government to set out its plans for social care after a long-awaited green paper was delayed for a fifth time.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a parliamentary select committee that proposals for the long-term reform of care funding, first promised in 2017, would be published by the end of March.

That deadline has now passed and rules governing local elections mean the green paper cannot now be released until after polling day on 2 May at the earliest.

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PMQs erupts as Corbyn savages council cuts - 'George Orwell would've been proud'

Jeremy Corbyn launched a furious attack today on Tory council cuts declaring: "George Orwell would have been proud".

Labour's leader quoted the writer - who invented words like "doublespeak" to describe government spin - as he warned a new so-called "fairer" funding model could decimate town halls in poor areas.

The method for handing councils government cash is changing to make it "better and fairer", Tory ministers say.

But they have faced a backlash, including from 1,500 public sector chiefs, for proposing not to include "deprivation" in the new formula.

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Philip Hammond unveils tax cut

Phillip Hammond will give 32 million hard working Britons a tax cut today in a massive boost to help turbocharge the UK economy.

Writing exclusively in the Daily Express the Chancellor explains the move will put more money in the pockets of "families, strivers, grafters and carers" up and down the country. "They are the lifeblood of our economy – who keep the country going no matter what,” the Chancellor says. His blockbuster giveaway, which comes ahead of Britain’s exit from the European Union, has been made possible because of a tax windfall from our surging economy.

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The price of Brexit has been £66 billion so far, plus an impending recession — and it hasn't even started yet

The damage to the UK economy due to Brexit has cost £66 billion ($86 billion) so far, and left the United Kingdom teetering at the brink of a new recession, according to economic data published last week.

An analysis by S&P Global Ratings analyst Boris Glass found that the decline of the pound, increase in inflation, erosion of household spending power, decline in house prices, and weak exports led to a 3% reduction in GDP. "That translates into average forgone economic activity of £6.6 billion (in 2016 prices) in each of the 10 quarters since the referendum," Glass said in a research note.

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Local elections: 12 councils to watch [opinion]

Psephologists Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher on some of this year’s most interesting contests..

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Rob Whiteman: A wider response is needed to Northamptonshire [opinion]

Within local government there has been a gradual transition to a new financial reality.

A decade of austerity has seen local government funding nearly halved while demand has risen. This has brought with it a significant change to the way organisations make financial decisions and think about risk.

We have seen a rise in commercial activity, a cutting of core services and greater use of reserves. The innovative ways councils have shown they can reduce costs are leading edge, but balancing a budget is still difficult and fraught with challenge, whether that is personal, political or financial.

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LGA in finance director plea

Council finance directors have been urged to detail the pressures facing services and the savings they have been forced to make in a new survey.

The Local Government Association (LGA) survey comes as part of the organisation’s campaign to influence this year’s Spending Review.

Its survey, asks directors for the amount of additional income their council has generated since 2015, how confident they are that various service areas will be protected from further cuts in the next four years and for which services funding is the greatest concern.

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Councils spend millions on agency social workers amid recruiting crisis

Local authorities are having to spend millions of pounds on social work agencies as they struggle to recruit permanent staff, with some authorities employing nearly half of their children’s social workers through private companies, a Guardian investigation has found.

Data obtained through freedom of information requests shows that many English councils are routinely spending tens of millions of pounds – a total of at least £335m in 2017/18 – hiring agency social workers.

Experts said the difficulty experienced by councils in attracting permanent staff meant vulnerable children and families were often seeing multiple social workers in a single year, making it harder for them to engage with services.

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What do parish councils do?

The story begins during a freezing Derbyshire winter, with a simple request for a £360 grit bin at the top of the steep hill where Tony Beginn lives with his wife, Gwen. It has ended in a bitter stand-off between Tony and the seven undoubtedly committed and well-meaning members of Castle Gresley parish council. Tony, 68, a retired engineer, describes his experience as like “entering a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent”.

“I don’t doubt that local councillors take on the role with the best intention of serving their communities,” he says. “But my experience is that many are poorly qualified and ill equipped for the task. They are free to make arbitrary decisions and, when challenged, answer to no one.”

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Ofsted grades are misleading parents and are wrong in up to half of cases, ex-Government adviser says

Ofsted grades are misleading parents and are wrong in up to half of cases, a former Government adviser has said.

The lack of consistency is so severe that grades should be scrapped altogether, according to new report by Tom Richmond who is now director of EDSK, a think-tank specialising in education and skills.

He cited research which demonstrates that thousands of schools could have been given the wrong rating over the years.

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The England that Westminster forgot

Straddling the winding A697 into Scotland, the small border town of Wooler could easily have followed countless other places in a familiar spiral of decline: seemingly left behind, ignored by decisionmakers, starved of essential services, as big cities powered ahead leaving others struggling to survive.

It is a familiar story. Local industries contract. Banks close; two recently in Wooler. Shops shut. Libraries disappear. Bus services are axed, leaving many isolated. From the old mill towns of Lancashire to the once-thriving mining communities across the Pennines in the North East and Yorkshire, some towns seem to have disappeared from the political radar screen, out of sight and mind of government.

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Newham Council fined £145,000 over gangs list leak

A London council has been fined after a Met Police list containing names of suspected gang members ended up in the hands of rival gangs.

The unredacted list, which included addresses of 203 alleged gang members, was leaked after being emailed to others by a Newham Council worker.

Investigators said some on the list had been "victims of violence", but it was "not possible to say" if the attacks had been a result of the breach.

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Seaside town reinvention 'should start with Blackpool'

Seaside towns have been neglected for too long and are in desperate need of reinvention, a parliament report said.

Young people in coastal communities are being "let down and left behind" by issues like transport, housing and post-16 education, the document said.

The House of Lords' plan suggested solving problems in Blackpool could prove key in tackling issues at bucket and spade resorts across England.

"If you can solve it there you can solve it anywhere," the report said.

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Funding for pupils with special educational needs drops 17%

The government has been accused of failing children with special educational needs after a report found funding for pupils had been cut by 17% across England since 2015.

The report by the thinktank IPPR North also revealed the north had been worst affected, with cuts of 22% per pupil. Researchers found government spending on support for children and young people with the most complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) had failed to keep pace with rising demand, resulting in a reduction in funds available per pupil.

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‘North suffers most from special educational needs budget cuts’

Special educational needs budgets in England have been slashed by an average of 17% since 2015, think-tank analysis has shown. The north of England has been hit hardest with cuts of 22% per pupil, according to analysis by the Institute of Public Policy Research out today.

Children with special educational needs receive support through a ‘Education, Health and Care plan. IPPR found that average funding per EHC plan fell from £23,111 in 2015 to just £19,120 in 2018-19. In the north of England the average money put towards EHC plans dropped from £23,560 to £18,275 in over the same [period].

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Councils say homelessness act not adequately funded

Up to 67% of councils feel they lack the funding to meet new duties to tackle homelessness, analysis has found.

Urban councils in particular are feeling the strain with 86% suggesting the £72.7m handed down from government to fund extra responsibilities is not enough, according to a survey by the New Local Government Network think-tank.

Improved advice about homelessness, personalised housing plans and extending the timeframe that councils help people facing homelessness were just some of the duties implemented under the Homelessness Reduction Act this time last year.

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‘North suffers most from special educational needs budget cuts’

Special educational needs budgets in England have been slashed by an average of 17% since 2015, think-tank analysis has shown.

Special educational needs budgets in England have been slashed by an average of 17% since 2015, think-tank analysis has shown.

The north of England has been hit hardest with cuts of 22% per pupil, according to analysis by the Institute of Public Policy Research out today.

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Tories resign to fight former colleagues as Dorset tension continues

A group of anti-reorganisation Conservative councillors are set to stand against their former colleagues as independents in the forthcoming inaugural election of the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, as the fall-out from the reorganisation continues.

The five-strong group of former Christchurch BC councillors, who opposed the merger with Bournemouth BC and Borough of Poole, includes the former council leader David Flagg, a vocal critic of reorganisation. LGC understands Mr Flag was rejected by an internal Conservative party candidate approval process ahead of the election on May 2.

Nick Geary, another critic of reorganisation, is also said to have fallen foul of this process, which is required under Conservative rules as the candidates would be standing for a new council. Cllr Geary is also planning to stand as an independent.

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Brexit: Councils left in the dark, MPs say

The government needs to stop leaving councils "in the dark" over Brexit and urgently provide more support, MPs say.

The Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government committee said ministers should prioritise making sure that EU funding will be fully replaced after the UK leaves the EU.

Its report said plans for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund need to be fast-tracked to fill the gap.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU on 12 April.

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Mother sues over daughter's suicide attempt in school isolation booth

A woman whose daughter tried to kill herself while in an isolation booth at an academy school is to take legal action against the government.

The child, who cannot be named, has autistic spectrum disorder and mental health problems, but was put in an isolation booth by her school in Kent for more than a month.

Prior to the intervention of lawyers in mid-March, she had spent every day since mid-January in isolation, meaning she had to remain silent throughout the day and had no directed teaching.

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Northants closes £65m funding gap in under a year

Northamtonshire County Council has had its emergency section 114 notice lifted after wiping out a £65m funding gap in less than a year.

A report to its cabinet next week says it is now set to be £100,000 in the black in what council leader Matt Golby claimed as a 'remarkable achievement'.

However, he said the council's position was still 'fragile' and 'robust spending controls' would continue.

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Government homelessness funding 'not enough'

Two out of three councils do not think £73m Government funding to help them fulfil their statutory duty to prevent homelessness is enough, a NLGN survey has found.

Some 67% of council chief executives and leaders who responded to the survey, published one year after the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act, said the funding was not proving adequate in the face of high demand.

The survey by the NLGN think-tank also found four in 10 councils thought it unlikely or very unlikely they will eradicate rough sleeping by the Government’s target of 2027. Head of public affairs at charity Centrepoint, Paul Noblet, said: ‘This shows the huge challenges faced by cash-strapped councils across the country as they attempt to support increasing numbers of people.

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Council register of home-schooled children proposed

Parents will be required to register home-educated children with their local authority under government proposals intended to prevent young people from disappearing off the radar.

An estimated 60,000 children are thought to be educated at home – a figure that is rising by about a quarter each year. The register will for the first time enable authorities to see where children are if they are not in school and intervene more effectively if required.

The proposals, which will be outlined by the education secretary, Damian Hinds, on Tuesday, are intended to address concerns about soaring numbers of children out of school, particularly those who have been “off-rolled” or are attending illegal schools.

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Liddington: EU elections preparations will be funded

The government has approved plans for European elections as a contingency measure, and has confirmed that returning officers will be reimbursed for any costs incurred as a result of preparations.

Following the failure of Friday’s vote to break the Brexit deadlock, the government announced yesterday evening that it is no longer able to guarantee that the UK would not participate in EU elections on May 23.

As LGC reported yesterday, returning officers had expressed concerns at having to stump up election planning costs for which they did not expect to be reimbursed for, in the event that the European elections did not take place in the UK.

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Minimum wage rates rise, but bills go up too

Two million UK workers on minimum wages are now receiving a pay rise - but a string of household bills have also increased.

Workers aged 25 and over on the National Living Wage will receive £8.21 an hour from Monday, up from £7.83 - a 4.9% rise.

Pay rises also take effect for younger workers on minimum wages.

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Fund to fix our potholes gets an extra £200m in emergency government funding to help resurface more than 1,000 miles of highway

Town halls are being given £200million to fix their crumbling roads.

The emergency funding from the Department for Transport is enough to help resurface more than 1,000 miles of highway.

It includes £50million specifically for potholes and flood measures.

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'Massive challenge' due to EU election uncertainty

Councils are facing “massive administrative challenges” to be prepared for European parliamentary elections, without knowing if they will go ahead.

The possibility of elections having to be held on 23 May increased dramatically on Friday after MPs again rejected the prime minister’s Brexit deal.

Theresa May said this meant the UK would likely have to ask the EU for an extension beyond the 12 April deadline, which if granted made it “almost certain” European elections would need to be held.

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Clive Betts: My committee will try to solve the funding crisis

Earlier this month, as chair of the all-party House of Commons’ housing, communities and local government committee, I announced a new inquiry into local government finance. There’s no point in being unambitious!

Ahead of the autumn 2019 spending review, we want to look at how effective the existing local government financial framework is at providing resources to meet need and demand for local services, both now and in future. We want our work to directly inform government policy towards local government funding in the spending review and beyond.

Total government spending and revenues have hovered at around 40% of gross domestic product (GDP) for the last 50 years. Fluctuations have been determined in part by the performance of the economy and in part by discretionary policy.

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Suffolk now has 'largest district council in country'

The country's biggest non-metropolitan district council, by population, has come into being after a merger.

East Suffolk, made up of the former Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils, will serve 246,913 people.

A second new authority, West Suffolk, has taken over from St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils.

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Calais child refugees waiting 10 times longer to join family in UK

Children stuck in Calais as they wait on the Home Office to transfer them to the UK to join their families have seen delays in receiving an initial decision from the department increase 10-fold in two years, the Guardian can reveal.

The average wait for a positive response to a request by unaccompanied children in Calais to join families in the UK increased from 10.98 days in 2016 to 111.31 days, nearly four months, according to a Home Office document seen by the Guardian. The average wait for a negative response has nearly quadrupled from 16.5 days to 63.44 days.

Children who received a positive response saw the average wait time to be transferred to the UK increase from 26.11 days in 2016 to 198.44 days in 2018, the figures show.

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Fund to fix our potholes gets an extra £200m in emergency government funding to help resurface more than 1,000 miles of highway

own halls are being given £200m to fix their crumbling roads. The emergency funding from the Department for Transport is enough to help resurface more than 1,000 miles of highway. It includes £50million specifically for potholes and flood measures.

The money comes from the £6.6billion the Government is providing over the six years to 2021 to improve local roads. It will also continue to fund research into new surface materials and pothole repair techniques, including the use of 3D printing.

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New £201m road repair fund is ‘drop in the ocean’

The Government’s newly announced £201m road repair fund – and investment in technology – will help to address shortfalls in funding but is still a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed to bring England and Wales’ roads up to scratch.

That’s the response from local council and motoring-related organisations following yesterday’s Department for Transport news of new pothole funding, as they continue calls for funds from fuel duty to be ringfenced for road repairs.

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Northants commissioner: Council still has a long way to go

Northamptonshire County Council’s finances “remain fragile” due to a lack of robust reserves and require savings of £40m, its finance commissioner Brian Roberts has told PF.

Roberts, a former CIPFA president, was speaking to PF after news broke yesterday morning the commissioners had called for Northamptonshire’s section 114 notice to be lifted.

“The council is on a journey of recovery – not only for its finances but for the quality of services – and this is only part of the journey,” he told PF.

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Ministers must act to save tens of thousands of jobs on UK's struggling high streets, Tesco boss warns

The boss of Britain’s biggest supermarket warned yesterday that hundreds of thousands of jobs will go unless ministers do more to help high street shops.

Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis called for business rates to be overhauled because they were unfair to firms that trade out of shops rather than those doing business online.

He said online retailers should face higher taxes to ‘level the playing field’ and warned that retail was at a ‘tipping point’, with job losses between 2017 and 2022 expected to hit 380,000.

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Northamptonshire to lift spending ban

Commissioners overseeing the running of Northamptonshire CC have recommended the lifting of its Section 114 notice, telling staff: ‘There is no longer a need for the council to live under the shadow of this failure.’

The council twice imposed the spending ban last year, in February and then in July, when the Northamptonshire's budget was projected to be heading for a £30m overspend. It followed a budget in 2017/18 containing savings that were ‘unachievable’.

However, commissioners have made the recommendation after the council produced a ‘broadly balanced’ financial monitoring report covering the first 11 months of the year – for the first time since 2012.

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Council taxes to rise by 5% but service cuts ‘still needed’

The average council tax bill in England is to rise by almost 5 per cent, the second-largest increase in ten years.

Figures released yesterday by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showed the levy on a typical Band D property going up by £78 to £1,750 from next week — a rise of 4.7 per cent.

This is largely explained by councils struggling to cover social care because of austerity cuts, an ageing population and insufficient mental health provision.

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SURVEY RESULTS: Officers expect no extra cash from Fair Funding Review

An overwhelming majority of senior council finance officers believe that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Fair Funding Review will result in a reshuffle of existing resources rather than an increase in the level of funding available, according to research conducted by Room151.

The Room151 2019 Current Affairs Survey gauged the sentiment of more than 150 chief finance officers, their deputies and other senior officers with non-statutory roles at UK councils.

Ninety percent of respondents said they believed the outcome of the MHCLG’s review of relative needs, resourcing and baseline allocations for local authorities in England would be “mostly a redistribution” ahead of this year’s Spending Review.

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How Northamptonshire balanced the books

Northamptonshire CC’s commissioners have today recommended the council lift the section 114 notice after the council forecast a balanced position for the year end, the first time in seven years this had happened.

Speaking to LGC this morning, finance commissioner Brian Roberts said the flexibility to use £70m of capital receipts for revenue purposes had been helpful as it had been used to pay off the deficit from 2017-18 of £41.5m. However, he said the forecast £30m in-year overspend was reduced through efficiencies.

“We didn’t want to reduce services to deal with the on-off problem of the deficit,” he said.

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More than 1m childless people over 65 are 'dangerously unsupported'

More than 1 million people aged over 65 without children are “dangerously unsupported”, and at acute risk of isolation, loneliness, poor health, poverty and being unable to access formal care, according to a report.

The number of childless older people in the UK is expected to double by 2030, putting huge pressure on a health and social care system that is already struggling to support the vulnerable, warned Kirsty Woodard, founder of the organisation, Ageing Well Without Children (AWwoC).

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Government is ‘failing’ to combat child poverty, campaigners say

Campaigners have warned that the economy is not ‘working for everyone’ as the latest statistics show that child poverty in working families is on the rise.

According to the Government’s annual poverty statistics, the percentage of poor children in working families has increased from 67% to 70%.

They also show that 53% of poor children—or more than two million—are aged under five, and 200,000 more children are in absolute poverty.

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Councils make record £867m from parking charges as profits soar by two-thirds in a year fuelling concerns that authorities are exploiting motorists

Profits from council parking charges have soared by up to two-thirds in a year, according to a report.

Figures show how town halls outside of London have generated millions by increasing the costs of on-street parking, car parks and parking permits.

The biggest rise was seen in Medway, Kent, where parking profits jumped 65 per cent from £3.1million in 2016/17 to £5million last year.

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Whiteman: Local government finance needs to be more transparent

Local government audit is “in need of improvement”, CIPFA’s chief executive has told MPs.

There is a “big gap” between local audit and central government intervention in struggling councils, Rob Whiteman chief executive of CIPFA has told the Public Accounts Committee today.

Whiteman said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should have an “oversight brief” in order to create more transparency about finances in the local government sector.

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Whiteman: Local government finance needs to be more transparent

Local government audit is “in need of improvement”, CIPFA’s chief executive has told MPs.

There is a “big gap” between local audit and central government intervention in struggling councils, Rob Whiteman chief executive of CIPFA has told the Public Accounts Committee today.

Whiteman said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should have an “oversight brief” in order to create more transparency about finances in the local government sector.

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Schools funding shortfall of £5.4bn 'worse than estimated'

There has been a £5.4bn shortfall in school funding in England over the past three years, according to an analysis of official figures by unions which says the deficit is worse than previously estimated.

The School Cuts coalition of unions representing teachers and school support staff claims the latest analysis represents the most comprehensive examination of school funding to date.

It says the shortfall affects 91% of schools across England and the overall situation has become so bad that even low-paid support staff are regularly dipping into their own pockets so children can have food, stationery and sanitary products. As a result there are fewer support staff to help children with mental health problems, class sizes are rising and the range of subjects schools can offer is shrinking.

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Barry Lewis: Fair funding must recognise rural challenges

At the start of March, Stephen Houghton (Lab), leader of Barnsley LBC, argued the government’s proposed new funding formula is unfair because it would systematically disadvantage residents in urban areas.

As the leader of a largely rural county council, I fundamentally disagree.

It can be all too easy to characterise rural villages as bright, bucolic havens inhabited by the privileged middle classes, while big towns and cities are dark places of poverty and deprivation. But in Derbyshire, in common with many other largely rural counties, the reality is not black and white. Some of our most disadvantaged communities nestle in the rolling Peak District hills.

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Report finds disparities in highways maintenance funding

An increase in local authority highways maintenance budgets is helping to stem the decline in local roads, a new report has found.

The annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey found that budgets have increased by nearly 20% for the second consecutive year.

However, the survey - published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance - found that years of underfunding have led to a decline in the local roads network, which requires nearly £10bn to bring to it back to a reasonable condition.

It also identified disparities of funding, ranging from less than £9,000 per mile of local authority road network to more than £90,000 per mile.

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MHCLG appoints new director general

A senior Treasury official has been appointed as the new general director for local government at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

Catherine Frances, who has been director for public services at the Treasury since 2014, succeeds Jo Farrar after she became chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation Service.

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MHCLG appoints new director general

A senior Treasury official has been appointed as the new general director for local government at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

Catherine Frances, who has been director for public services at the Treasury since 2014, succeeds Jo Farrar after she became chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation Service.

Ms Frances was named the 24th most influential person whose work shapes local government in 2018’s LGC 100.

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MHCLG ‘concerned’ over councils’ investment code compliance

Some councils are failing to comply with revised investment code requirements on proportionality and minimum revenue provision (MRP), according to a senior government official.

Speaking to a session at Room151’s LATIF North last week, Gareth Caller, head of the local government finance unit at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said the government is currently undertaking a review of how councils are interpreting the revised code, released last year.

He said that although the review – covering treasury management strategies and capital strategies – is only a third of the way through, his team has raised concerns about the approach of a number of councils.

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Report finds disparities in highways maintenance funding

An increase in local authority highways maintenance budgets is helping to stem the decline in local roads, a new report has found.

The annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey found that budgets have increased by nearly 20% for the second consecutive year.

However, the survey - published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance - found that years of underfunding have led to a decline in the local roads network, which requires nearly £10bn to bring to it back to a reasonable condition.

It also identified disparities of funding, ranging from less than £9,000 per mile of local authority road network to more than £90,000 per mile.

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Unease as cash-strapped councils buy hotels

Public accounts experts have raised the alarm over councils ploughing taxpayers’ money into commercial property, after new research revealed a three-fold surge in hotel investments by local authorities. Councils spent £93m buying hotels in 2018, up from £33m the previous year, according to Knight Frank, as they sought alternative sources of income following years of budget cuts.

Local authorities can pay for property investments using low-interest debt from the Public Works Loan Board, a government agency set up to help fund capital projects.

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Automation could replace 1.5 million jobs, says ONS

Some 1.5 million people in England are at high risk of losing their jobs to automation, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It says those most likely to lose to automation are women, with a 70% chance of this happening. Part-timers and the young are the next most at risk.

The ONS analysed the jobs of 20 million people in 2017 and found 7.4% of these were at high risk of being replaced.

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Legislation linked to 60% rise in temporary accommodation

Six in ten councils across England have seen an increase in families being housed in temporary accommodation since the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act, a new survey has found.

The Local Government Association (LGA)’s new research, published ahead of the legislation’s anniversary next week, additionally found 80% of councils have seen an increase in the number of people presenting as homeless.

The Act came into force on April 3 last year and introduced new duties for councils to reduce homelessness, including doing all they can to secure accommodation for applicants.

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Whitehall announces £36m to develop coastal communities

Around 70 coastal projects have been awarded a total of £36m by the Government as part of an effort to attract tourists and create jobs.

The funding will go towards supporting businesses, protecting historic buildings, new museums and restoration of coastal heritage sites.

This investment represents 26 awards from the fifth round of the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund. These awards are forecast to create over 15,000 jobs, and attract up to £40m in additional investment from public and private sector sources.

The funding also comes from 44 awards from the third phase of the Coastal Revival Fund in 2018-19.

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Government backs down over 'myth-busting' guide on child protection

The government has withdrawn a controversial document that claims some statutory protections for vulnerable children are “myths”, after a charity launched an application for judicial review, the Guardian has learned.

The “myth-busting” guide, issued last July, advised local authorities that they are legally permitted to reduce or even remove support from children in long-term foster care, who run away or go missing from home or care, who are remanded in custody and those who have left care and are still living with their former foster carers.

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Lawyers wanted: Legal workforce on the rise

Councils are boosting capacity in their legal departments following previous cuts as they face challenges arising from new models of service delivery, commercialisation and pressures in adult and children’s social care, LGC research can reveal.

Figures gathered from 100 upper tier councils following a freedom of information request show a 6% rise overall in legal department staff, including lawyers and support workers, between 2015-16 and 2017-18. A total of 49 councils increased legal department capacity, with 31 boosting staff numbers by 10% or more.

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Local income tax best bet for fiscal devo - IFS

Local income tax would be the best option for fiscal devolution if the Government wanted to hand more powers to local authorities, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) argued today.

According to calculations from the institute, a 3% local income tax levy on all tax bands would raise around £19bn – around 40% of councils’ core budgets – would incentivise inclusive growth and give the sector a buoyant revenue stream that keeps up with inflation.

However, a devolved local income tax would require a system to redistribute revenue between councils to avoid large disparities.

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LGA and others issue a joint letter on adult social care

The letter states that "Adult social care is at breaking point.

Two years ago the Government rightly recognised the scale of the problem and the need to find a long-term, sustainable solution for adult social care. Two years later and its long-promised green paper on the future of adult social care still hasn’t been published.

High quality, properly funded social care and support enables people to live the lives they want to lead through access to the right care in the right place at the right time. But with more people needing care, increases in costs and decreases in funding, this is becoming more and more difficult. More than two million people in England have left their jobs to provide unpaid care for family or friends.

While one-off funding injections have helped to curb the severity of immediate pressures, they are only short-term and do not address the underlying structural problems facing the care and support system."

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Chronic Underfunding Will Force More Children's Centre To Close, LGA Warns

Funding for children’s centres has been slashed by nearly a quarter in four years, according to figures analysed by the Local Government Association (LGA). The chronic underfunding of children’s services means centres are facing a fight for survival and many more could face closure.

The loss of funding comes as councils face rising demand for support for children in care, meaning they are having to cut or end early years services in order to make ends meet. While spending on children’s centres has fallen, councils have had to increase how much money is spent on children in care by almost a fifth.

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said it was “inevitable” that without new investment from government in children’s services, councils will face the “difficult but unavoidable decision” of having to cut or close early help services such as children’s centres.

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Bin collections are weekly for just one in six councils

Just one in six councils in the UK still collect non-recyclable waste from the majority of homes in their area every week.

At least 10 authorities switched to fortnightly rounds or announced plans to do so in the past year, research by the BBC has found.

The government said councils had a responsibility to collect waste regularly.

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Councils told to seek no-deal Brexit legal advice

Local authorities will have to seek their own legal advice on how to handle personal data in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Government has said. If Britain leaves without a deal, the UK will no longer comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation requirements.

The Government has said it will allow personal data to be passed from the UK to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) but returning data flow will be affected, creating legal uncertainty. It has urged local authorities to take responsibility for assessing data protection risks to their organisations and suggests councils individually seek legal advice about the likelihood of disruption to transfers of personal data between the EEA and UK.

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MPs criticise children's social care progress

MPs have accused the Department for Education (DfE) of still not doing enough to make the quality or finances of children’s social care sustainable.

A Public Accounts Committee report published today said the financial position of local authority children’s social care was ‘unsustainable,’ with nine out of 10 councils exceeding their budgets in 2017/18 and a total national overspend of £872m.

And the report said the department had made ‘only limited progress’ in improving the quality of children’s social care services.

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Tax avoidance measures ‘a long way short of a solution’

Confronting “outrageous” tax abuse by tech giants could provide £700m for public services, a think-tank has claimed.

Measures to tackle tax abuse by large multinational corporations in the chancellor’s autumn Budget “fall a long way short of a solution”, according to TaxWatch UK.

The think-tank noted that large multinational companies – big tech companies, in particular – use countries like Ireland and the Netherlands to get out of paying their taxes.

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High praise for Liverpool health campaign

A public health campaign run by Liverpool City Council has been praised in a new national report. The "Save kids from sugar" campaign was part of a wider campaign to tackle issues like obesity, alcohol intake and sugar consumption.

The national report from the Local Government Association praises Public Health Liverpool for its "comprehensive approach to creating health campaigns based on insight work, co-development with local people and measuring impact".

Liverpool was the first local authority in 2015 to name and shame manufacturers of fizzy drinks, yogurts and cereals with high sugar content in its 'Save Kids from Sugar' campaign.

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Rubbish: Britain's Tipping Point?

Rubbish - it's a topic we all have an opinion on. From bin strikes & local authority budget cuts to harmful plastic waste and confusing recycling rules.

Plans for Birmingham City Council to restructure their bin collection service and save millions of pounds led to a series of strikes by bin collectors. This in turn impacted the streets with vast mountains of rubbish piling up attracting fly tippers who added even more waste to the heaps of rubbish.

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UK employment at highest since 1971

The number of employed people in the UK has risen again, to a new record number of 32.7 million people between November and January, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

That is the highest figure since records began in 1971.

Unemployment fell by 35,000 to 1.34 million in the period, putting the rate below 4% for the first time since 1975.

The figure is 112,000 lower than a year ago, giving a jobless rate of 3.9%, well below the EU average of 6.5%.

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Exasperation at rules for new high street cash

A ‘threatening’ letter has been sent to council chief executives demanding that they spend their slice of a £9.75m pot allocated for a high street community clean-up, and giving them little more than a week to do so.

The letter, seen by LGC, explains that the funding, announced yesterday, should be used to work with community groups to undertake existing community-led street and town centre cleans. Councils are to get between £2,000 and £195,000, depending on population size.

But the letter, from the Ministry for Housing Communities & Local Government, was only received by chief executives yesterday evening, and councils have only been given until the end of the current financial year to spend the money.

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Grimsey criticises speed of high streets bidding process

Retail expert Bill Grimsey has accused the Government of forcing the pace on bids to its £675m Future High Streets Fund.

Writing for The MJ this week, Mr Grimsey, a former chief executive of Wickes, Iceland and Focus DIY, said tomorrow’s deadline – barely three months after the call for proposals – left councils without the time to put together quality schemes.

His intervention comes after a turbulent year for the high street, during which several household names went into administration, announced major restructuring or closed stores, with 70,000 retail sector jobs lost.

Mr Grimsey wrote: ‘The £675m is a substantial amount of money and needs to be spent wisely and not quickly.'

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Frustration mounts on Brexit legislation list

Frustration is growing as the Government stalls on requests to provide a comprehensive list of secondary legislation affecting councils that needs to pass before Brexit.

Local government has repeatedly asked for a table of legislation that has been passed and statutory instruments that still need to be laid before Parliament. EU laws cover many council services and there is concern that local authorities will not have the legal certainty they need to ensure the continuity of public services.

One council chief executive said: ‘I don’t think there has been any concerted effort by departments or the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to draw attention to the ones that affect what councils do or even to give us a list.

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Waiting for Godot and the Social Care Green Paper

The Chancellor promised last week’s spring statement was not going to be a huge fiscal event – and he stayed true to his word.

Aside from a pledge to put free sanitary products in our schools and to review an increase in the minimum wage, the most notable announcement for local government in Philip Hammond’s speech was the promise that the three-year spending review would be launched before the summer and concluded in the Autumn Budget… assuming a Brexit deal is agreed.

As with the past major fiscal events, what is more telling is what has been left out of the chancellor’s speech. Speaking at a post-spring statement briefing, the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ (IFS) director Paul Johnson said: ‘Despite the obvious importance and urgency of the issue, waiting for the Social Care Green Paper has become rather like “Waiting for Godot”, perhaps appropriately subtitled “a tragicomedy in two acts”. It didn’t even merit a mention.’

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New £9.75m fund to clean high streets

Communities minister James Brokenshire has annnounced a £9.75m fund to back council’s efforts to clean up town centres.

Every local authority in England is guaranteed a share of the money to spend on equipment and training, ahead of ’National High Street Perfect Day’ in May, a community-led clean-up to get high streets looking their smartest which is planned for this summer.

Councils are allocated a minimum of £2,000 and a maximum of £195,000, weighted to population size .

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Squeezing local government finance will hit women hardest

Local government services most likely to suffer from reductions in central government funding are mainly used by women, the director of the Women’s Budget Group Mary-Ann Stephenson says.

From 2020 the government plans to remove all central government funding for local government, making councils dependent on the money they can raise locally from council tax and business rates. Councils will be allowed to retain 75% of business rates from that date.

However, local authorities with the lowest receipts from business rates are likely to have the poorest populations and the highest social care demands. This in turn may put pressure on the poorest areas to charge higher levels of council tax, even though their residents will be least able to afford this.

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Public sector ‘likely to suffer’ with collapse of Interserve

Interserve, one of Britain’s biggest government contractors, was due to file for administration this evening.

This was after just under 60% of the company’s shareholders voted against a rescue plan earlier today.

The business holds thousands of public sector contracts, including for local government, cleaning schools and hospitals. It also runs catering and probation services as well as managing construction projects.

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Right to Buy homes re-sold since 2000 made £6.4bn in profit

A former council tenant bought their home under Right to Buy for £8,000 and sold it on for £285,000 nine days later - a £277,000 profit, the BBC found. The Solihull buyer was among 140 in Great Britain who bought and resold within one month, making a £3m collective profit.

Opponents of the scheme said too many people had profited from a policy that had "much bigger social ambitions".

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Welsh households to face biggest council tax rise in 15 years

Council tax bills are set to increase by an average of 6.5% across Wales - the largest rise in 15 years - according to new figures.

The council tax survey by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) also found significant gaps between the increases in different parts of Wales. The average band D equivalent in South Wales has seen an increase of 5.7%, whereas mid and west Wales face a 8.1% increase in their council tax bills.

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Councils collaborate to address homelessness crisis

Over a dozen London boroughs have joined the collaborative programme Capital Letters, which aims to support homeless households across the capital.

London Councils, the local government association for Greater London, has announced that 13 boroughs have become founding members of Capital Letters.

The not-for-profit company, which is collectively owned by the boroughs, will procure accommodation for homeless Londoners and those at risk of homelessness.

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Nearly all councils to build new homes after scrapping of borrowing cap

Local government leaders have called on Whitehall to help them resume their ‘historic role’ as major house builders after decades of depleting council stock.

Nearly all (94%) of the 59 housing stock-owning councils have told the Local Government Association that last year’s scrapping of the housing borrowing cap will help them accelerate house building.

However, 92% said that more support from the Government is needed if councils are to reverse the decline in social housing.

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Spring Statement was ‘dead rubber’

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement has been branded a “dead rubber” that will not end austerity for the public sector.

Umbrella groups, think-tanks, charities and unions slammed Hammond’s failure to address issues including local government funding, school finances and the ongoing benefits freeze in his announcement to the Commons yesterday.

CIFPA chief executive Rob Whiteman called Hammond’s statement “an absolute dead rubber”.

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Local bodies poor at securing value for money, says PAC

An increasing number of local public bodies are demonstrating “significant weaknesses” in securing value for money, MPs have warned.

Auditors found more than 20% of local authorities, NHS bodies and police and fire authorities in England did not have proper arrangements in place to achieve value for money in 2017-18, the Public Accounts Committee has said. Central government’s measures to stop this were “limited”, the watchdog added.

NHS bodies, like Clinical Commissioning Groups and hospital trusts, were found to be the worst public bodies for assuring taxpayers’ money is spent effectively, according to the PAC report out today.

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End 'lazy language of austerity,' sector urged

In an exclusive interview with The MJ, Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy boss, Rob Whiteman, and finance spokesman for chief executives’ organisation Solace, Martin Reeves, called on local government to speak as one against the cuts.

Mr Whiteman said using the word ‘austerity’ was ‘lazy or sloppy language that lets decision makers off the hook’. He said: ‘It [the Government] has made choices to spend more money on retirement benefits while cutting benefits to working families and families in need and there are profound implications... If local government spoke with one voice and said we do need more resource … I think that would be quite authoritative.’

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Spring Statement: Hammond promises 'deal dividend'

The chancellor has pledged to spend a £26.6bn Brexit war chest to boost the economy, if MPs vote to leave the European Union with a deal.

Philip Hammond vowed to free up more money to cut taxes and spend on public services in a "deal dividend".

However, he said these spending plans were based on a smooth Brexit.

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Parking fees to more than double as council set to collect over £1 billion

UK drivers could be left out of pocket as parking fees are expected to soar by up to 230 per cent in the UK. Councils could rake in a record one billion in fees over the next year as a result of the increases.

New analysis from the RAC foundation fines that many councils are planning to raise the costs for town centre car parks and scrapping free parking areas.

The research found that councils are planning the price hikes due to budget cuts from Central Government as well as measures to reduce congestions and air pollution.

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8 Things Buried In Philip Hammond's Spring Statement

Brexit may be the focus of the UK’s politicians and media at the moment, but the world hasn’t stopped turning – and neither have the wheels of government.

Chancellor Philip Hammond took to the despatch box to update the country on the UK’s finances and deliver his Spring Statement on Wednesday.

Among his announcements were £100m for police forces to tackle the knifecrime crisis, a £3 billion affordable homes scheme and the end of fossil-fuel heating systems in all new houses from 2025.

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Funding cuts hamper knife crime prevention in England, say schools

Schools and colleges say funding cuts are hampering their efforts to prevent knife crime, according to a report commissioned by Ofsted that calls for “local community safety partnerships” to tackle the problem.

The Ofsted report, based on a survey of secondary schools, further education and pupil referral units in London, found huge variations in how the schools dealt with the problem of knives carried by pupils, as well as a lack of information-sharing between schools, local authorities and the police.

The report also concluded that schools need to follow more carefully Department for Education guidelines on the use of exclusions, and called for authorities to “challenge schools and multi-academy trusts when exclusions do not appear to be in line with statutory guidance”.

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Outgoing NAO chief questions ministerial accountability

The relationship between ministers, accounting officers and civil servants is currently not working, the outgoing auditor general of UK’s spending watchdog has said in his last speech in the role.

Some ministers “see themselves more or less as chief executive officers but without the qualifications”, National Audit Office head Amyas Morse told an event on accountability at the Institute for Government think-tank’s offices this morning.

The comptroller said this meant ministers sometimes made decisions prioritising a project “close to their hearts” – when they should be held accountable but are not – which “has led to the abandonment of good practice”, he said.

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Weaker pupils removed before exams

Pupils are most likely to be excluded during the autumn term of their GCSE year, the last chance that schools have to remove them before their results count towards league table rankings, The Times has learnt.

The data was drawn from admissions figures to Pupil Referral Units (PRU), schools designed for excluded pupils, and will fuel suspicions that schools are using the exclusion process to enhance their average exam results.

A survey of almost 80 local authorities found that 1,238 teenagers were admitted to PRUs in their first term of Year 11 in 2016-17 compared with 748 in the spring term of Year 11, and 676 in the summer term of year 10, the term before they start their GCSE year. This age group represents one in six of all admissions to PRUs

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Heads angry at minister's school funding 'snub'

Thousands of head teachers in England are warning about a "school funding crisis" and say they are angry that the education secretary has "snubbed" them.

More than 7,000 heads have written a joint letter to 3.5 million families, warning of worsening budget shortages.

They say requests to talk to Damian Hinds have been turned down because his time is too "pressurised" to meet.

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Northants apologises for underpaying childminders

Northamptonshire County Council has apologised ‘unreservedly’ for underpaying childminders and nurseries by thousands of pounds.

A special scrutiny meeting at the council heard how underpayment and late payment problems went on for two years after a new payment system was installed.

The service also breached personal data regulations by giving out dates of birth, addresses and national insurance numbers of families to strangers.

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Council to fine anti-social drivers

Bradford Council have decided to crack down on drivers who play loud music, rev their engines, or engage in other acts deemed to be anti-social.

The council will introduce a district wide Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to tackle ‘nuisance, anti social driving’.

The decision was taken after two-thirds of respondents to a survey of more than 1,200 people said nuisance drivers were a problem that made them feel ‘unsafe’.

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Women ‘bear the brunt’ of social care crisis, charity warns

Women are paying the highest price for the Government’s continued inaction on social care, an elderly persons charity has warned.

In a new report, published to coincide with International Women’s Day, Age UK has set out the enormous challenges facing many women who are carers.

Breaking Point: The social care burden on women found that there are 1.25 million ‘sandwich carers’ in the UK. These are people caring for an older relative as well as bringing up one or more children aged under 16.

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Rising number of councils issuing fines for rough sleeping

The number of councils that have obtained the power to issue £100 fines for rough sleeping, begging and “loitering” in England and Wales has increased despite Home Office guidance not to target the homeless.

Local authorities have been accused of trying to “airbrush their streets” and “ban homelessness” after analysis by the Guardian found at least 60 councils with public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) forbidding people from putting up tents, seeking charity and other behaviour associated with rough sleeping, up from 54 last year. Those who violate the orders are liable to a £100 fine which, if left unpaid, can result in a summary conviction and a £1,000 penalty.

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Parsons Green bomber's foster carers sue council

A couple who fostered the Parsons Green bomber are suing Surrey County Council for negligence, after not being told he had been "trained to kill" by the Islamic State group.

Ron and Penny Jones fostered Ahmed Hassan, whose homemade bomb injured 51 people on a London Tube train in 2017.

The couple, who have looked after nearly 270 children, have not been allowed to foster any more children and say their lives are "empty".

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Revealed: Nearly 80,000 Jobs Lost In Radical Council Upheavals

Council workers have spoken out over the “brutal revolving door” of redundancies at town halls that are stripping local government of workers and profoundly impacting on services.

Mass job cuts at councils have gone largely unnoticed by the public over the last decade. Yet as austerity has driven sweeping cuts, cash-strapped local authorities have massively downsized their workforces while trying to protect frontline services in the face of deep cuts to budgets.

New research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in partnership with HuffPost UK, has found councils in England have made 75,891 jobs redundant in the last five years. These thousands of permanent, often well-paid jobs have also been lost to the local economies.

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Southern cities provide more jobs for low-skilled workers than in the North

Employment opportunities are greater for people with few or no qualifications in southern English cities than those in the North or Midlands, a think tank has discovered.

Research by the Centre for Cities has found that, despite higher living costs in cities in southern England, their stronger economies create significantly more jobs for people with fewer qualifications.

For every 10 high-skilled jobs in a city, 17 further jobs for low-skilled people are created as a result, such as those in shops or restaurants.

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Department for Transport issues pothole warning

Firms that dig up the roads would have to guarantee they remained pothole-free for five years, under new Department for Transport (DfT) proposals.

At the moment, utility companies only guarantee roadworks for two years.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "Imposing higher standards on repairs will help keep roads pothole-free for longer."

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Apprenticeship take-up down by a quarter

The number of people starting a training programme has fallen "substantially" under the government's new apprenticeship scheme, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

The public spending watchdog said the government was "very unlikely" to hit a 2020 target of 3 million new starts.

The government had some way to go before it showed the scheme was value for money, the NAO added.

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Households facing one of the highest council tax hikes in a decade, survey reveals

Council taxpayers can expect their bill to go up by an average 4.5 per cent from next month, a survey has revealed.

Average Band D households in England can expect an increase of £75.60 (4.5 per cent) in their council tax bill for 2019/20, according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa).

Its survey found of 312 councils in England which responded to the research, 301 said they would be increasing their council tax.

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Libraries and parks face closure in bid to pay for social care services facing multi-billion pound funding gap, LGA warn

Libraries and parks will close in a bid to fund social care services facing a multi-billion-pound funding gap, local authorities warn.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has insisted that this year councils will have to further divert funding from local amenities - including bus services, parks, filling potholes, libraries and leisure centres - to try and protect vital adult social care services.

Despite council tax hikes to plug the funding black-hole and an attempt to avoid a the looming of threat of “a care home crisis”, millions of older and disabled people fear that their services and care provisions - such as helping them dress, be fed and leave the house - will still continue to be cut.

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Struggling towns to get £1.6bn post-Brexit boost

A £1.6bn fund is being launched by the government to boost less well-off towns after Brexit.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread... but we want it to work for all communities."

More than half of the money will go to the north of England and the Midlands to bring jobs and stimulate growth.

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Revealed: The thousands of public spaces lost to the council funding crisis

The local government funding crisis has become so dire that councils are being forced to sell thousands of public spaces, such as libraries, community centres and playgrounds.

In a double blow to communities, some local authorities are using the money raised from selling off buildings and land to pay for hundreds of redundancies, including in vital frontline services.

In a major collaborative investigation with HuffPost UK and regional journalists across the country, the Bureau has compiled data on more than 12,000 public spaces disposed of by councils since 2014/15. Our investigation found that councils raised a total of £9.1 billion from selling property.

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MPs to debate school funding crisis after 100,000 sign head teacher's petition

A head teacher has triggered a debate in Parliament today on the schools funding crisis after his online petition gained more than 100,000 signatures.

Andrew Ramanandi, who launched the petition in December, said, “Our children deserve better.”

He added he is one of “many head teachers” with concerns over funding.

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Lancs councils launch unitary call

Four Lancashire councils have launched a bid to form a new unitary that they say will put the area at “the centre of the Northern Powerhouse”.

The leaders of Blackburn with Darwen BC, which is already unitary, and Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale BCs wrote to communities secretary James Brokenshire on Wednesday to propose a new council for East Lancashire.

In the letter they say they need to be “in control of our own destiny” to create a council which is “dynamic, unceasingly ambitious but understanding of the challenges our areas face”.

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Teaming up at the top: the sharing of lead officer roles

Two heads are better than one, goes the saying. Currently around 14 councils are putting this theory into practice, having deleted their chief executive post and replaced it with two directors. Often councils take the step to save money. But twinned directors claim a duo also leads to greater capacity and resilience.

When Hart DC former chief executive Geoff Bonner retired in 2014, the council left his post vacant. Instead corporate directors Patricia Hughes and Daryl Phillips took on his duties, in addition to their own, and were given a year to prove the arrangement.

Having worked together at the council since 2012, and previously at East Hampshire DC, the pair divided responsibilities based on their individual strengths and knowledge. For example, Ms Hughes heads up paid services, while Mr Phillips’ role includes being monitoring officer. However, they are both full-time, and insist anyone at the council can speak to either on any matter. “You speak to one, and you’ve spoken to both,” says Ms Hughes. “It’s nobody else’s responsibility to understand how we split up our work.”

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Business rates appeals will cost councils over £1bn

Councils in England predict that business rates appeal will cost them £1.1bn in 2019/20, new figures have revealed.

The data from the Valuation Office Agency shows 150 properties a day appealed their business rates last year.

Since the revaluation came into effect on 1st April 2017, a total of 37,950 appeals were successful.

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Early intervention key to helping those at risk of falling into debt, says report

Councils in Wales are being urged by a think tank to do more to support those at risk of falling into debt given the large council tax increases on the horizon.

In a new report, the Wales Centre for Public Policy calls on councils to build personalised and proactive support for vulnerable citizens to stop them falling behind on their council tax or social housing rent payments.

This includes identify and acting on problems as early as possible and making it easier for people to access independent specialist help

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Spending review: Councils braced for further austerity

Britain's second city has a bright future ahead with the high-speed HS2 link on its way and the Commonwealth Games which it will host in 2022, bringing welcome stimulus for Birmingham's economy.

City council leader Ian Ward is ebullient, saying there are 'reasons for optimism' while announcing a budget for the next four years.

'The budget is not simply a response to our financial challenges,' he declared. 'It is a forward looking financial plan to transform the way we work, change the way services are delivered, and look towards new opportunities to improve quality of life for citizens in the long-term.'

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Diana Terris: ‘It’s much harder when things are being sliced’

Barnsley MBC chief executive Diana Terris tells Nick Golding how her authority has “always got one eye” on the next round of cuts.

“You can have loads of money and still be a pretty poor performing council; you can have very little money but be a good performing council.”

So says Diana Terris of the impact of austerity. When she was first appointed to local government’s top officer rank, at Warrington BC in 2006, she had no idea how the landscape would change during her tenure as a council chief. This is due to end at the end of May when she retires as Barnsley MBC’s chief executive after nearly seven years.

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Government urged to publish a rural strategy

Government has been urged to address its ‘inadequate’ rural policy ahead of Brexit.

A network of rural service providers and organisations have released a report calling for the government to properly confront challenges in rural England, citing concerns that EU funding for community development and business initiatives will end next year.

The Rural Services Network believes current government policy overlooks the needs of rural communities, and is ‘dominated by urban thinking’.

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Business rates appeals will cost councils over £1bn

Councils in England predict that business rates appeal will cost them £1.1bn in 2019/20, new figures have revealed.

The data from the Valuation Office Agency shows 150 properties a day appealed their business rates last year.

Since the revaluation came into effect on 1st April 2017, a total of 37,950 appeals were successful.

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Childcare funding ‘insufficient’, council chiefs warn

Government funding for nursery school places often fails to cover the costs for those providing the care, local authority leaders have warned.

Responding to the latest survey by the Coram Family and Childcare charity, Anntoinette Bramble of the Local Government Association said the funding for 30 hours of free care is insufficient.

She says support for children with special needs is also at risk as providers try to make ends meet.

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More than a million public sector workers paid below the voluntary living wage

Entry level NHS, council and university workers are amongst those still being paid less than the voluntary living wage, a study suggests.

The Living Wage Foundation (LFW) said more than one million people in the UK are currently being paid less than the recommended hourly rate for households battling inflation and rising costs.

The findings coincide with a childcare report today, that shows costs have risen 3% in the past 12 months - to £127 a week per child.

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Vulnerable pensioners with dementia facing crippling care bills following NHS attempts to restrict funding

Vulnerable pensioners with dementia and Parkinson’s are facing crippling care bills following attempts by health officials to restrict the numbers receiving NHS funding.

Under national rules, any patient with a significant health problem should have their care and nursing fees paid in full - if the condition is deemed to be the main reason they need such help.

But an investigation by The Telegraph reveals that authorities are increasingly refusing to fund care, claiming that devastating diseases are not severe, or not the primary reason help is needed - leaving families facing bills of up to £100,000 a year.

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Interserve rescue fees hit £90m

Interserve is to pay out more than three times its stock market valuation in fees to City advisers as part of a proposed emergency refinancing.

The contractor’s £90 million in fees will go to the Rothschild investment bank, Numis, the broker, Ashurst and Slaughter and May, the legal firms, Grant Thornton, the accountant, and Tulchan, a public relations firm. The amount is equivalent to the cash the company will be left with if its £895 million restructuring is successful.

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Parents pay as much as university tuition for part-time childcare – study

Some parents are paying more than the cost of a year’s university tuition for a part-time nursery place, new research has indicated.

The average cost for 25 hours a week at nursery for a child under-two is £175 a week in Inner London, or £9,100 a year, according to figures released by the Coram Family and Childcare Trust.

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UK hunger survey to measure food insecurity

The government is to introduce an official measure of how often low-income families across the UK skip meals or go hungry because they cannot afford to buy enough food, the Guardian can reveal.

A national index of food insecurity is to be incorporated into an established UK-wide annual survey run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that monitors household incomes and living standards.

Campaigners, who have been calling for the measure for three years, said the move was “a massive step forward” that would provide authoritative evidence of the extent and causes of hunger in the UK. They say food insecurity is strongly linked to poverty caused by austerity and welfare cuts and is driving widening health inequality.

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Public services are about empowerment – not a transaction

This year the UK will get its first Big Picture school in Doncaster, following the example of dozens of others across the world.

Two things make these schools fundamentally different from conventional ones. One is the extent to which students can shape their own curriculum and learning. The other is the central role of community.

Under this model, students are part of an ‘advisory group’ made up of fellow students who support each other, while also learning within the wider community, spending a good part of their time working with local employers. Evaluations have shown the approach has a striking impact on engagement and attainment.

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Firefighters tackle huge blaze on Saddleworth Moor

Firefighters have tackled a “ferocious” moorland blaze in West Yorkshire after the UK’s warmest winter day on record. Witnesses described an “apocalyptic” scene as flames of up to two metres raged across Saddleworth Moor on Tuesday night.

The fire, near Marsden, spread across an area of 1.5 sq miles and could be seen from miles away as crews from across the region battled through the night to contain it.

Adam Greenwood, a station manager at West Yorkshire fire and rescue service, said the blaze was “one of the highest flame fronts we have seen” and had spread rapidly due to the unseasonably warm and dry weather. Britain had its hottest winter day on record on Tuesday, with a temperature of 21.2C (69.4F) recorded in Kew Gardens, south-west London.

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Cuts to children’s services are pushing young people into violence and exploitation, experts warn

Funding for children’s services has been slashed by a third since 2010, research shows, as experts warn more young people are being pushed into violence and criminal exploitation as a result.

A new analysis of figures reveals that in some parts of England, the money available to local councils per child has dropped by as much as 52 per cent in real terms, leaving thousands more children at risk of neglect and abuse “slipping through the cracks and into crisis”.

Youth workers and social workers warned that the dramatic cuts were inextricably linked to a rise in youth knife crime and the criminal exploitation of children by county lines gangs.

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Council tax pushing thousands into poverty because of online applications process

Thousands of Britain's most vulnerable people are losing out on help to pay their council tax, a charity has warned.

Turn2us said many pensioners are no longer receiving help because of the council's ongoing shift to digital-only services.

It warned the new rules are locking out those who need financial aid the most - and as a result, pushing people into poverty.

There were 1,588,000 pensioners claiming council tax support in the three months to December 2018, a drop of 245,000, or 13%, compared to the same period in 2015, Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government figures show.

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Charities warn government that cuts to children's services 'leave thousands at risk'

Thousands of children across England could be at risk after deep cuts to the funding available for council children's services, according to official figures from a group of leading charities.

The study shows that the funding available per child has fallen by a third since 2010.

The statistics - compiled by a group including Action For Children, Barnardo's, the NSPCC and the Children's Society - identify "kids' cuts hotspots" across the country and reveal that councils in the capital have suffered the largest cuts.

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Independent Group gains first two councillors

The former leader of Brighton & Hove City Council has quit the Labour party and become the first known councillor to declare their support for the newly formed Independent Group of MPs.

Warren Morgan, who represents East Brighton, resigned from Labour after 27 years as a member, citing “Brexit, antisemitism and the toxic culture of aggression and bullying within the party and the broader Corbyn-supporting base”.

His reasons for quitting reflect those of the ‘gang of seven’ founding members of the Independent Group, MPs who simultaneously resigned from Labour on 18 February.

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English councils accused of hiding scale of homelessness crisis

Councils have been accused of deliberately hiding the scale of the rough sleeping crisis in England by changing the way they compiled figures for the 2018 official count, the Guardian can reveal.

Official government statistics reported a 2% fall in rough sleeping in England in 2018 after seven consecutive years of rises when the figures were released last month. But critics have suggested the percentage decreased after several councils changed their counting method and does not reflect the reality on the streets.

The government has described the claims as “an insult” to the volunteers and charities who help compile the official figures. But back in 2015 the figures were also criticised as low-quality, untrustworthy and vulnerable to political manipulation by the UK Statistics Authority who threatened to remove their official status.

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Council stings residents of Cranbrook for ‘new town tax’ of £370 a year

Residents of a new town in Devon are being charged an extra £370 a year in council tax in a practice — already being called “the new town tax” — that could spread across the country.

Cranbrook, a new town to the east of Exeter, is charging band F properties a £370 surcharge, rising to £512 for band H properties. Residents receive no more services than people elsewhere in Devon.

Mark Williams, chief executive of East Devon district council, said: “It is very likely that other towns not just in East Devon but elsewhere will have to adopt a similar approach if they wish to maintain their local assets or facilities.

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How much will my Council Tax rise in April 2019?

Families face an eye-watering average council tax hike of more than £70 in April, we can reveal.

Our interactive search tool shows hard-pressed homes will be slapped with inflation-busting hikes to stop services tipping over the brink.

Just two councils in England (Wigan and Thurrock) are planning to freeze council tax completely. And just one (Central Bedfordshire) is raising it by less than the 1.8% CPI inflation rate.

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Paul Johnson: The present model of funding for local government is unsustainable

As ever when it comes to local government, it’s news about what might happen to our council tax bills that grabs headlines. So it was last week when the Local Government Information Unit and the Municipal Journal reported that nearly all councils intended to raise their council tax rates next year, three quarters of them by more than 2.5 per cent. At the same time, nearly all are planning also to increase fees and charges. And more than half intend to dip into their reserves.

Given the steep cuts in central government support, which have resulted in cuts of a fifth in council spending since 2010, these pressures should hardly come as a surprise. Local councils have been squeezed harder than many of the other big public services — health, schools and defence, for example. So it was equally unsurprising to learn in the same survey that fully 80 per cent of councils say they are not confident in the sustainability of local government finance. Literally none said that they were “very confident”.

While their role has diminished in recent decades, local authorities continue to play a crucial part in our lives, in our democracy and in our public services provision. Even excluding school funding, over which they have little or no control, they spend more than £40 billion a year. They are responsible for funding and delivering social care for adults and children. They support communities by providing local amenities and overseeing local economic development. They deserve far more of our attention. When you get 80 per cent of councils worrying that the funding system is not sustainable, it’s time to sit up and listen.

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Paul Johnson: The present model of funding for local government is unsustainable

As ever when it comes to local government, it’s news about what might happen to our council tax bills that grabs headlines. So it was last week when the Local Government Information Unit and the Municipal Journal reported that nearly all councils intended to raise their council tax rates next year, three quarters of them by more than 2.5 per cent. At the same time, nearly all are planning also to increase fees and charges. And more than half intend to dip into their reserves.

Given the steep cuts in central government support, which have resulted in cuts of a fifth in council spending since 2010, these pressures should hardly come as a surprise. Local councils have been squeezed harder than many of the other big public services — health, schools and defence, for example. So it was equally unsurprising to learn in the same survey that fully 80 per cent of councils say they are not confident in the sustainability of local government finance. Literally none said that they were “very confident”.

While their role has diminished in recent decades, local authorities continue to play a crucial part in our lives, in our democracy and in our public services provision. Even excluding school funding, over which they have little or no control, they spend more than £40 billion a year. They are responsible for funding and delivering social care for adults and children. They support communities by providing local amenities and overseeing local economic development. They deserve far more of our attention. When you get 80 per cent of councils worrying that the funding system is not sustainable, it’s time to sit up and listen.

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Council tax: England's first £2,000 bill revealed

England will see its first standard £2,000 council tax bill this April as families shoulder the burden of years of Tory cuts.

Hard-pressed residents of Rutland, East Midlands, are poised to see the annual bill for a Band D home tip over the eye-watering threshold for the first time.

The Tory-run county hall is hiking bills by 4.99% to fund cash-starved social care - sending the total bill for all services soaring more than £100 from £1,936 to £2,043.

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Exclusive: Theresa May warned plans for £100,000 cap on care costs will require significant tax rises

Theresa May has been warned by her Health Secretary that plans for a £100,000 care cap will cost billions and lead to significant tax rises, The Telegraph can reveal.

Matt Hancock has told the Prime Minister he is "concerned" that the cap, which he says could cost up to £3.4billion, is being included in a forthcoming green paper.

The cap would see people pay a maximum of £100,000 for their care over their lifetime, excluding the cost of accommodation.

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Teachers being driven away by ‘impossible’ workloads

Impossible workloads and underfunded pay deals have created a “crisis” in teacher recruitment and retention in England, a union has warned.

A report out today by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NEFR), found that an increasing number of teachers are leaving the profession, with 20% saying they feel tense about their jobs.

Responding to the findings of the annual report on the teaching workforce, the National Education Union said the reasons for retention issues are “not a mystery”.

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Northamptonshire approves 4.99% council tax rise

Northamptonshire County Council has taken advantage of special freedom to increase council tax by 4.99% without needing to hold a referendum.

The council - which was given the extra flexibility to help improve its governance and services - has agreed to the council tax rise to help balance its budget.

The budget also includes investment into adults’ facilities and children’s homes.

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Tony Travers: Delay protects ministers from awkward reality

While short-term cash is repeatedly found, difficult decisions are put off again and again.

The year 2019 will be the year of a spending review, the ‘fair funding’ process and, just possibly, government proposals for the future of adult social care.

The spending review was announced by the chancellor last March, though it is still not known whether it will cover three years, four years, or possibly just one. Local government representatives make regular submissions to Whitehall about the plight of councils after eight years of austerity, but it is impossible to know if such concerns are being taken seriously by those undertaking the review.

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Analysis finds London could lose £0.5bn under fair funding reforms

The proposed new formula for funding services such as libraries, parks and waste collection will see more than £0.5bn diverted away from London councils, with shire areas the main beneficiaries, an academic analysis shared with LGC has found.

The analysis of the proposed new foundation formula by Ben Barr, a senior clinical lecturer in applied public health research at Liverpool University, also found not including an adjustment for deprivation, in favour of using population as the only cost driver, would see the 20% most deprived areas lose a total of £390m a year.

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Council spending on child asylum seekers almost doubles in four years

The amount councils are spending on unaccompanied child asylum seekers has almost doubled in four years, the Local Government Association has said.

Local authorities take on the responsibility for the accommodation, living allowance, education and social worker support for children granted asylum in the UK.

This support continues in various forms until they turn 25.

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City centres 'could become ghost towns'

City centres are in danger of becoming ghost towns as shopping habits change, a committee of MPs has warned.

To combat this, the government should "level the playing field" for High Street retailers by raising taxes on online giants such as Amazon, it said.

The MPs also called for lower business rates and more regeneration in town centres.

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Record UK government borrowing surplus in January

The chancellor's next Spring Statement has been given a lift after the government recorded its largest January borrowing surplus last month.

Government finances were in surplus by £14.9bn last month, the largest January surplus since records began in 1993, official figures showed.

The figure was £5.6bn greater than a year ago.

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Andrea Leadsom fails to guarantee MPs' Easter break

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom has failed to guarantee that Parliament's Easter break will go ahead as planned.

The House of Commons is not due to sit for two weeks in April - after the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March.

But Mrs Leadsom told MPs that the recess period remained subject to the process of agreeing new legislation.

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Counties and districts to clash over rates split

Counties and districts look set to clash over the future split of business rates growth after their responses to the government’s consultation on the issue set out diametrically opposed positions.

From April 2020, local government is set to retain 75% of the business rates collected nationally, up from the 50% that has been retained since 2013.

In two tier areas, districts retain four fifths of this and counties receive the remainder.

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British children living in poverty 'could hit record high' – report

The proportion of children in Britain living in poverty risks hitting a record high in the next few years as incomes stagnate and benefit cuts continue to bite, a report has warned.

A study by the Resolution Foundation thinktank said UK households had experienced flatlining living standards due to a lack of economic and pay growth in the past two years. Average incomes will not rise materially over the next two years either, it said.

The bleak forecast will hit lower-income families harder, according to the report, and child poverty could exceed previous highs reached in the early 1990s. Deprived families will bare the brunt of weak pay and benefit cuts, the report said.

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Local authorities with major ports to receive funding boost to help with Brexit preparations

Nineteen local authorities facing impacts from a local air, land or sea port will receive a share of £3.14 million to help them prepare for Brexit, the Communities Secretary confirmed today (20 February 2019).

Nineteen district and unitary councils across England will receive £136,362 to the end of April for each major port of entry into the UK in their area.

This will allow them to increase their resources to work through the immediate impacts from Brexit in their local areas such as ensuring their port’s resilience and potential impacts of greater traffic to surrounding communities.

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MPs ‘to scrutinise local authority finances’

A wide-reaching parliamentary inquiry is likely to be launched into local government finances, the chair of the housing, communities and local government select committee Clive Betts has revealed.

Betts said that the parliamentary inquiry would be a “major piece of work” into the current squeezed finances of local government, saying, “I think at some point we will go on and look at the whole issue of local government finance before the Spending Review – I think it will be right that we inform that."

He added: “It will be a major piece of work – we haven’t formally announced it yet – but I think our intention is clear.” He did not say when it would be launched.

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Have You Been Made Redundant From Your Council Job?

Thousands of council employees across the country have been made redundant in recent years as cash-strapped local authorities slash millions from budgets.

Data from the Local Government Association shows the size of local government staffing has shrunk significantly over the last 10 years.

The number of people directly employed by councils has fallen by 878,000 over that time, or 30%, whilst central government staffing has increased by 15%.

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Gove launches consultation on waste system overhaul

Companies would cover the full cost of recycling and disposing of the packaging they produce, under government proposals for reform of the waste system announced today.

Other measures out for consultation by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs include the introduction of a deposit return scheme, consistency in the materials that are collected and recycled across the country and a new tax on packaging which does not contain the minimum threshold of 30% recycled content.

The changes, which also includes mandatory weekly food waste collections, are set to be included in the government’s forthcoming Environment Bill, which is due to be introduced next year.

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Council chiefs insist waste reforms must be ‘fully funded’

Local authority leaders have welcomed plans to ‘overhaul’ the waste system, but cautioned Whitehall that any reforms need to be fully funded.

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs has launched a consultation on plans to reform the system by which waste is collected and sorted, cut plastic pollution, and move towards a more circular economy.

The consultation outlines plans to make businesses and manufacturers pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste. It also seeks to ensure there are a consistent set of recyclable materials.

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Crackdown on monthly bin collections after residents complain of rats, flies and stenches

Millions of homes will be spared monthly bin collections under a new Government pledge to reverse a trend towards them, following complaints of rats, flies and stenches.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will set out plans this week for a major overhaul of waste and recycling in England, which will ensure smelly food waste is collected on a weekly basis.

It comes after a number of cash-strapped councils have cut the frequency of their bin collections from every one or two weeks to every three or four weeks. This has caused outrage among many of the affected residents, who have faced dealing with smelly, overflowing bins which attract flies and rodents.

[Please see the Consultations page of the SCT website for more information.]

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Crackdown on monthly bin collections after residents complain of rats, flies and stenches

Millions of homes will be spared monthly bin collections under a new Government pledge to reverse a trend towards them, following complaints of rats, flies and stenches.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will set out plans this week for a major overhaul of waste and recycling in England, which will ensure smelly food waste is collected on a weekly basis.

It comes after a number of cash-strapped councils have cut the frequency of their bin collections from every one or two weeks to every three or four weeks. This has caused outrage among many of the affected residents, who have faced dealing with smelly, overflowing bins which attract flies and rodents.

The Government will provide extra funding to local authorities to ensure that people can have their food waste taken away weekly without having to pay extra council tax.

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New funding to get people more involved in local issues

Funding has been announced in 16 boroughs, town and cities across England to encourage more people to get involved in local issues.

The areas will share £3m to help people find it easier to invest time, skills and money to make their local areas better places to live.

Ten organisations will receive a share of £2.3m to devise programmes that enable people to take action on the issues they care about. A further £770,000 will be invested in six areas to establish giving schemes that make it easier for people and businesses to invest in their communities.

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Most English local authorities 'plan to raise council tax'

Almost all councils in England plan to increase council tax and many will be cutting services, research suggests.

Three-quarters of local authorities are set to increase tax by more than 2.5% from April, the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) said.

It comes as almost a third of councils surveyed said they were planning to cut spending on adult social care, and a quarter may reduce children's care.

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Brexit 'could cause migration to rise by 100,000,' report by Migration Watch UK claims

The Government's plans for the period after Brexit could actually cause net migration to the UK to rise by more than 100,000, a report claims.

The measure - the difference between the numbers arriving and departing- could reach 380,000 a year if the proposed new system is introduced, according to campaign group Migration Watch UK.

This would be higher than the record figure of 336,000, which has been registered three times, most recently in the 12 months to June 2016.

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UK inflation falls to two-year low in January

UK inflation fell to 1.8% in January, the lowest in two years, the Office for National Statistics said. It was 2.1% the previous month.

Mike Hardie, ONS head of inflation, said: "The fall in inflation is due mainly to cheaper gas, electricity and petrol, partly offset by rising ferry ticket prices and air fares falling more slowly than this time last year."

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Council rolls scooters out in bid to tackle pollution

Children in Leeds will soon be travelling to school on scooters instead of in cars as part of the council’s push to clean up the city’s air.

Leeds City Council is rolling out scooters, scooter storage and scooter training across primary schools in a move aimed at reducing the number of cars making the school run.

The scheme aims to improve air quality around the primary schools and help Leeds reach national air quality targets as soon as possible.

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MHCLG to make 'compelling case' for more funding

Local government minister Rishi Sunak has vowed that his department will ‘make a compelling case’ for more funding ahead of this year’s Spending Review.

In an interview with The MJ, self-declared localist Mr Sunak urged councils to submit evidence to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) that showed councils could deliver ‘cheaper and faster than other parts of the system’.

Mr Sunak also gave his strongest indication yet that MHCLG would be arguing for the continuation of the Troubled Families programme beyond 2020.

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Whitehall announces £9m boost for garden communities

The Government has today announced a £9m cash injection to help speed up the building of garden towns and villages across the country.

The Garden Communities project offers tailored Whitehall assistance to help councils deliver garden communities of at least 1,500 homes, with priority given to those of over 10,000 homes.

It is expected to deliver 200,000 properties on large sites by 2050, and the latest funding will help get 21 sites ready for development.

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Pothole compensation costs councils nearly £3m a year

Councils paid £2.8m to drivers for damage caused by potholes in 2017/18, new figures have revealed.

Data obtained by Confused.com reveals that Surrey County Council paid out the most in compensation at £446,812.

The figures also show that 905,000 potholes were reported to councils in one year, the equivalent of almost 2,500 per day.

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Whitehall cuts result in ‘lost generation’ of deaf children

England’s deaf children are falling a whole grade behind their hearing class mates despite deafness not being a learning disability, a charity has warned.

Research from the National Deaf Children’s Society has revealed that less than half (48%) of deaf children achieve a C or above in both Maths and English, compared to almost three quarters (71%) of other children.

Deaf children are also starting secondary school having already fallen behind. Less than half (43%) achieve the expected standard at reading, writing and maths at Key Stage 2 compared to 74% of other children.

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Standards of conduct in local government

There could be major changes ahead to the regime for monitoring the standard of conduct of members of local authorities in England if recommendations from the Committee on Standards in Public Life are implemented.

The Committee carried out a review of current arrangements and reported on its findings in January 2019. It found that the majority of councillors want to maintain high standards of conduct but that a minority engage in bullying, harassment or other disruptive behaviour. It also found that a disproportionate number of complaints relate to a small number of parish councils. The Committee thought that arrangements for local management of standards should continue but that these needed to be supported by robust safeguards.

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MJ and LGiU LGF Survey: Down to the core

Six out of 10 senior council figures admit their authority is now only delivering a basic core offer of service, The MJ and LGiU think-tank’s annual local government finance survey has revealed. The survey of chief executives, finance director and senior councillors from more than 150 councils found 61% confessed their authority was providing just ‘a little bit more than our statutory obligations’.

Three councils even conceded that they were delivering no extras on top of their statutory obligations. And one in 20 (6%) used the survey to warn there was a danger that their council will be unable to fulfil its statutory duties this year due to financial constraints.

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Young people told - become a care worker

Young people in England are being targeted by the government in a bid to recruit thousands of more care workers.

The Every Day is Different campaign will be promoted on social media and online platforms to get the under-40s to take up jobs such as care workers, therapists and activity co-ordinators.

There are currently more than 100,000 vacancies in the sector - a figure which some warn may rise after Brexit.

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Planning appeal wait ‘could be cut by months’

Contentious planning appeals could be resolved in half the time if the government modernised outdated technology systems and employed more planning inspectors, a government-commissioned review of the system has claimed.

Publication of the review commissioned by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government comes only four days after a damning report by the National Audit Office said: “The government’s planning system is underperforming and cannot demonstrate that it is meeting housing demand effectively.”

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Uncollected rubbish: 1.8 million missed bin complaints in UK

Councils in the UK received more than 1.8 million complaints last year about waste not being collected from homes, figures obtained by the BBC have shown.

A survey of councils found the number of complaints about missed collections has increased by a third since 2014.

On average, 4,500 complaints were made to UK councils every day last year.

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The price of freedom passes

How many times can you spend the same pot of money?

The question, particularly pertinent in a spending review year, arises out of an exchange between LGC and the Department for Transport last week over funding for the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme – so-called freedom passes for pensioners.

As LGC reported last Monday, provision of the scheme – a statutory responsibility – now comes with a hefty price tag for local government.

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A view from north of the border

Councils in Scotland have found themselves the unlikely beneficiaries of Holyrood parliamentary arithmetic as they emerged from Scottish budget negotiations with a clutch of worthwhile prizes.

As well as a £90m increase in the core local government settlement and an increase in next year’s council tax cap to 4.79%, local authorities are to be handed the power to levy new taxes on tourism and workplace parking.

The tourist tax, in particular, is a significant fiscal lever which is denied to authorities elsewhere in the UK, although visitor levies are commonplace in the rest of Europe.

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Updated: Yorkshire leaders ‘disappointed’ as devo bid rejected

The communities secretary has urged councils in Yorkshire to come forward with fresh devolution proposals after again dismissing calls for a deal covering the whole of the historic county.

In a letter to Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis (Lab) on Tuesday, Mr Brokenshire said government had considered the One Yorkshire proposals “carefully” but they did not meet the government’s criteria for a devolution deal.

LGC understands this is largely because the government views Yorkshire as a number of separate functional economic areas. In the letter Mr Brokenshire said ministers were “prepared to begin discussions about a different, localist approach” and suggested councils revive previous devolution proposals covering the Leeds City Region and the Humber Estuary.

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Hammond £5bn short of 'austerity is ending' target, says thinktank

Philip Hammond must find an extra £5bn in this year’s Whitehall spending review to reverse planned cuts and meet his claim of ending austerity, a leading thinktank has revealed.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies told the chancellor that funds pledged in last year’s budget to boost NHS spending, defence and international aid failed to safeguard local councils and some of the worst-hit government departments from further shortfalls.

The thinktank said a minimum of £2.2bn would be needed to freeze all budgets and protect them from inflation, but ministers would need to find an extra £5bn to allow departments to maintain services in line with the UK’s rising population.

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IFS: Public services need billions of extra pounds to end austerity

Public services face years more of austerity unless the chancellor hands out billions of extra pounds at the Spending Review, an economic think-tank has warned.

Government spending plans announced in the autumn Budget will mean real terms cuts for public services other than health, defence and overseas aid, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal studies.

The research, funded by the Economic and Social research Council and supported by the Institute for Government, said to avoid any cut to real-terms per capita spending, unprotected government departments would require an additional £5bn by 2023-24.

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Underfunding of bus scheme leaves elderly ‘isolated’

Elderly and vulnerable people could be left isolated because the concessionary bus fares scheme is underfunded, local government leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association says nearly half of all bus routes are at risk as the funding gap for free travel has reached £650m and this should be looked at in the forthcoming Spending Review.

It says uncontrollable costs and reductions in Government funding means the money available for the National Concessionary Travel Scheme, a statutory duty administered by councils, means they are increasingly having to fill the gap with their own limited resources.

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Brokenshire announces plans to improve integration

The Government has announced new measures to help immigrants integrate with their communities.

It says measures proposed in a green paper will 'create stronger, more confident and integrated communities, where people, whatever their background, can live, work, learn and socialise together, based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities.'

This includes 'creating opportunities for people to mix with those from other backgrounds, boosting English language skills, and supporting migrants to develop a good understanding of life in England.'

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Northern leaders approve £70bn transport plan

Leaders across the North of England have officially approved a £70bn transport plan for the region and will now take steps to submit a Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) to Government for rail investment.

Transport for the North (TfN) - the country's only statutory sub-national transport authority - agreed to submit proposals to invest up to £39bn in a modern rail network for the North.

This is a first step in the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme a combination of new and existing schemes, including upgrades and new lines.

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Labour would create local government commission

Labour would create a new commission that would allow councillors to influence every decision that affects local authorities if the party won a General Election.

Shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne detailed the plans for a local government commission - made up of leaders from all types of local authority - in a speech to a Local Government Association Labour conference in Warwick.

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Spending Review ‘make or break’ for cash-strapped councils

Local government leaders have warned the Chancellor that the upcoming Spending Review will ‘make or break’ over-stretched council services.

New research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has revealed that Philip Hammond will need to find an extra £5bn by 2023-24 to spare further cuts to public services.

Drawing on the Treasury’s provisional plans in the Autumn 2018 budget, the think tank estimated that departments, excluding health, defence and aid, face more cuts under the Government’s spending plans.

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Grammar schools to create 3,000 new places in the next three years to end middle class stranglehold with £50m fund focusing on poorer pupils

More children will be able to attend grammar schools in the next three years as almost 3,000 new places will be created.

However the £50million fund for new classrooms will focus on schools that prioritise poorer pupils – to stop them becoming too ‘socially exclusive’.

Announcing the extra cash today, schools minister Nick Gibb will say grammars are now ‘returning to their original social mobility agenda’ after decades of being colonised by the middle classes.

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The hidden housing crisis: Low-income workers are living in unsafe and unsanitary buildings

Private companies are housing teachers, NHS staff and low-income workers around the country in dangerous and dilapidated buildings, i can reveal.

“Property Guardians” sign up to live in empty buildings, with the promise of lower-than-market rents in abandoned police stations, schools, or office blocks. Occupants are classed as licence-holders, rather than tenants, which means they sign away many of the housing rights which apply to renters .

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The row over fair funding is just getting started

Battle lines have been very clearly and publicly drawn in the row over the government’s proposed new funding formula for councils over the past few weeks.

As LGC reported in January, the formula currently out to consultation proposes that in future around a third of funding for upper tier services will be determined on the basis of population. The remainder of services will be funded through one of seven service specific formulae, some of which will consider deprivation and all but one of which – legacy finance – will be subject to the adjustment for rurality.

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'Deprivation must be given due prominence in the fair funding formula'


Whatever decisions are made about the distribution of funding, what is essential is that the overall amount of funding for local government must be increased so that councils across the country are fully resourced to serve their communities.

However, decisions about how to share out available funding are crucial and must be rooted in solid evidence of the issues that genuinely increase pressure on council services. In the long run, nobody wins if the new formula is not responsive to drivers of demand.

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'Perfection will have to be sacrificed in favour of the practical on fair funding'

I believe it is accepted by all in local government, that the current funding formula is long out of date, opaque, unduly complex and profoundly unfair.

I am encouraged by the government’s fair funding review, currently out for consultation as it indicates an approach that is as simple as possible, transparent, needs-led, evidence based and potentially fair.

CCN has no intention of trying to skew the dice in favour of counties and at the expense of others.

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Brexit: Budget cuts threaten Ramsgate ferry plan

A decision is due on budget cuts that could prevent Ramsgate reopening as a ferry port to ease pressure on other routes in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

The government handed Seaborne Freight a £13.8m contract to run a service to Ostend, in Belgium, under contingency plans to alleviate any delays at Dover.

But the local council is considering cuts to port spending that would make roll-on, roll-off services impossible.

Thanet councillors in Kent will vote on the proposed £630,000 cuts later.

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Greater Manchester budget has £1m 'hole' due to moor fire funds delay

Greater Manchester's fire service budget has a £1m "big black hole in it" because the government has not decided if 2018's moorland fires spending can be reclaimed, the mayor has said.

Soldiers and extra firefighters were used to fight the Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill blazes in June and July.

Mayor Andy Burnham has asked to be allowed to recoup funds spent on the response under the Bellwin Scheme.

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Teaching units for deaf children keep closing, report finds

Ten dedicated teaching units for deaf children in schools are being closed every year, according to a new report.

The latest study by the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) and the National Deaf Children’s Society found that the number of facilities for deaf children in schools had fallen from 260 to 240 in the past two years, a drop of 8%.

The research found that the number of specialist teachers working in such units had fallen by 10% in the past two years and 21% since 2014. Remaining teachers have also seen their caseloads soar by more than a third (36%) to 60 children.

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More than 50,000 people have died waiting for social care since Tories vowed to fix system

More than 50,000 elderly people have died waiting for social care since the Tories vowed to fix their broken system nearly two years ago.

Frail pensioners are stranded at home without help as cash-strapped councils struggle to get carers out to them.

It is now 700 days since the Tories promised a Green Paper to reform social care funding.

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Who needs libraries anyway? How the Tories warped the purpose of local government [opinion]

What do you think of when you imagine your local council? Road repairs, bin collections, libraries? School places, keeping parks clean, and community art projects? Youth clubs, social workers, and care for the elderly?

All these things are the responsibility of local government. But not all of them are mandatory.

Councils provide what are known as “statutory services”, which they must deliver by law. These mainly include adult social care and protecting children.

But local authorities have lost 49 per cent of real-terms government funding since 2010. Some councils have suffered cuts to the point of collapse.

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Cutbacks at dozens of councils will see street lights turned off at night despite inquests linking switch-offs to deaths

Dozens more town halls are planning to switch off street lights at night – despite the risk to pedestrians and motorists.

An investigation has found that seven out of ten English councils either already dim or switch off lights at night – or are planning to.

Local authorities insist it is an environmental measure to reduce their carbon footprint – but it also creates a significant saving.

Last night the AA said the switch-offs could have safety implications, with 11 recent inquests blaming fatalities on lights being off at night.

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Council funding: MPs debate local government settlement

MPs are to debate how much England's councils will have to spend in the next financial year, after local authorities complained of a £3bn funding gap.

Ministers allocated £1.6bn more than planned, with one-off funds of £650m for social care and £420m for roads.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said the funding available amounted to a "real-terms increase" in resources.

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James Brokenshire confirms funding package for local authorities in 2019 to 2020

Government Press release:

Councils in England are to benefit from increased funding for core services including additional support for the most vulnerable in society, Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP confirmed today (5 February 2019).

Local authorities’ core spending power will rise in 2019 to 2020 by £1.3 billion, taking councils’ funding to £46.4 billion.

This year’s local government finance settlement includes extra funding for local services with a strong focus on greater support for adult and children’s social care. The settlement also supports and rewards economic growth and sets out reforms for a sustainable path for the future funding model for local government.

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Dick Sorabji: Funding review shows flaws in government machine

There is dark humour in listing the logical flaws buried in the government’s fair funding review.

Sadly these are symptoms of the ratcheting failure in the machinery of national government to address critical challenges facing the nation. They suggest we need more fundamental changes to the governance of Britain.

This year’s finance settlement included £1bn in emergency top-up funds, helping government avoid crisis without resolving policy dilemmas.

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Met and district face intervention over local plans failure

Wirral MBC is to face government intervention over its “lamentable” failure to draw up a local housing plan.

The council was one of two authorities to receive letters from secretary of state for housing, communities and local government James Brokenshire last week over its failure to draw up an appropriate local plan.

Mr Brokenshire conceded that Wirral was not an area of high housing pressure, but said its failure to plan for and deliver the necessary local housing was clear. Of the 15 authorities threatened with intervention over the issue at the end of 2017, Wirral had made least progress, he said.

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Cities call for post-Brexit powers to rebalance economy

New powers to promote social mobility and improved wellbeing should be part of a post-Brexit settlement, city councils outside London have told the government.

Proposals including the power to levy a local tourist tax, the acceleration of zero-carbon public transport and extra support for young people’s mental health services have been put forward by the Key Cities group of 24 councils across England and Wales.

The cities, which include many where a majority of voters supported the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, have also called for greater powers to implement tailored skills and employment programmes as part of a “more inclusive and rebalanced” economy after Brexit.

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Labour to vote against ‘unfair’ local government funding

Labour have pledged to vote against the Local Government Funding Settlement, arguing it fails to recognise the ‘dire situation’ facing councils.

Writing for The Mirror, shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne said the settlement helps out more affluent Tory areas rather than those most in need.

He wrote: ‘The Tories are planning changes to the way it gives funding to councils. Instead of targeting the most deprived areas, or those with the most need, they’ll instead introduce new plans that mostly help out more affluent Tory areas.

‘This settlement is inadequate and unfair.

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Ladbrokes staff told to sign gamblers to online accounts to avoid redundancy

Bookmaker Ladbrokes Coral is telling shop staff to sign up as many gamblers as possible to online accounts if they want to avoid being among 5,000 employees it plans to make redundant, the Guardian has learned.

According to letters circulated among employees – and seen by the Guardian – the bookmaker will close up to 1,000 of its 3,500 shops over the next 18 to 24 months, blaming imminent curbs on £100-per-spin fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Redundancies will be decided via a ranking system, with staff grouped by area and competing against each other on a range of criteria to escape the axe.

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Rebuild the faded towns of Britain to end our national malaise [opinion]

For the past nine years or so, I have been observing a regular journalistic ritual. In pursuit of enlightenment over where the country may be going, how people are going to vote, and their opinions about such massive issues as Brexit and Scottish independence, I have pitched up in scores of places and begun my inquiries with some version of a simple question: how is this place doing?

In most cases, I can still depend on the same answer quickly cropping up in at least 50% of conversations: a loud complaint about the number of closed-down shops and the dire state of the town centre. To some extent, such stories have now hardened into a grim cliche, summed up by those shots of boarded-up premises that are a staple of the TV news, and weekly reports about the fate of our high streets. But that does not make what people say any less true, or detract from how passionately they feel about something that has now been happening for over a decade.

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Consumer enforcement system on ‘verge of collapse’, report warns

The consumer enforcement system is too reliant on overstretched local authorities and is on ‘the verge of collapse’, watchdog says.

In a new report entitled Creating a successful enforcement system for UK consumers, the consumer watchdog Which? says the current system depends too much on councils’ Trading Standards Services.

It urges the Government to grant the Competition and Markets Authority the power to create a Consumer and Competition Authority, which could lead on the enforcement of consumer rights and fair trading law.

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Freedom passes costing councils £650m

Councils subsidised concessionary travel for pensioners to the tune of £652m in 2017-18, according to a new analysis which also raises concerns the government’s proposed new fair funding formula will exacerbate the problem for some councils.

In evidence presented to the Commons transport committee last week, North East Combined Authority chief finance officer Paul Woods said last year almost £1.2bn was being spent on the scheme which entitles English pensioners to free bus travel during off-peak hours anywhere in the country.

In 2010-11 there was almost £1.2bn available to fund the scheme, approved by parliament. However, since then the funding has been subject to repeated cuts and rolled into the upper tier baseline funding in 2014-15, making it difficult to see by how much. Mr Woods’ analysis estimates more than half of that funidng has been taken out, leaving councils to plug the gap.

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Freedom passes costing councils £650m

Councils subsidised concessionary travel for pensioners to the tune of £652m in 2017-18, according to a new analysis which also raises concerns the government’s proposed new fair funding formula will exacerbate the problem for some councils.

In evidence presented to the Commons transport committee last week, North East Combined Authority chief finance officer Paul Woods said last year almost £1.2bn was being spent on the scheme which entitles English pensioners to free bus travel during off-peak hours anywhere in the country.

In 2010-11 there was almost £1.2bn available to fund the scheme, approved by parliament. However, since then the funding has been subject to repeated cuts and rolled into the upper tier baseline funding in 2014-15, making it difficult to see by how much. Mr Woods’ analysis estimates more than half of that funidng has been taken out, leaving councils to plug the gap.

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‘Suicidal generation’: tragic toll of teens doubles in 8 years

The suicide rate among teenagers has nearly doubled in eight years, according to new figures that have prompted fears that Britain is raising “a suicidal generation”.

Amid growing alarm at the impact of social media on young people, The Sunday Times has learnt that provisional data for last year compiled by the Office for National Statistics show the rate among children aged 15 to 19 has climbed while that of nearly all older age groups is declining.

The figures, to be published in September, reveal that suicides are running at more than five in 100,000 among teenagers in England. In 2010 the rate was just over three in 100,000.

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Foster care is faced with a ‘looming crisis’

Foster care in Britain is facing a “looming crisis” because of lack of government funding and support, leaving carers feeling demoralised, overworked and struggling to cope with the complex needs of the vulnerable children they look after, experts have warned.

The Fostering Network, the charity representing foster carers, has accused the government of neglecting foster care, predicting that young people will not get the support they need if carers continue to be underpaid, ignored and undervalued.

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£8bn funding gap threatens discretionary services, LGA warns

An £8 billion funding gap by 2025 will force councils to cut services such as park maintenance, fly tipping enforcement and council tax support, the Local Government Association has warned.

Between 2010 and 2020 councils will have lost almost 60p out of every pound the government has provided for services, making this year’s spending review “make or break” the LGA said.

The spending review is expected later this year, once Britain has officially left the EU but doubt surrounds how far ahead it can look. The Institute for Government warned in September that only a one year spending programme - rather than the usual three - may be possible due to the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

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Brexit: Third of UK businesses considering move abroad - survey

Almost a third of UK companies could move operations abroad because of Brexit, a survey has suggested.

Research for the Institute of Directors revealed that 16% already had relocation plans while a further 13% were actively considering doing so.

The IoD said it took "no pleasure" in revealing "these worrying signs".

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Multi-million funding boost to prevent potholes

The Government has announced a £23m funding boost to develop new technology that can stop potholes from forming.

The money will help research and trial new surface materials or pothole repair techniques.

Eight local authorities will deliver the projects - including testing plastic roads in Cumbria and using kinetic energy from roads to power lighting in Buckinghamshire.

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£70bn plan to boost the North’s infrastructure published

Transport for the North has set out a multi-billion pound blueprint for transforming the North’s economy and creating an estimated 850,000 jobs.

The Strategic Transport Plan (STP) and the Investment Programme outlines how up to £70bn of infrastructure investment to 2050 could contribute towards an additional £100bn in economic growth in the North.

The plan, which includes flagship programmes such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and new major roads, looks to improve connectivity for people and businesses in the North.

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Council underestimates value of housing stock by £86m

Northampton Borough Council underestimated the value of its housing stock by more than £86m, according to a delayed audit report.

The council's auditors KPMG said the issue had 'significantly delayed' its report which ended up more than a year late.

However, the council said the error in its 2016-17 accounts had not affected its financial stability.

KPMG said the wrong social housing discount factor, which adjusts figures to take into account the lower commercial value of social properties, had been used by the accounting team.

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So the government choose Brexit debate day to quietly finalise its council cuts

In what’s becoming a bleak pattern, the government chose Tuesday – Theresa May’s second attempt to pass her Brexit deal – to finalise its next round of cuts to councils.

Ministers outlined the provisional local government finance settlement for 2019-20 last December. But they chose this week to announce its final plans for short-term local government funding – in a written statement, the subtlest form of government announcement, by the Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire.

After eight years of austerity, cash-strapped councils have been waiting for the government to use its final settlement this month to provide the resources they desperately need for funding public services in 2019-20. But the new settlement – sneaked out while Westminster is distracted by Brexit – doesn’t deliver what councils need.

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Teachers' pay should be capped at 2%, says government

The Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, has signalled teachers' pay in England should be capped at 2% next year.

In evidence to the independent School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), he said 2% would be in line with projected inflation and affordable within schools budgets, set to rise 2.5% next year.

The joint teaching unions have told the STRB they want 5% across the board.

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'Commercialisation is good. But only if the risks are appropriate'

Local government spending on commercial land and property continues to attract significant scrutiny, not just from the press and public, but from politicians too.

It is just a few weeks since housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire spoke of his concerns about “the risk that local authorities are exposing themselves and local taxpayers to” through high levels of borrowing. He warned there may be “further interventions” from the Treasury to restrict this activity.

In a separate development, a private members bill by Sir Christopher Chope MP aimed at curbing local authority borrowing for non-core activities is due to get its second reading on 25 January.

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Inadequate Brexit funding 'better spent on tinned food'

The government’s commitment to provide funding for councils to prepare for Brexit has drawn a mixed reaction from the local government sector, with one council leader telling LGC “no amount of money” could help deal with chaos expected from a disorderly exit from the EU.

Housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire announced this week that £56.5m would be made available to councils over two years.

In a written statement, Mr Brokenshire said district councils will receive £35,000 over the period, county councils have been allocated £175,000, and unitary councils will receive £210,000. Combined authorities will receive £182,000.

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LGA hit by unexpected £1m insurance bill

Smith Square faces an unexpected bill of up to £1m to cover the start-up costs of the insurance venture it has formed with 14 councils. The Local Government Association (LGA) had invested £1.7m in supporting the Local Government Mutual (LGM) project over the last two years, with the expectation that it would be self-financing from April.

But a confidential LGA paper, seen by The MJ, read: ‘No further costs were expected to be incurred by the LGA on behalf of LGM in 2019/20, as there should have been sufficient income to cover costs once the first business is written. However, given the latest view of the timings and quantum of the insurance premiums arising, further short term funding/support is required in 2019/20.’

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Charity hits out at Theresa May over Child Funeral Fund pledge

A charity today slammed Theresa May’s lack of progress over helping grieving parents fund children’s funerals.

The Prime Minister pledged last March to create a pot of cash so bereaved mums and dads would no longer have to fork out for the cruel costs of burials or cremations.

But 10 months later, the plans, which would cost an estimated £10million-a-year, have apparently stalled and thousands of grief-stricken families have had to pay since the announcement.

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Special needs overspend in eight out of 10 councils

English councils have overspent by at least £324m on their budgets for young adults and children with special needs this financial year, the BBC has found.

Of the 136 local authorities that provided information to the BBC under Freedom of Information laws, 123 have overspent on their high needs budget.

The government says it is providing an extra £250m to ease pressures, and £100m on new school places.

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Transport Secretary ploughs £22million into plastic roads to fix UK’s pothole crisis

The Transport Secretary yesterday set aside £22 million for research and trials on new surface materials across the UK – given the outcry over the state of the country’s road network.

One trial will include wider tests of using a plastic-based material – made from recycled waste – in standard asphalt for resurfacing in Cumbria.

The equivalent of 500,000 plastic bottles and 800,000 carrier bags were used in a recent project on the A7 in Carlisle.

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Bus journeys fall by 90 million in a year

The number of bus journeys taken in Great Britain fell by more than 90 million in one year, official figures show. In 2017-18 there were 4.8bn bus journeys made, down 2% on 2016-17.

Councils say they are "desperate" to protect services but funding cuts forced "difficult decisions".

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it helped subsidise buses with £250m a year in investment.

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Labour councils and activists are at war. But it won’t stop austerity [opinion]

Just because we stopped talking about austerity doesn’t mean it went away. The Centre for Cities published research this week on nearly a decade of Conservative fiscal tightening: councils have now lost 60p in every pound of funding they got from central government under Labour. Barnsley has suffered the greatest percentage cut in day-to-day spending on services, at 40%; Liverpool has had the deepest annual cuts per head, at £816. Three of the top five cities affected are in Yorkshire; there is a clear skew towards the north.

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Tory Cuts To Local Council Budgets Are Leaving A Wake Of Social Destruction

Over the last nine years this disastrous Tory government has targeted its austerity agenda at the most deprived areas of the country whilst the Conservative voting areas have – in relative terms – been spared the worst of the cuts. This has all be done through the guise of manipulating existing funding models, but due to Government proposed changes it’s about to get worse.

In late December, whilst attention was focused on Brexit, the government proposed to change the way it gives funding to councils. Instead of focusing on the most deprived areas or those with the most need they’ll introduce new funding streams predominantly aiding more affluent Tory areas. This at a time when the Government should be reinvesting in our most at need areas not cutting them ever more to the bone.

So severe and urgent is the crisis facing our councils, that the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights mentioned it in the opening paragraph of his recent report, saying that local authorities had been “gutted by a series of government policies”.

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Drivers more than twice as likely to suffer pothole damage than in 2006

Drivers are two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer a pothole-related breakdown than in 2006, according to new figures.

The RAC said its patrols received 1,714 call-outs between October and December for problems usually caused by road defects, such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels.

These issues represented 0.8% of all RAC breakdown reports in that period, which is the lowest amount for the final three months of any year since 2013.

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Council bans adverts for chocolate bars, ice creams and chips from billboards and bus stops to encourage residents to exercise more and eat healthier

Adverts for chocolate bars, ice creams and chips will be banned from billboards and bus stops across an entire borough.

The council’s initiative – the first of its kind – will also see advertising space used to encourage residents to walk more and eat less sugar.

The Department of Health has given Lewisham in south-east London £10,000 to draw up plans for the ban.

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A Government Memo Says A No-Deal "Brexodus" Could See 250,000 Expats Returning To The UK

Between 50,000 and 250,000 British expats currently living in the European Union may return to the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit, potentially putting significant pressure on already-stretched public services, according to government assessments..

An internal memo circulated around Whitehall departments revealed that officials are preparing for a sudden rush of citizens to return home if Britain crashes out of the EU without a negotiated settlement, including many pensioners who had retired to the continent.

Under the “worst case scenario” envisaged in the cross-Whitehall contingency planning document, about 150,000 people would return in the first year after the UK leaves the EU on March 29 – with around 30,000 coming back in the first three months.

Another 100,000 would follow in the next wave of the "Brexodus" the following year, according to the estimate.

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Austerity hits prevention funding

Councils face a spending gap of £8.7bn in their bid to provide services aimed at preventing social problems in areas as diverse as homelessness, debt and crime.

A survey of council chief executives and leaders highlights a significant gap between what they thought they should allocate to prevention and what they actually spend.

The New Local Government Network’s quarterly Leadership Index found that resources have been concentrated on acute statutory social care services at the expense of preventative measures.

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Northamptonshire gets green light to raise council tax

The final local government finance settlement has handed Northamptonshire County Council a lifeline by allowing the cash-strapped authority greater council tax flexibility.

Unveiling the settlement today, communities secretary James Brokenshire offered the council an additional 2% council tax flexibility to overcome the “serious issues” it has faced.

Brokenshire’s written statement on Tuesday means the council can increase its council tax by 5% in 2019–20 to mitigate its ongoing financial troubles.

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£400m cuts leave museums in crisis

Cash for public libraries, museums and art galleries has been slashed by nearly £400million in the past eight years, forcing hundreds to close, it has been revealed. Yesterday campaigners and council leaders warned services faced further dramatic cuts unless the Government gave local authorities more money. Alarming new figures show council spending on museums, galleries, libraries, and local arts has plunged by more than £390million since 2011.

In contrast to devastating losses in our communities, the Royal Opera House - which has been trying to shake off its elitist image - receives an annual subsidy of £24million through Arts Council funding.

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Drivers twice as likely to have a pothole accident now than in 2006

Drivers are two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer a pothole-related breakdown than in 2006, according to new figures.

The RAC said its patrols received 1,714 call-outs between October and December for problems usually caused by road defects, such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels.

These issues represented 0.8% of all RAC breakdown reports in that period, which is the lowest amount for the final three months of any year since 2013.

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Local authorities forced to cut council tax support sees surge in unpaid tax bills

Around 90% of English councils have been forced cut council tax support for working age claimants, meaning many low-income households have fallen behind with their council tax bills, according to new research.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has highlighted the impact of the government’s decision to abolish the centralised council tax support (CTS) for low-income households in 2013, which has seen an extra 1.3 million working-age households sent a council tax bill.

Nearly five million households received localised tax support in 2017-18, costing local authorities a total of £4.1bn – and 2.4 million working-age people received support, with an average benefit of £770 per year.

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‘Least equipped’ northern cities have taken brunt of funding cuts

Northern cities have been hit by the biggest budget cuts as a result of austerity, a think-tank has found.

People living in cities have faced £386 worth of cuts per head since 2009-10, compared with £172 per person elsewhere, according to a report out today by Centre for Cities.

Cities have borne nearly three quarters (74%) of all real-terms local government funding cuts in the past decade, despite being home to just 54% of the population, the report said.

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Kent looks to Whitehall to fund Brexit pressures

The council that is home to one of England’s key commercial ports is pinning its hopes on central government funding to ensure it can cope with Brexit pressures.

Kent County Council, which includes the port of Dover, is in the process of calculating the costs of Brexit contingency planning and will seek to have these costs covered by central government, it has told PF.

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Surrey interim staffing spend spirals

Surrey CC has seen its temporary staffing bill spiral after making a series of interim appointments aimed at tackling its worsening financial situation.

In the six months after chief executive Joanna Killian took over in March 2018, LGC anaysis of council records indicate the authority signed 30 interim and temporary officer contracts totalling almost £3m.

Most of the interim roles are directly related to an ongoing transformation programme which seeks to address a budget gap that is predicted to rise to £94m in the next three years. At least £1.2m is specifically related to efforts to improve the council’s children’s services after they were rated inadequate in February 2018.

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Sigoma: The ministry must revise fair funding approach

Stephen Houghton has responsed to the CCN's defence of plans to downgrade deprivation role saying:

We welcome the CCN's statement last week that it wants to ensure the FFR is evidence based, needs-led and fair. But the MHCLG’s current proposals risk replacing one unfair system with another, and we are keen to avoid this.

We also welcome the network’s emphasis on the importance of securing additional resources at the spending review to put the sector on a more sustainable footing. Sigoma has made the same arguments from the start, and will continue to do so.

The CCN is also right to argue deprivation should remain a factor in people-based services. People rely on services like homelessness support, libraries and public transport every day, especially in deprived areas. But the government is currently proposing to include these in an unweighted foundation formula...

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Brexit: Local councils to receive £56.5m fund

Local councils in England will receive £56.5m to help them deal with Brexit, James Brokenshire has said.

The Local Government Secretary said the money would be used for "appropriate contingency planning".

Every council will receive a share of the pot, but additional funds will be given to areas that face the immediate impact from local ports.

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Councils say more arts cuts inevitable amid rising social care need

A fresh wave of funding cuts to local museums, libraries and arts festivals is inevitable because of the need to focus scarce municipal resources on the rising demand for social care, councils have warned.

Almost £400m has been stripped out of annual local authority spending on culture and the arts since 2010, according to research by the County Councils Network, with more to come unless ministers inject more funds into local government.

The Tory-controlled body called for an “honest discussion” of the role of local authorities as spending cuts force councils to abandon nice-to-have services to enable them to fund their legal obligation to provide social care. Councils would have “little choice”, it said, but to continue to take an axe to culture spending and other so-called non-core services to maintain minimum statutory services for vulnerable adults and children.

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Care home residents face funding drop as councils refuse to meet fee increase

Elderly patients in care homes will face real-term funding cuts again this year, figures show.

One in five councils has been given no increase in fees they pay per resident to private care firms for 2018/19.

This is despite the firms claiming costs and wage bills have increased by up to 5%.

Councils say they cannot pay any more after years of Government cuts and claim the social care system is set to “buckle under the weight of demand”.

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Funding for libraries down 40 per cent as cities are hit hardest by austerity

Britain’s cities have shouldered the cost of austerity, a study has revealed – with investment in libraries, sport and heritage hit hardest.

Research by think tank Centre for Studies showed an average spending cut of £386 per person in urban areas compared to £172 per head elsewhere.

According to the report, areas in northern England with particularly high rates of poverty bore the brunt of cuts. Hardest-hit Barnsley. where 62 per cent of all 2017-18 council spending went to social care, suffered a 40 per cent decrease in local authority spending since 2009-10. The number of cities spending over half their budgets on social care sits at over 50 per cent, an eight-fold increase.

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Councils could dip into reserves to deal with Brexit aftermath

At a CIPFA-organised event in December last year, Julia Goldsworthy, chair of CIPFA’s Brexit advisory commission, told councils to begin preparations for “any kind” of Brexit.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has promised English councils they will share a £35m pot to help them “prepare and respond to Brexit”.

Melanie Dawes, permanent secretary at MHCLG, told the housing, communities and local government select committee last week that the announcement of where this will go will be made “soon”. Although, local authorities will not get the money until April at least, as the MHCLG has said the money is for the financial year 2019-20 – after the 29 March, the date the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.

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Kent looks to Whitehall to fund Brexit pressures

The council that is home to one of England’s key commercial ports is pinning its hopes on central government funding to ensure it can cope with Brexit pressures.

Kent County Council, which includes the port of Dover, is in the process of calculating the costs of Brexit contingency planning and will seek to have these costs covered by central government, it has told PF.

A council spokesperson said: “KCC is updating all business continuity plans across all services to reflect greatest impact scenarios. It is developing business impact analyses and costing all preparations.

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Local government could do far more if given the power

I read Jason O’Mahony’s column on the forthcoming council elections with interest (“Scrap local elections and we wouldn’t notice”, Jan 22). As a councillor since 1993, I believe the things that matter to people can be best dealt with through reformed local government, but this needs real change, real power and more resources. The housing, planning and local government department, though, is ill-disposed to the first two elements of its name and actively hostile to the third.

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Redundancy costs at Essex County Council reach £8.6m after 277 employees exit

Nearly £8.6m has been spent on redundancies at Essex County Council after nearly 300 staff left during a reorganisation of its senior management structure.

Statistics released by the council showed that 277 Essex County Council employees left with redundancy packages in 2017-18, with 13 separate staff members leaving the council with pay-outs between £100,000 and £200,000.

A council spokesperson said the redundancies were a legal requirement and were “necessary to streamline the organisation following staff feedback.”

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Home Office tracks debit card use to ‘spy’ on asylum seekers

The Home Office has been accused of “spying” on asylum seekers after it emerged that it secretly monitors their debit card use to track their whereabouts.

Officials use purchases made outside a person’s “authorised” city — the place where they are given temporary housing — to argue they are fraudulently living elsewhere, so are not destitute enough to qualify for emergency aid or shelter.

The surveillance takes place through Aspen cards, a government-issued debit card rolled out two years ago to make it easier for asylum seekers to buy food and basic supplies. More than 27,000 of these cards are now in use.

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Online sales tax to help save high street falls foul of EU

An online sales tax to help high street shops has in effect been ruled out by the Treasury because it would fall foul of EU rules.

Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, has written to Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the Treasury select committee, to say there was a “high risk” that any such tax would breach the bloc’s state aid rules.

The UK is due to leave the European Union on March 29 but under the draft withdrawal agreement Britain has accepted “dynamic alignment” with Brussels on state-aid rules.

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Hope for rough sleepers as pilot programme begins

Housing First is being piloted in Liverpool, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, with £28m of government funding being shared across the three areas.

Birmingham was the first city to house rough sleepers under the scheme and properties have been found for 41 people.

Birmingham City Council has been working with housing associations and charities and freeing up some council houses.

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Brexit funding for councils ‘only half of what MHCLG requested’

The £35m of funding councils will share to help them cope with Brexit is only half of what the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government asked for.

Clive Betts, chair of the MHCLG committee, has told PF the department originally asked the Treasury for £70m.

The MHCLG has said it is “currently identifying where this money can best be allocated to ensure that the department and local areas are prepared for and can respond to EU exit”.

Councils are expected to receive the cash for 2019-20 in April - after the proposed Brexit date of 29 March.

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Little time left for detail needed over funding

Time is running out for the government to enable an orderly transition to new funding arrangements for local authorities from next year, according to sector experts.

Voices across the local government spectrum have raised concerns over a lack of clarity in a government consultation on the Fair Funding Review, which will revamp the way in which central government funding is allocated from April 2020.

In its response to the consultation, the Local Government Association said it was worried by a lack of clarity over formulas used to work out funding for a number of services which “account for a significant part of local authority budgets”.

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Whitehall makes £50,000 available for high streets

Communities across the country can bid for up to £50,000 to help make local areas more attractive for business, the high streets minister has announced.

The latest round of the £500,000 British Improvement Districts (BIDs) Loan Fund will support business owners and local leaders to set-up a BID, which helps to deliver additional local services and upgrade commercial areas.

‘BIDs have a proven track record of upgrading commercial areas to enable business owners and entrepreneurs in our town centres and high streets to thrive,’ said the high streets minister Jake Berry.

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Rural housing crisis ‘forgotten’ by Whitehall

It would take 133 years to build enough new homes for people on waiting lists in rural areas at the current rate of housebuilding, campaigners have warned.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England says there are now 177,688 families on waiting lists for social housing in the countryside, but last year just 1,336 homes for social rent were built.

New government statistics show the number of households on local authority housing waiting lists in rural areas is increasing.

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Committee examine ‘county lines’ drug distribution networks

From parliament.uk.

As part of its inquiry into serious violence, the Home Affairs Committee hears evidence on the ‘county lines’ drug distribution methodology and its role in driving serious violent crime. Members will hear from policing authorities responding to the issue.

Purpose of the session

The session is likely to cover:

-The scale and nature of the county lines problem, and factors driving this form of drug distribution and exploitation

-The relationship between county lines and recent increases in serious violence

-The response of the police and other agencies to county lines, including disrupting networks and safeguarding trafficked and exploited children, and

-The role of Government funding reductions, including on the ability of police forces to respond effectively to county lines.

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Peer review praises 'inward looking' county's finances

Derbyshire CC is “financially well placed” compared with other counties, a peer challenge has found.

A report by the Local Government Association (LGA) found Derbyshire had “managed its finances well and has relatively higher reserves. This provides significant opportunities to deliver ambitions and improve service delivery”.

It praised the ‘enterprising council’ programme, which is intended to reduce the cost of public services through innovations and efficiency.

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John Sinnott: The fair funding review is a challenge to the sector

The mostly critical responses from local government to the government’s fair funding review reveal a great deal.

Once again, they show the weakness of local authorities in facing up to government in these challenging times. Understandably they are often governed by what the result might mean for one council or one group of councils. Yet the additional problem is that the sector has countenanced a broken system for too long.

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Brexit uncertainty threatens £400m regeneration scheme

A £400m property scheme hangs in the balance after the Brighton & Hove City Council and a developer clashed over Brexit uncertainty.

Developer Crest Nicholson submitted a letter to Brighton & Hove hours before councillors were due to vote on the final deal, insisting that “greater clarity on the form and timing of Brexit” was needed for the project to be feasible.

The council responded by giving the developer an ultimatum – to enter a development agreement by 30 March or risk losing the project.

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Teachers to be offered cash to stay in school

Cash incentives and a better work-life balance are part of a new attempt to solve England's teacher shortage.

Plans published on Monday by ministers will offer some young secondary teachers £5,000 in their third and fifth years in the classroom - on top of initial £20,000 training bursaries.

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Third council joins unitary legal action

South Buckinghamshire DC has added its weight to moves by neighbours Chiltern and Wycombe DCs to challenge ministerial decisions on how the unitary would work.

The county’s fourth district, Aylesbury Vale DC, has not yet joined the legal fight but all four have refused to consent to the regulations for the reorganisation.

This means communities secretary James Brokenshire must get the legislation through Parliament before the end of March, when a legal provision allowing reorganisation with the consent of only one affected council lapses. After that he would need unanimous agreement.

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Hinds: More schools should convert to academies

Education secretary Damian Hinds has urged more schools to convert to academy status as figures showed half of pupils are now educated in academies.

Hinds said academy status gave schools more freedom and opportunity, in a statement released on Wednesday.

“It is fantastic that 50% of the pupils in state-funded schools in the country are now benefitting from the freedom and autonomy that an academy trust enjoys.

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Shops lose 70,000 jobs in a year, says BRC

UK shops and retailers employ 70,000 fewer people than they did a year ago as the High Street continues to decline, a survey indicates.

In the final three months of 2018, the number of employees in the retail sector fell 2.2% year-on-year, while total hours worked fell by 2.8%, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

"Frontline staff" in shops will fall further in the next decade, it said.

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Top ratings from Ofsted lowered on return visit

Three in four schools rated “outstanding” have been downgraded after Ofsted inspectors returned.

The government decided in 2011 that once a school had been rated outstanding it was exempt from further inspections unless serious concerns were raised.

Ofsted is unhappy with this arrangement. More than 1,600 schools have not been inspected for at least six years, and for more than 200 schools it has been more than a decade. These schools are able to market themselves as outstanding even though standards may have declined. The watchdog asked that the exemption be removed and was allowed to inspect 10 per cent of them.

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Cycle lanes are the solution to congestion not the problem

“London has finite road space, so it’s vital we use it well,” Baroness Brady argued here the other day. On that she and I surely agree. But scrapping the successful Embankment cycle lane would be wrongheaded and retrograde, and the Mayor, Transport for London and I could never support it.

We can also agree Embankment is congested. It was before the cycle lane opened, it is now, and it still would be if it were again just a motorway. Drivers would fill the available space, when what we need are fewer vehicles and better alternatives — exactly what the cycle lane delivers. Far from causing congestion, cycle lanes are a solution, moving many more people in the same amount of space.

In 2014, before the lane was built, almost 7,500 cycle trips were made on Embankment each day. Those people are now safe from traffic and that’s a success in itself. But the lane has also enabled many more cycle journeys — up 38 per cent to more than 10,300 a day.

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LGA backs cities over deprivation funding

A cross-party deal has seen the Local Government Association (LGA) back retention of deprivation as a factor in the foundation formula.

But it has left unresolved how deprivation should be reflected in allocations to councils amid tensions between mainly Labour urban authorities and Conservative rural ones.

The deal was reached by the LGA’s leadership board and formally endorsed today by its executive.

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Minister says Whitehall lacks city-level Brexit data

The government has no sub-regional data on the impact of Brexit, a minister has admitted to the Local Government Association.

Junior minister for exiting the EU Kwasi Kwarteng told the LGA councillors’ forum this afternoon that no information existed at city level.

He was answering Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans (Lab) who said: “I asked MHCLG for data it had on the impact of Brexit on Plymouth and was told more or less that if they told me they’d have to kill me. How can we plan when the government is playing secret squirrel?”

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'Public-public partnerships offer a strong alternative to outsourcing'

The high-profile collapse of Carillion, and the widespread suspicion that the private sector is not paying its fair share to the public purse, has caused a seismic shift in opinion among local politicians and public alike.

There has been a significant drop in contracts being awarded externally in recent months, proving that many councils have fallen out of love with the big players in the outsourcing world.

This seems particularly true in waste services. At a district level this is a vitally important service which residents expect their council to get right first time at a fair price – and every time after that.

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After Carillion: The future of local service outsourcing

It was only in the second half of 2018 that Patricia Hughes started to receive complaints from residents about Hart DC’s revenues and benefits services being outsourced. Given that the contract has been in place for more than a decade, it was rather revealing. “It’s interesting that the public narrative is changing,” Ms Hughes, joint chief executive at the council, said.

It’s a shift for which the collapse of Carillion can take some credit. When it was liquidated in January 2018, the outsourcing firm had debts of £1.5bn and had been holding more than 400 UK public sector contracts. For taxpayers the cost of its failure is expected to run to £148m.

But could the cost of this high-profile collapse go further than that? Might it affect local authorities’ ability to see outsourcing as a viable option? And what might the future be for existing arrangements? To explore some of the answers to these challenging questions, LGC gathered local government experts for a roundtable debate, held in association with Norse Group.

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Department For Education 'Doesn't Understand Drivers Of Children's Social Care', Says Watchdog

The Department for Education “still does not fully understand what is driving demand for children’s social care”, the National Audit Office has said.

This comes after the National Audit Office (NAO) stated more than two years ago that the Department for Education (DfE) had made “poor progress” in improving children’s social care services.

It has prompted local councils to call on the Government to heed “consistent and increasingly urgent warnings that children’s services are now at a tipping point”, while Public Accounts Committee chairman Meg Hillier said the Government has “got to grasp the nettle” after an £872 million overspend last year on children’s social care and local government funding pressures.

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Academy School Failures And Misuse Of Funds Are Damaging Children's Education, Spending Watchdog Warns

Children’s education is being damaged by academy school failures and misuse of funds that includes paying “excessive salaries” to top bosses, a public spending watchdog has warned.

Academy trusts are now responsible for educating nearly half of all children in state-funded schools in England but are not sufficiently accountable to parents and local communities, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found.

A succession of high-profile collapses of schools and misuse of public money is harming both pupils’ learning and taxpayers’ pockets, a damning new report by the influential committee says.

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Growing demands on children's social services not understood by Government despite £872 million overspend, report claims

Soaring demands for children’s social services are not understood by the Government despite an £872 million overspend last year, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has warned.

Around 91% of local authorities strayed above budget for children’s social care in 2017-18, a trend the Department for Education has “not yet done the work” to unpick, according to the National Audit Office.

The lack of detailed analysis comes despite wild variations in spending from one council to the next in recent years, along with astronomical rises in certain care requirements.

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'Appalling' ignorance of child-protection pressures

The government has an "appalling" lack of understanding of the growing pressure on England's child-protection services, a spending watchdog says.

The National Audit Office pointed to a huge rise in demand since 2010.

Council budgets had been cut by nearly 30% over this period, it said, and 91% of local authorities were now overspending on children's services.

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Parents kept in the dark over wasted academy cash

Parents are being left in the dark by academies that have misused public money and paid excessive salaries, MPs have said as they accused the government of failing to oversee the schools.

Tougher governance is needed after a succession of academy failures, which have been costly to the taxpayer and damaged children’s education, the public accounts committee says in a damning report to be published today. Parents have to fight for basic information about their children’s school and trusts are opaque about their finances, failing to explain adequately how they are spending public money, it says.

The committee says academies should be forced to name a member of staff to whom parents can complain. The Department for Education (DfE) should also identify a person within government whom parents can contact to escalate concerns, it says.

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Rural areas defend plan to downgrade deprivation role

County councils have hit back at the suggestion that a government review of funding unfairly favours rural areas over inner cities.

Leaders of urban authorities had complained that the government’s proposed new formula for council funding from 2020 onwards will harm cities by focusing on population rather than deprivation.

But the County Councils Network (CCN) insists that the review will remove“disproportionate” weightings given to deprivation, while ensuring deprivation remains a “key factor” in the new settlement.

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Norfolk County Council rubber-stamps plans to close 38 children’s centres amid fierce protests

Norfolk County Council rubber-stamps plans to close 38 children’s centres amid fierce protests.

Controversial proposals to close 38 children centres in Norfolk have been voted through by councillors after a six-hour meeting at County Hall.

Protestors turned up outside the meeting, campaigning against the plans to close the majority of the existing 53 centres— but the council decisively backed the proposals.

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Council staff left ‘deeply shocked’ after new Dorset unitary sends out redundancy letters

Redundancy warning letters have been sent to council staff in Dorset who have been left “infuriated and deeply shocked” ahead of the planned local government reorganisation in the county.

The new Dorset Council said that it had formally notified staff of the loss of 117 mainly managerial posts as it “reduces duplication and management costs” when the county’s six local authorities merge in April.

But Unison and Labour have claimed that the process of job losses wasn’t expected to start until after the new authority was created, and the local party has criticised the move saying that promises have been broken.

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East Sussex council strips back budget cuts by £20m with help of government grants

A cash-strapped council has dramatically reduced its savings target by £20m after receiving concessions from the government, meaning a number of extreme budget cuts are no longer needed.

East Sussex County Council announced that a savings target of £45m over three years had been reduced to £26.3m after successfully lobbying the government has resulted in £8.3m in new grants for the council.

Cuts will still take place, and the council’s proposals will see its meals on wheels subsidy completely cut and council tax will rise by 2.99% in order to find £5.13m of savings in order to balance next year’s budget.

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UK employment total hits record high

The number of people in work in the UK has reached a record high of 32.54 million, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

Unemployment was flat, with a small increase of 8,000 between September and November for a total of 1.37 million.

Average earnings excluding bonuses increased by 3.3% in the year to November, as wage rises continued to outpace inflation.

The number of job vacancies rose by 10,000 to a record high of 853,000.

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Council investigates using ‘smart’ cars to detect potholes

Oxfordshire County Council could be rolling out ‘smart’ cars to help detect potholes quickly.

The county council’s Smart City initiative has been researching the information-gathering capabilities of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs).

The county council’s head of innovation, Llewellyn Morgan, said this technology could be used to help highway maintenance teams fix potholes.

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Dawes: No-deal Brexit could mean councils take on ports role

Councils could be expected to take on responsibility for inspections at ports in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s permanent secretary has told MPs.

Giving evidence to a Commons committee on Monday afternoon, Melanie Dawes said the housing and communities secretary would “soon” be making an announcement about the allocation of the £35m earmarked to support councils’ Brexit preparations.

However, Ms Dawes said councils may also receive additional funding via other government departments.

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Right to Buy scheme under pressure to be scrapped as councils spend millions renting homes they sold for below market rate

A GOVERNMENT scheme that gives council tenants the right to buy their home at a discount "should be scrapped" after it's been revealed that London councils spend £22million a year renting back homes they've sold.

The damning figures also show that more than 40 per cent of London council homes bought under the Government's Right to Buy programme are now rented out privately.

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Firm ‘uses aggressive tactics’ to collect millions in fines for councils

Councils are making millions of pounds from a private company accused of using aggressive and intimidating tactics to issue fines for minor offences such as littering and dog-fouling, an investigation has found.

In interviews, whistleblowers said staff working for Kingdom Services Group – one of the fastest growing private security and services firms in the country – had targeted elderly people for littering because they knew they would be more likely to pay the fines.

And they alleged that, with the company’s encouragement, some officers had deliberately targeted vulnerable people in deprived areas. One former officer said: “I believe this company is profiting from poverty.”

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Over 23,000 shops and 175,000 high street jobs predicted to go in 2019

A further 175,000 jobs will be shed from struggling UK high streets this year and the value of retail property will slump as the boom in online shopping and rise of giants such as Amazon continue to take their toll, research warns.

More than 23,000 shops are forecast to close in 2019, according to the findings published on Monday in an annual report from the real estate adviser Altus Group.

The figures suggest this year will be even worse than 2018, when a series of high-profile company failures and store-closure programmes claimed nearly 20,000 stores and 150,000 jobs. They include both multiples or chains as well as independent stores and – in the hospitality sector – restaurants and casual dining outlets.

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Districts threaten legal action over unitary plans

Two district councils in Buckinghamshire have threatened to take legal action in a bid to prevent the creation of a single unitary authority.

Buckinghamshire CC, together with Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Buckinghamshire and Wycombe DCs, are due to be merged into a new unitary in 2020. However, the plan has been rejected by all four district councils, meaning housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire must legislate for the merger by the end of March.

In a joint statement, Isobel Darby, leader of Chiltern DC and Katrina Wood, leader of Wycombe DC, said they had written to Mr Brokenshire as a “preliminary step” to legal proceedings. They said they had taken the move with “great reluctance” but felt that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had left them with no alternative.

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Crime prevention budgets ‘slashed’ under Tories

Crime prevention budgets have been cut by more than a half since 2010, an analysis from Labour has revealed.

Between 2009/10 and 2017/18, spending on crime reduction by councils has been cut by almost 60%, falling from £363m to £154m.

Over the same period, the number of council employees working on crime reduction has fallen by more than a third, from 120,334 to just 77,720.

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Fair funding review must not drive us apart

Leave/remain is not the only indication of just how divided this country is. LGC’s Council Control Map is a pretty useful indicator of the enormity of the gulf in the outlooks of different types of area.

LGC's map, produced after last year’s polls, shows 24 of the 27 county councils are Conservative controlled (and the blue party is the largest block in the three with no overall control). In contrast, 30 of the 36 metropolitan councils are controlled by Labour, with the Conservatives holding just Solihull MBC. In London, the Conservatives won just 511 seats – their lowest ever figure.

In short, urban areas have lately become more Labour while rural areas have become more Tory. This simple fact is of critical importance when it comes to this year’s fair funding review, which (sad to relate) will determine the distribution of the pie rather than the enlargement of the pie. Governments have a tendency to skew funding towards areas their party controls and the fact that there is such a clear split in political control between rural and urban areas gives Theresa May’s administration much leeway to seek to redistribute funding from urban to rural authorities.

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Lancashire school's '£1,000 holiday fine' warning denied

A school's warning to parents that they could be fined £1,000 for taking their child on holiday during term time has been dismissed by the council.

The headteacher of Balladen Community Primary School in Rawtenstall told parents the penalty could be introduced as part of a pilot scheme.

But Lancashire County Council said no such figure "has been discussed by the authority, or even suggested".

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Plan to redirect inner-city funds to Tory shires 'a stitch-up’

Ministers have been accused of a “stitch-up” over proposals to redraw the funding formula for councils in a way critics say will redirect scarce cash from deprived inner cities to affluent Conservative-voting shires.

The proposed changes – which include the recommendation that grant allocations should no longer be weighted to reflect the higher costs of poverty and deprivation – come amid increasing concern over the sustainability of local authority finances.

Leaders of urban councils have written to ministers to complain that under the “grossly unfair and illogical” proposals, potentially tens of millions of pounds would be switched to rural and suburban council areas.

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Mackay defends local government planned settlement

The Scottish finance secretary has defended his planned settlement for local government while stressing he is “open minded” to giving councils greater fiscal autonomy.

Derek Mackay has heard warnings from the Scottish Parliament’s finance and constitution committee that in the wake of last month’s draft budget, councils had been left with no option but to consider stripping services back to the statutory minimum.

Although the total allocation to local government under the proposals rose in real terms by 0.7%, non-ringfenced revenue funding fell by 3.4%, or almost £320m, in real terms, fuelling concern from the local government sector that essential services would no longer be sustainable.

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Wakefield, Grimsby, Plymouth win share of £20m culture fund

Wakefield, home to The Hepworth Wakefield gallery, is one of five areas in England that will benefit from a new £20 million Cultural Development Fund.

Grimsby, Kent Thames Estuary, Plymouth and Worcester will also receive a share of the money to invest in culture.

Wakefield, which also has the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, has been given £4.4 million to help turn it into an internationally renowned location.

Regions had to bid for up to £7 million for local projects.

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Coventry City Council is UK's slowest to fill potholes

Coventry City Council has the longest response time in Britain for filling in serious potholes, new research has revealed.

Figures released by motoring charity the RAC Foundation show the authority aims to make road repairs within five working days.

Cumbria, Flintshire and South Lanarkshire councils try to act "immediately" to sort out defects.

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Leading academies ordered to promote apprenticeships

Ten leading academy chains will be ordered by the government to give better access to colleges promoting vocational qualifications.

Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said yesterday that apprenticeship snobbery was depriving people of successful careers.

He is launching a campaign today to change the perception of apprenticeships among young people and parents, and to ensure that they are being promoted by schools alongside more traditional academic routes.

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Hundreds of UK care workers threaten walkout over wage cuts

More than 600 low-paid care workers are this week voting on strike action in response to moves by employers to start imposing wage cuts in the row over minimum rates for sleep-in shifts caused by protracted legal wrangling and indecision in government.

Unison members at Alternative Futures Group, a charity which employs 2,500 care staff, mainly in the north-west, are threatening an initial 48-hour walkout.

Some employers who had begun to pay the full national minimum wage for hours spent asleep by care workers – in response to tribunal rulings and official guidance – are going back to paying a lower flat rate following a contrary judgement in the court of appeal. Workers could be out of pocket by as much as £40 a night.

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MPs Debate Children's Social Care [LIVE]

MPs are currently debating Children's Social Care funding. The debate begun at 15:06 17 January 2019.

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Mental capacity changes give care homes too much power, critics say

Changes to mental capacity safeguards – intended to protect hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people – will hand care home managers and private hospitals far too much power, the government has been warned.

The Law Society, mental health charities and Labour have accused the Department of Health and Social Care (DoH) of rushing through legislation that would remove independent scrutiny of the monitoring process to ensure that residents were not subjected to excessive restrictions.

As many as 125,000 children and adults, mainly in care homes, are being unlawfully detained in England and Wales as a huge backlog of uncompleted applications for deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS) has built up.

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Schools pushing children into home schooling, say councils

Local authorities in England say some parents are being “coerced” by schools into home educating their children, often before GCSE exams, and that there has been a sharp increase in the number of pupils being removed, according to the government’s admissions watchdog.

The annual report of the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) says more than 52,000 children were registered as being home schooled in 2017-18, using figures supplied by the 152 local education authorities in England. But it notes that, because there is no requirement on parents to register, the figure is an underestimate of the real total.

The figure represents a steep increase from a similar survey in 2015-16 that estimated about 37,000 school-aged children were registered as home educated.

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Norfolk council rebuked over special needs provision

The local government ombudsman has reprimanded a local authority over its provision for children with special educational needs after upholding 11 complaints against the council over the last two years.

The ombudsman’s office said the number of complaints upheld against Norfolk county council was one of the highest in England, particularly given the relatively small population.

The picture is replicated in many areas of the country, however, with many parents saying they have to fight to secure the SEN provision to which their children are entitled as cash-strapped local authorities struggle to meet growing demand for support.

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Wales has 'highest imprisonment rate' in western Europe

Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe, new research has claimed.

The Wales Governance Centre's analysis of official figures also reveals average custody rates are higher than in England for a number of different groups and offences.

In particular, non-white Welsh prisoners are overrepresented in prison.

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Inflation falls to lowest level in nearly two years

The UK inflation rate fell to 2.1% in December, from 2.3% the previous month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) figure was the lowest in nearly two years, pushed down by petrol price falls.

The inflation reading was in line with analysts' expectations.

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Anger as NHS England accused of public health 'land grab'

NHS England has been accused of a “crude” attempt to engineer a “land grab” after its NHS long-term plan suggested a diminished role for local government in public health. Jim McManus, the vice president of the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), told LGC that reliable sources close to the process informed him that NHS England officials have been lobbying the Treasury for control of the public health grant paid to councils by questioning local government’s performance on prevention.

There has been widespread criticism from within local government of the long-term plan proposal, which said the government and the NHS will consider a “stronger role for the NHS” in commissioning public health services currently the responsibility of councils, such as sexual health, health visitors and school nurses. Mr McManus said: “I have it from reliable sources that NHS England have said that public health in local government is not delivering, which is not true.

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Town halls cut services but spend millions on CCTV

Councils are spending millions of pounds spying on residents despite cutting services in almost every other area.

Local authorities in England have spent more than three quarters of a billion pounds on CCTV over the past decade, an increase of 17 per cent a year since 2010. Over the same period councils have reduced spending on street cleaning by 12 per cent, food safety by 16 per cent, trading standards by 32 per cent and libraries by 35 per cent.

Critics said the increase in spending on CCTV while other departments had their budgets cut was “offensive”.

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Combined authority backs bus alliance

West Yorkshire Combined Authority has endorsed a proposed partnership deal with bus companies Arriva, First and Transdev.

Members of the authority’s transport committee voted last week to approve development of a delivery plan, with a view to signing a formal voluntary partnership agreement by June this year.

The West Yorkshire Bus Alliance will last until 2021 and see the combined authority work with bus operators towards adoption of a unified brand and a series of service improvements.

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MHCLG must have better oversight of local authority governance, says NAO

The government must improve its oversight of governance in local authorities as they struggle with increased financial and demand pressure, England’s spending watchdog has urged.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government must also be more transparent in its engagement with local authorities - both formal and informal – a National Audit Office report, released today, has said.

As the department does not collect data on governance “it lacks the evidence base to assess rigorously whether governance issues are system-wide and this reduces the level of confidence it can have in the operation of the system,” the NAO warned.

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Bristol council launches bid to save community hub

A last-ditch bid to prevent one of Britain’s biggest community hubs from being turned into apartments has been launched amid fears about the threat gentrification poses to the “different and edgy” culture of Bristol.

The council agreed on Tuesday to investigate whether it can afford to step in to buy Hamilton House, a community and arts centre whose owners have already evicted hundreds of tenants and community users to convert it to housing.

With 500 artists, social enterprises and businesses affected by the conversion plans, it is one of the biggest examples of a threat that is faced nationwide by community assets as property prices rise in many towns and cities.

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How Ashford in Kent became the poster town for the high street fightback

As the nation reels from store closures and plummeting profits, one town is a shining beacon of hope.

Ashford in Kent has create a thriving shopping centre that is pulling in the punters.

Figures show footfall soared 27% in December compared with 2017 and year-on-year rocketed by 52% in the Christmas week. But how has Ashford, with a population of just 127,500, beaten the odds to become the poster town for the high street fightback?

Cllr Graham Galpin, below, said: “It’s taken six years of hard work to become an overnight success. There is a long way to go, but local ­authorities are looking to replicate it in their towns.”

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Education spending falls by more than £7 billion since the Tories came to power

Education spending has fallen by more than £7 billion since the Tories came to power.

The Mirror has exposed how parents across the country are being sent begging letters to help cover the cost of paper, pens and even toilet roll.

Now analysis by the House of Commons Library, reveals how real terms spending on schools and colleges fell from £95.5 billion in 2011-12 to £87.8 billion in 2017-18 - a fall of £7.7 billion in annual spending.

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Universal credit: Rudd backs tax cut for workers

Amber Rudd is prepared to push the Treasury to introduce tax cuts for low paid workers, potentially costing more than a billion pounds.

In a major change to the troubled universal credit system, the work and pensions secretary said she favoured calls to cut the "earnings taper".

This is the rate at which benefits are reduced when claimants earn more money.

Ms Rudd indicated support for the taper to be reduced from 63% to 60%.

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Redistribute schools’ cash to help struggling secondaries, think-tank urges

The government should consider redistributing funds from schools with ‘excessive’ surpluses to bolster those with weaker finances, an education think-tank has suggested today.

Nearly a third of English local authority maintained secondary schools are now in deficit, analysis by the Education Policy Institute has highlighted.

Analysis by the institute of Department of Education figures showed that 30.3% of local authority maintained secondary schools were in deficit in 2017-18, almost four times that of 2014 (8.1%). The total value of deficit balances of local authority maintained secondary schools in England in 2017-18 were £233m, the EPI said.

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Spelthorne borough council splashes out £1bn on property

A Surrey council is close to buying two buildings in London that will bring its investment in commercial property to more than £1 billion.

Spelthorne borough council is finalising a deal to buy a City office block and a building in west London next to the new US embassy.

The purchase of 100 Cheapside in the City for about £140 million would be its first entry into one of the most competitive property markets in the world.

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250,000 children should be classed as victims of domestic abuse, says NSPCC

At least 250,000 children should be classed as victims of domestic abuse under government reforms due this month, says the NSPCC.

The charity says the Government’s current legal definition of domestic abuse fails to recognise the mental, emotional and social damage that children can suffer from domestic abuse in the family.

It says education department figures show domestic violence was a factor in the 246,720 cases last year where children were assessed to be in need of protection yet they had no legal guarantee that action would be taken because they were not classed as victims.

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Grammars ‘are vital for social mobility’

Grammar schools are making a “vital contribution” to social mobility because half their pupils are from lower-income households, according to a report.

It says that almost all other research into grammars has focused “narrowly” on eligibility for free school meals, usually representing the very poorest children, as the measure of disadvantage. That has “obscured” the benefits that a grammar school education has given those from households that are far from wealthy but do not qualify for any in-school benefits.

The report, written by a former Department for Education mandarin, challenges conventional wisdom that England’s 163 grammars have been colonised by the wealthy middle class who use their money to tutor their children to pass the entrance exam.

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NHS and councils full of financial problems, says watchdog

The number of NHS and local government bodies with significant financial weaknesses in their ability to give value for money is unacceptably high and increasing, according to Whitehall’s spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office has examined the financial statements from nearly 937 local health authorities, councils, police and local fire bodies which are responsible for about £154bn of net revenue spending every year.

Auditors conclude in a report published on Wednesday that the number of local bodies with significant weaknesses increased from 170 (18%) in 2015-16 to 208 (22%) in 2017-18.

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Care cuts failing older people in England, says human rights group

Vulnerable older people in England are at risk of being denied their human rights because of failures in the way the government allocates care resources since budget cuts, Human Rights Watch has said.

After a 13-month inquiry, the global campaign group has concluded that people are facing physical, financial and psychological hardship and are at risk of being denied adequate help to live independent, dignified lives.

It accuses the government of a lack of oversight of a system which is largely devolved to town halls and voices concern about a 140% increase in adult social care complaints since 2010 following a cut of almost 50% in central government funding for councils.

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Amazon business rates bill prompts calls for reform

Amazon could be required to pay higher business rates in a bid to tackle the online retail giant’s impact on the high street, a government minister has said.

Jake Berry, parliamentary under-secretary of state at MHCLG, appeared before the communities and local government select committee earlier this week to answer questions as part of an inquiry into the future of the high street.

Committee chair Clive Betts (Lab) cited correspondence from Amazon which revealed the amount of business rates paid by the online retailer in the UK.

Mr Betts asked: “Is it fair, minister, that Amazon pay only £63m in business rates on a total UK revenue of over £8bn?”

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Departing chief in line for £470,000 package

Bournemouth BC councillors will be asked on Tuesday to approve a package worth more than £470,000 for chief executive Jane Portman after she failed to secure the top post at the new Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch unitary council.

A report by leader John Beesley (Con) said Ms Portman should receive £117,299 for redundancy, contractual notice pay, compensation for loss of office and statutory rights.

Bournemouth must also pay £355,621 in ‘pension strain’ to the Dorset County Local Government Pension Fund, since Ms Portman will be below normal retirement age when she leaves at the end of March. This payment is required under LGPS rules to compensate the pension fund for the fact that where an individual aged over 55 is made redundant they are entitled to receive their accrued pension in full, without an ‘actuarial reduction’ that would be made if someone was taking early retirement. It will not be taken as a lump sum.

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Value for money concerns at one in five top tier councils

Local government bodies are failing to respond urgently enough to the increasing number of concerns being raised by auditors, the head of the National Audit Office has warned.

In a report published today, the NAO said auditors raised concerns about the financial arrangements at nearly one in five single tier and county councils last year.

In total, auditors offered a ‘qualified conclusion’ on arrangements to secure value for money at 8% of local government bodies during 2017-18, including local authorities and police and fire organisations, and at 18% of unitary or county councils.

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Government proposals offer pension security for outsourced council jobs

Local government workers whose jobs have been outsourced will remain in the Local Government Pension Scheme, under proposals announced today.

Employers of outsourced staff will no longer be able to offer local government staff comparable schemes under proposals, set out in a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government consultation yesterday.

Staff members will remain on the LGPS even if their role is sub-contracted or transferred again in the future, provided they remain in the role they were transferred out from, MHCLG said.

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Paupers' funerals cost UK councils nearly £5.4m in a year

Councils across the UK spent nearly £5.4m on "paupers' funerals" last year, it has been revealed.

A Freedom of Information request, by insurance company Royal London, found 275 local authorities spent £5,382,379 on public health funerals in the 12 months up to April 2018.

More than 3,800 of the funerals, for people who have died alone, in poverty or without relatives, were held.

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Councils enjoy a surge in parking charge profits while slashing their spending on crumbling roads

Town halls have enjoyed a surge in profits from parking charges while slashing the amount they spend repairing crumbling local roads, according to a damning report.

An audit of official figures shows parking profits soared by almost a quarter in five years, while the amount invested in the local road network dropped by 14 per cent.

Councils made a record parking ‘surplus’ of £847million in 2017/18 – up £165million or 24 per cent from £682million in 2013/14.

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Whitehall should pass more power to councils, says Truss

The government should relax its centralising tendencies and pass more powers down to local government, particularly counties, a Cabinet minister told the Local Government Association finance conference.

Chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss declared herself to be a “great supporter of devolution” at the conference today. She acknowledged that the result of the Brexit referendum was due in part to a resentment of Whitehall decision-making and stressed that the government must now look to give authorities the power to make decisions locally.

“More decision making has to be done at a local level. When decisions are made at a distance, they take longer and can be less effective... We are now seeing better representation of cities but we need more representation of counties," Truss said.

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Amber Rudd insists Universal Credit benefits will go ahead despite Commons vote delay

Over the weekend, Whitehall officials indicated that an imminent parliamentary vote on transferring three million claimants onto the single handout had been put off pending further trials. MPs will be instead asked to vote on moving just 10,000 people onto the new system. In the Commons yesterday, the Work and Pensions Secretary said that the Government was still committed to the target of extending the benefit nationwide by the end of 2020.

Ms Rudd, speaking at work and pensions questions, said: "I will want to consider carefully when I bring to the House the vote for the three million managed migration, which is scheduled for 2020. I'm still considering when to do that.

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Nine out of ten councils blow the budget on children's care

Nearly ninety percent of councils overspent on children’s social care last year, according to figures released by the Local Government Association.

Local authorities overspent by a total of £806m, with 133 out of 152 councils tipping over their budget.

According to the LGA, children’s services already faces a £3.1bn funding gap by 2025 to keep current levels of services as the numbers of looked after children continue to soar to the highest level since the 1980s.

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Hancock plans to publish social care green paper before April

The health secretary intends to publish the much-anticipated social care green paper before the end of the financial year, he told the Commons.

Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on Monday that he plans to publish the green paper “before April”.

The green paper has been delayed multiple times, the most recent of which came just before Christmas.

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Pete Moore to lead CIPFA’s pension panel

Pete Moore, executive director of finance and public protection at Lincolnshire County Council, has been appointed as chair of CIPFA’s pension panel.

Moore has 38 years of experience in local government finance, has been a CIPFA member since 1986 and Section 151 officer at Lincolnshire since 2000.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said the advice and guidance provided by the institute’s pensions panel was “essential to the future prosperity of millions of people in the UK”, especially now local government pension funds are pooled across eight mega-funds.

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Teachers’ leaders accuse Theresa May of breaking funding promise

Teachers leaders have accused the Prime Minister of breaking her promise to increase school funding after it was revealed nearly 5,000 schools will suffer cuts this year.

An analysis of the funding allocation for schools reveals one in four primary schools and one in six secondaries will see their budgets cut as a result of lower than expected funding from the Government. This is despite Theresa May telling MPs last year there would be a “cash increase for every school in every region”, while Education Secretary Damian Hinds said “each school will see at least a small cash increase” this year.

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/news/education/teachers-leaders-accuse-theresa-may-of-breaking-funding-promise/

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England 'needs millions of homes to solve housing crisis'

Three million new social homes must be built in England over 20 years to solve the "housing crisis", a report says.

Housing charity Shelter said 1.2 million homes are needed for younger families who cannot afford to buy and "face a lifetime in expensive and insecure private renting".

Existing schemes like Help to Buy are a less effective use of taxpayers' money, the report claims.

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Families waiting too long for special needs support in England

Thousands of children in England with special educational needs are waiting too long for an education, health and care plan (EHC).

The EHC plans set out a child's needs and the support to which they are entitled.

Once a plan is requested, the law says councils should normally finalise them within 20 weeks.

But through Freedom of Information requests, it has been learned that around four in 10 plans have taken longer.

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Volunteers left to stack bookshelves as hundreds of libraries are closed

More than £300 million has been wiped from library budgets since the turn of the decade.

Councils have shut 700 libraries and book-lending services since 2010, with the pace of closures accelerating last year when budgets were slashed by £30 million, forcing 127 to close.

The figures, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, show that cuts have been most severely felt by librarians, with more than 1,500 losing their jobs over the past two years. The wage bill for libraries has shrunk almost in half since 2010.

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Cost of bringing road bridges up to scratch rose by a third last year – study

The maintenance backlog for council-owned road bridges in Britain has increased by a third in 12 months, new figures show.

An estimated £6.7 billion is needed to ensure all the structures are up to scratch, according to analysis of 2017/18 data by motoring research charity the RAC Foundation. This is up from £5 billion a year earlier.

Some 3,177 bridges in the worst condition have been categorised as “substandard”, meaning they are unable to carry the heaviest vehicles.

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NHS plan ‘missed opportunity’ to fix social care

Council chiefs have welcomed the NHS’s long-term plan to focus more on prevention, but have criticised the Government for not taking action on adult social care.

The NHS Long Term Plan, which was published today, emphasises the importance of early detection and prevention. It says this will stop an estimated 85,000 premature deaths each year.

New measures in the plan, argue NHS leaders, such as genetic testing for a quarter of people with high inherited cholesterol, will help prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases.

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Full steam ahead for hydrogen trains

Hydrogen trains will be introduced in as little as two years under ambitious plans to phase out dirty diesel engines.

A deal has been struck to convert more than 100 trains into the first fleet powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The trains, which are almost silent and have zero emissions, will operate at speeds of up to 90mph and release steam only as a by-product. The new trains, which will be called “Breeze”, will be employed on commuter and suburban lines by early 2021.

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Town hall chiefs fear a spike in A&E admissions from elderly people slipping on untreated icy pavements this winter amid £48m budget cuts

Town hall chiefs fear a spike in A&E admissions from elderly people slipping on untreated icy pavements this winter.

They say £48 million of budget cuts in the past 12 months mean they are unable to grit so many pavements.

Council leaders from 47 local authorities called on Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire to intervene to avert a crisis.

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Greater Manchester: New homes plan to tackle 'housing crisis'

More than 50,000 affordable homes will be built in Greater Manchester by 2038 under new plans to tackle the region's "housing crisis".

The revised plans come after huge protests over a previous proposal for 225,000 new properties.

Mayor Andy Burnham said 30,000 of the 50,000 new homes would be social housing.

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Elderly are being treated like 'Amazon parcels' with only 15 minutes handling time by care staff, former pensions minister warns

The elderly are being treated like “Amazon parcels” with only 15 minutes handling time by care staff, according to a former pensions minister.

Declaring Britain’s social care system “broken”, Baroness Ros Altmann likened council-funded care in the home to treating vulnerable pensioners like deliveries by the internet giant.

“They talk about care packages, 15 minute visits and it’s like the elderly are being treated like Amazon parcels,” she said.

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Theresa May poised to play for time by further postponing final vote on her Brexit deal

Theresa May is poised to play for time by further postponing a final vote on her Brexit deal next week.

The Prime Minister's aides are believed to be drawing up a plan to make MPs' approval of the deal conditional on the European Union providing further concessions.

The move is intended to help limit the scale of opposition to the vote, while buying time amid ongoing negotiations with European Union leaders.

A Whitehall source said that while the "tone" of conversations between Downing Street and Brussels had improved since mid-December, the two sides remained "far apart" on what each were prepared to accept.

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Social housing report calls for massive overhaul of tenants’ rights

Sweeping new powers must be given to social tenants as part of an overhaul needed to ensure a Grenfell-style disaster never happens again, a powerful cross-party commission will warn this week.

It found that social tenants are being failed by a system that leaves them waiting an average of eight months before their complaints are investigated, even when their safety could be at risk.

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NICE: New roads should prioritise cyclists and pedestrians

Pedestrians, cyclists and public transport should be given priority over cars when roads are built or upgraded, to encourage more physical activity, the UK's health watchdog has said.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says roads should be "safe, attractive and designed" to help people use their cars less.

It has issued a set of draft guidelines for planners and local authorities.

The Department for Transport said it supported such policies.

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Number 10 denies government is planning to merge Departments for Business, Transport, and Culture

The Sun reports suggest proposal for new 'super-ministry' is under consideration, prompting fears climate change would slip down government priority list

Proposals for a major Whitehall revamp that would merge the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with the Department for Transport (DfT), and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are being drawn-up by several cabinet ministers, according to reports.

The Sun newspaper claimed yesterday that plans for a major departmental reorganisation are being championed by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss.

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Brokenshire to announce funding for manufacturing zones

Four pilot projects aimed at boosting manufacturing in the East Midlands will be announced today by housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire.

Plans for sites in Melton Mowbray, Leicester, Lincolnshire and North Derbyshire will be supported by a share of £500,000 announced by the chancellor Philip Hammond in 2017 for ‘East Midlands Manufacturing Zones’, which will aim to reduce planning restrictions to free-up land and encourage investment.

During a visit to the East Midlands today Mr Brokenshire will say the manufacturing zones show the government’s industrial strategy is backing local businesses and building on local strengths.

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Mental health budget worth £1.9bn 'to be devolved'

Mental health specialised commissioning will be fully devolved to providers within the next three years, according to the chief executive of a major mental health trust.

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust chief executive John Short told Health Service Journal he expected NHS England’s £1.9bn specialised commissioning budget would be devolved to provider collaboratives.

“I think within two-and-a-half to three years all the £1.9bn of NHS England mental health spec comm will be run by collaboratives. That ambition is Simon Stevens’ ambition”, he said.

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CCG accused of using 'flawed' test to cut spending on elderly

A clinical commissioning group has been accused of blocking potentially eligible patients from receiving continuing healthcare funding under a programme supported by NHS England.

West Norfolk CCG has been using a locally-devised screening process, called the “5Qs test”, which effectively means a higher proportion of patients do not receive an official assessment for NHS funded continuing healthcare.

By law, patients with complex long term conditions are entitled to free social care funded by the NHS, so long as they are assessed as having a primary medical care need under the official CHC process.

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Mental health: target to boost staff numbers by 21,000 set to be missed

Ministers are on course to miss their target of increasing the number of mental health staff by 21,000 by 2020, according to NHS workforce figures obtained by Labour.

A year after the government made the pledge, NHS mental health trusts in England had employed just 1,524 extra personnel, according to statistics collected by NHS Digital.

The very small rise is a setback for Theresa May’s plans to dramatically improve mental health care in order to reduce treatment delays, introduce new waiting times and reduce unmet need. Mental health chiefs and staff groups are worried that staffing problems will undermine those ambitions.

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Government hands out £38m to help [London boroughs] accommodate homeless families

London boroughs will receive a £38m boost to provide accommodation for families facing homelessness, the government has announced.

A scheme launched by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on Monday will aim to help more than 35,000 households within the Greater London area.

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Taxis should be used as public transport in rural areas, say campaigners

Minicabs should be used to provide public transport in rural communities that have lost bus services, it has been claimed.

The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) believes new technology offers the opportunity for private hire vehicles to offer shared transport.

Utilising these vehicles should be a “key principle” for the future development of rural transport strategies in certain areas, the lobby group said in a report.

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CIPFA index finds up to 15% of councils ‘at risk of financial instability’

CIPFA has identified up to 15% of councils in England are at risk of financial instability, through refining its resilience index.

Counties performed the worst with regard to ‘level of reserves’. The briefing note said: “County councils have a lower level of reserves than other types of council. District councils, which do not have a social care responsibility, typically have much higher levels with the majority holding reserves that exceed their net annual expenditure.”

CIPFA’s briefing note said that there can be “good reasons” for depleting reserves but “continued depletion of reserves may be a sign of financial stress and being unable to deliver a balanced budget”.

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More scrutiny in local government? [opinion]

Every day, 5.4 million public sector workers in public, private or third sector organisations deliver services ranging from healthcare to waste collection to the British public. They are held to account by more than 21,000 elected officials, including councillors and MPs.

Yet, high profile failures inevitably happen, be it the Grenfell fire or the Mid Staffs scandal. The Institute for Government has found that weak accountability increases the risk that such failures occur, from financial mismanagement to public harm. In response, we recommend greater scrutiny in local government to deal with the reality of modern public service delivery.

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One in six councils face financial stability risk

Four councils are spending more than 90% of their net revenue expenditure on social care and interest payments, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has revealed.

Two of the four are London boroughs, one is a unitary and one is a metropolitan district, but CIPFA will not name the councils after an outcry from parts of the sector that feared its proposed financial resilience index would lead to the creation of league tables and local authorities being named and shamed.

The number of councils in this category is significant partly because local authorities find it harder to control or reduce spending on social care and interest rates than other areas.

CIPFA said the data overall showed that up to 15% of councils displayed ‘some signs of potential risk to their financial stability’.

If recent patterns persisted at 12 upper-tier councils their reserves would be fully exhausted within a short time while only two district councils had a depletion rate below four years.

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Government: Start preparing for no-deal Brexit

Ministers are ‘ramping up’ planning for a no-deal Brexit as the prospect becomes more likely.

Downing Street said businesses and citizens should immediately prepare for leaving without a deal.

Brexit secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘The Government’s priority remains to secure a deal, but we need to recognise, with 14 weeks to go, that a responsible Government is preparing for the eventuality that we leave without a deal.’

The MJ revealed in October that local authorities were being warned to prepare for up to three months of disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with resilience forums asked to prepare for ‘reasonable, worst case scenarios’ - which could include runs on banks, petrol and food.

One council chief executive said: ‘I am more worried about civil unrest than I was during the original referendum.

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Hancock refutes reports of 'shelved' social care green paper

Health secretary Matt Hancock has rejected reports that the social care green paper has been shelved due to government preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

The Times reported this morning an unnamed minister as saying adult social care reform was a “likely casualty” of the cabinet’s decision yesterday to speed up preparations across Whitehall for the possibility that the government would fail to reach an agreement on Brexit with the European Union.

Responding to a tweet highlighting the story this morning from Chris Ham, chief executive of the The King’s Fund, Mr Hancock said: “Don’t recognise this at all. Putting finishing touches on the Social Care Green Paper ready for publication in the New Year”.

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Theresa May ditches key pledges to prepare for no-deal Brexit

Theresa May is to start culling Tory manifesto commitments after her cabinet decided yesterday to accelerate planning for a no-deal Brexit.

David Lidington, who is in effect the prime minister’s deputy, will start in “short order” to identify policies to be shelved to free resources for the no-deal, a senior figure said.

Reforms to social care have been identified by one minister as a likely casualty of yesterday’s decision, which escalated preparations across Whitehall. A Department of Health aide confirmed that some staff had already been diverted from social care to prepare.

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Binmen refuse to get their hands dirty as council tells residents: clean up your own mess

Binmen are refusing to get their hands dirty by removing bin bags wedged at the bottom of wheelie bins, prompting anger from local residents.

Locals in Canterbury, Kent, have been left fuming in recent weeks after finding their wheelie bins still half full after a visit from binmen.

A spokesman for Canterbury City Council said it was the responsibility of residents to make sure that rubbish was not wedged in the bins.

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Stephen Houghton: Negative RSG plans are a gift to rich authorities

The elimination of negative revenue support grant (RSG), should it be brought forward next year, will undermine the confidence of deprived urban areas in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s ability to deliver a genuinely ‘fair’ funding review.

With it, the secretary of state James Brokenshire has gifted £153m to some of the richest authorities in the country, taking no account of local needs.

He has also chosen to divert an extra £16m to rural areas, despite an independent study by LG Futures, commissioned by the ministry and referenced in a consultation on the fair funding review, that showed rurality does not increase overall funding need.

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Social care green paper delayed again

The adult social care green paper has been delayed again and will now be published next year, the government has confirmed.

A spokesperson for Department of Health & Social Care told LGC proposals will be published at the first opportunity in 2019.

The green paper including options for future funding was announced by chancellor Philip Hammond in the 2017 March Budget and planned for the following autumn.

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Reading ‘disappointed’ after Wokingham rejects £20m scheme

Wokingham councillors have rejected plans for a £20m riverside travel route connecting two boroughs due to its ‘sensitive location’.

A proposal for the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) between Reading and Wokingham was rejected by Wokingham's planning committee on Wednesday.

The application was refused, according to committee chairman Cllr Tim Holton, because of the ‘height and scale’ of the scheme, as well as its ‘prominent and sensitive location’ near the River Thames and River Kennet.

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Child homelessness in England rises to highest level in 12 years, new figures show

Child homelessness in England has hit a 12-year high, according to new data showing that the number of families in temporary accommodation has surged since the Conservatives came into power.

Government figures reveal a total of 123,630 minors were housed in temporary accommodation in England between April and June, marking a 70 per cent increase on 2010 and a rise of nearly a quarter in the past three years.

Campaigners said the rise was a result of cuts to housing benefit and reduced funding for homelessness services, as well as a lack of affordable homes and regulation in the private rented sector.

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Residents will see 'inflation-busting' council tax rises under new government plan, Labour warns

Local councils will be allowed to introduce “inflation-busting” council tax hikes under new plans announced by ministers today, Labour has warned.

James Brokenshire, the housing and communities secretary, said the new local government funding plan will see councils given permission to raise council tax by up to 3 per cent next year.

Overall, the plan will see council budgets rise by £1.3bn – from £45.1bn to £46.4bn.

Labour said the proposals will see local residents asked to foot the bill for cuts in central government funding.

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Stoke-on-Tent City Council announce tax hike on empty homes

Stoke-on-Tent City Council plans to increase council tax on owners of empty homes by up to 300%.

It's part of a drive to get empty properties back on the market and people in them paying council tax.

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England's primary school league tables are published

New primary school league table data for England have just been published by the Department for Education.

The tables are based on how 11-year-olds in each school performed in their end-of-school national curriculum tests, known as Sats.

They provide a snapshot of how well each school is performing and tracking pupils' progress.

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Councils urgently need financial certainty, and Brexit is holding that up

The local government finance settlement sets out councils’ funding allocations from central government for the next financial year, and has been published by the Government a week before Christmas in each of the past five years.

It is of huge significance to our local services and the communities we live in, and late settlements in recent years have caused considerable problems for councils in finalising their budgets.

The government recognised the Local Government Association’s call for an earlier settlement by agreeing to bring the settlement forward this year to 6 December. It’s therefore a real shame that the Brexit debate in parliament meant it had to be delayed.

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Wages rises accelerate to fastest pace since 2008

Wages are continuing to rise at their highest level for nearly a decade, the latest official Office for National Statistics figures show.

Compared with a year earlier, wages excluding bonuses, were up by 3.3% for the three months to October, the biggest rise since November 2008.

Average weekly wages are £495 - the highest since 2011, when adjusted for inflation.

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Grammar schools given £50m diversity cash have only 2% poor pupils

The 16 grammar schools that have won a share of the government’s £50 million expansion fund have some of the worst records of admitting disadvantaged pupils, according to an analysis by the House of Commons Library.

The names of the successful schools, which will welcome thousands of extra pupils, were revealed last week. To qualify for the cash to expand they had to submit plans on how they would try to increase the proportion of poorer pupils.

Labour said that figures on the schools’ admission of poor children cast doubt on whether they were really committed to diversifying their intake. They show that, on average, only 2 per cent of pupils at the 16 schools were eligible for free school meals, which is considered a benchmark for underprivilege. In their local areas 10 per cent of children on average were eligible for free school meals.

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Plan to raise rent for high earners after MP scandal

High earners who live in social housing, such as the Labour MP Kate Osamor, could have to pay more rent under “pay to stay” proposals being considered in Whitehall.

In 2016 ministers abandoned plans to make wealthier tenants pay more after opposition from the housing sector. Last night a government source said that “options around this remain under consideration”.

The issue has returned to the table after it emerged that Ms Osamor, 50, who earns more than £77,000 a year as an MP, lived in a housing association property in north London.

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Turning off lights saves councils £15m ‘but costs lives’

Towns and cities are being plunged into darkness as councils turn off street lights to save money.

They have spent £15 million less in the past two years despite the wholesale cost of electricity rising by more than 50 per cent, official figures show.

Devon county council has advised residents to use torches to get around in the small hours after a decision to switch off lights in residential areas from 12.30am.

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Mayor Sadiq Khan to look at imposing rent controls in London

The mayor of London has hinted that he is considering introducing rent controls across the capital in a radical overhaul of private rental laws.

Sadiq Khan told an MP that London needed to adopt a “strategic approach to rent stabilisation and control”, since the arguments in favour of capping rent inflation are becoming “overwhelming”.

Although national legislation governs private sector renters’ rights, tenancies and rents themselves, it is understood that Khan will begin to advocate for fundamental change in order to tackle overinflated rents, in a move which could lead to councils assuming greater powers.

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Ministers and NHS England chief at loggerheads over targets

The head of the NHS and the government are at loggerheads over how much the health service can be improved for the £20.5bn extra Theresa May has pledged to give it, the Guardian can reveal.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has been having major disagreements behind the scenes in recent weeks with Downing Street, the Treasury and Department of Health and Social Care about how much the forthcoming NHS long-term plan can promise to boost care.

“Tension” and “difficulties” have emerged during detailed horsetrading between the two sides amid sharp differences of opinion over the extent of the document’s ambitions, well-placed NHS and Whitehall sources have said.

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Homeless at Christmas: 'How will Santa find us?'

More than 130,000 children across Great Britain will spend Christmas in temporary accommodation, official figures suggest.

One in every 103 under-18s is officially homeless, a 59% rise in five years, housing charity Shelter said.

One mother-of-three said her children were preparing for Christmas in a one-room bed and breakfast for the second year running.

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Reality Check: Are these councils defying the cuts?

Councils are in trouble - this much we know. They are cutting services, spending more than they planned and dipping into their rainy-day funds.

Perhaps the more pertinent question is not which councils are facing financial problems but are any managing to buck the trend.

Pretty much no local authority in Britain has escaped the cuts. The only councils not to have made any since 2010 are the City of London and the Isles of Scilly, which have very small populations.

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How cuts changed council spending, in seven charts

It's widely known that since 2010, English councils have had less money to spend. But that's just half the story.

When you account for inflation - or how much more expensive everything else is getting - some councils have had to cut some areas of their spending by half.

Housing and planning budgets have been particularly hit, with only children's social care seeing rising spending.

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Northern Powerhouse needs ‘clear break’ with original vision, report says

The Government should commit to a ‘whole North’ approach to development rather than just focusing on the Manchester region, think tank says.

A report into the Northern Powerhouse has called on northern leaders to move the agenda to a new phase, which, it argues, should involve a ‘clear break’ with former chancellor George Osborne’s original vision.

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Supported housing system ‘isn’t working’, charity warns

People living in supported housing are being discouraged from finding work because of fears they will not be able to afford their rent, report reveals.

The charity Mayday Trust has spoken with more than 80 people who are housed in temporary or supported accommodation, as well as those who are sleeping rough and sofa-surfing, to uncover the impact of unaffordable accommodation.

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Whitehall announces £1m ‘pocket park’ fund

Community groups can bid for a share of a £1m fund to help them develop ‘pocket parks’.

Pocket parks are small plots of land, mostly seen in urban spaces, which can help improve the physical and mental health of the communities using them.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government today announced there is up to £15,000 available to community groups wishing to build new pocket parks.

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Brexit debate delays English councils' funding announcement

The government has postponed announcing next year's plans for funding English councils because of the marathon Brexit debate currently going in the Commons.

James Brokenshire said the statement - originally planned for Thursday - will not now happen before MPs vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal on Tuesday.

But the local government secretary said it would not affect the amount of time for councils to comment on the figures.

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The Government Thinks No-one Will Notice Their Devastation Of Local Government – We Won’t Let That Happen

Despite unprecedented pressure and growing warnings, Councils are bracing themselves for the biggest cuts they’ve had to face since 2010. That is the prospect of the Tories’ local government settlement set to be announced.

The past eight years have seen councils forced to make cuts – but they’ve reached the end of the line, with so-called “non-essential services” being cut to the bone, leading to even deeper reductions to the services that we all rely on like street cleaning, libraries, and children’s centres, and to many of the preventative services that previously reduced the pressure on the NHS and police.

So severe and urgent is the crisis facing our councils, that the UN’s special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights mentioned it in the opening paragraph of his recent report, saying that local authorities had been “gutted by a series of government policies”.

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Private firms are making big money out of children's social services

Children’s social services have been bitten hard by government-imposed financial cuts since 2010. Politically-chosen austerity has led to poor children and families moving from deprivation to destitution, and the help they might have received has been stripped away. The consequence is more concerns about the safety and welfare of children, leading to a 159% increase in child protection investigations since 2008 and the number of children in council care rising from 60,000 to more than 75,000.

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Resilience index response prompts major rethink

The Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accountancy has postponed controversial plans to publish a “league table” of councils’ financial sustainability following uproar within the sector at the plans, LGC has learned.

The decision is one of a number of planned changes to the institute’s proposed local authority financial resilience index which was slammed by many senior local government figures when it was put out for consultation earlier this year.

Originally it was proposed the index would combine data from six indicators to produce a composite score that would then be made publicly available with a “traffic-light grading system”.

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MHCLG’s needs-based view of local government won’t endure

Melanie Dawes caused quite a stir this week. Speaking before the Public Accounts Committee the permanent secretary of MHCLG claimed the department believed “the sector as a whole is sustainable if the amount of resources that are available to it can deliver the statutory services which it is required to do”.

This provoked a furious reaction from across the sector. Jo Miller, president of SOLACE, seemed to speak for many when she described it as “an utterly depressing, negative & deficit based view that fails to take account of the brilliant work public servants do in #localgov day in day out to ensure our places and people thrive”.

Taken in their narrowest sense Ms Dawes’ comments might simply mean the department believes councils have sufficient resource to meet their minimum legal duties between now and the next spending review and that they do not expect any councils to fail in this period. To be fair I think that is what she meant (though I also think she may be wrong), rather than offering a broader definition of what constitutes sustainability for local government (or what local government is for).

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Northants can use £70m in capital receipts to plug finance gap

Northamptonshire CC will be allowed to use £70m in capital receipts to plug its financial black hole, local government secretary James Brokenshire has ruled.

Described by Government as ‘a significant step,’ the move – called capitalisation dispensation – will help the council to reduce its deficit and put it on a more sustainable financial footing.

The action is in response to the first Commissioners’ Report on the county, which was handed to Mr Brokenshire in early September and which was published today.

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Northamptonshire County Council: Libraries to be community managed

A crisis-hit council that is millions of pounds overspent on its budget is to offload libraries on to the community to try to keep them open.

Northamptonshire County Council will continue to manage 14 of them and support a further five - with the remaining 17 to be community-managed.

The scheme was revealed as part of the council's budget for 2019-20.

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Northants’ budget sets out savings plans and council tax rise

Northamptonshire County Council today set out draft budget proposals for 2019-20, which it said would deliver savings totalling £42.9m.

Council leader Matt Golby said the impact on services would be fairly modest. “There’s no big effect on front line services” he said and suggested: “If this approach had been taken three or four years ago we would not be in this place.”

Budget papers published by the council set out spending plans by the directorate and showed savings are expected to come through a wide range of often small measures.

These include improved contract management and contract rationalisation, better use of office space, and reorganisation and realignment of staff teams. A second round of voluntary redundancy will also get under way this month.

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Greater Manchester proposes radical integration of services

Greater Manchester CA has announced it is to drive a “seismic change” in the way services are delivered across the city region through a greater emphasis on integration.

The new “Greater Manchester model” aims to increase collaboration between council departments by managing services according to locations, as opposed to policy area.

Wigan MBC chief executive Donna Hall, who is also Greater Manchester’s lead for public service reform, said: “The traditional model of public service delivery is based on age-old assumptions and processes from the turn of the century, when society was less complex, less diverse, and a lot less connected.

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Northamptonshire ‘will have to set unprecedented unbalanced budget’

Northamptonshire County Council must take the “unprecedented” step of setting an unbalanced budget this year, according to government commissioners.

The troubled council has an estimated £35m unfunded deficit, which “must be carried forward” into the next financial year, the government-commissioned report, published today, revealed.

The findings of commissioners, who have been in place since May, said: “The requirement to find further savings to the extent necessary in order to neutralise this historic deficit represents an extraordinary challenge."

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A no-deal Brexit would shrink the UK economy ‘by 9.3%’

Analysis from both the government and Bank of England have warned the UK economy could “suffer a severe economic shock” in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Theresa May’s draft Brexit proposal will also leave the UK economy worse off, according to government figures released yesterday.

Leaving the EU with no deal would shrink the economy by 9.3% over the next 15 years, calculations by the Department for Exiting the European Union showed.

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Tory-run Northamptonshire county council bailed out by government

The government has in effect bailed out Tory-run Northamptonshire county council after giving it unprecedented permission to spend up to £60m of cash received from the sale of its HQ on funding day-to-day services.

The highly unusual move – accounting rules normally prevent councils using capital receipts in this way – means the crisis-hit authority is likely to escape falling into insolvency for the third time in less than a year.

Ministers gave the go-ahead for the bailout after commissioners sent in to run the council issued a stark warning that without a cash injection, Northamptonshire would be unable to meet its legal duties to run core services such as social care.

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Northamptonshire elections postponed during consultation

All next May's elections in cash-strapped Northamptonshire have been postponed during a consultation on a new local government structure.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire made the announcement as he issued the first report by commissioners appointed this year to run the county council.

It confirmed a budget deficit of up to £70m and a projected overspend of £30m in 2018/19.

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Domestic abuse: 'Children are the hidden victims'

"Whenever I go back to the area I grew up, I still feel nervous," says Daisy.

"When I see someone that looks like him, it makes me anxious. And seeing someone driving the red car that he used to drive makes my heart race."

Daisy, now 19, grew up in an environment of domestic violence, with her father abusing her mother. She says her experiences as a child has left her suffering from anxiety attacks and nightmares.

But Daisy's story is not unique, with the charity Women's Aid estimating that 160,000 children in England are living in homes where they witness domestic abuse.

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Philip Hammond and Bank of England to set out analysis of Brexit economic impact

Chancellor Philip Hammond is due to set out the government's analysis of the economic impact of Brexit.

The Bank of England (BoE) will also deliver its assessments on Wednesday as Theresa May heads to Scotland to press the case for her agreement with Brussels.

Downing Street has said the Treasury's papers will cover a "range of scenarios".

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Philip Hammond: UK will be ‘a bit’ poorer after Brexit

Theresa May’s Brexit deal will leave the UK worse off than staying in the EU “but not by much”, the chancellor admitted today.

Philip Hammond said that the economic impact was only part of the consideration as he urged MPs to back the prime minister’s plan in two weeks’ time.

A new Treasury forecast published later is expected to say that GDP will be between 1 and 2 per cent lower in 15 years, making the UK £40 billion poorer if Mrs May’s deal is adopted, says The Daily Telegraph. Under a no deal it estimated that the UK would be £150 billion worse off

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Complaints over social care in England nearly trebled since 2010

Complaints and inquiries about adult social care have nearly trebled since 2010, a damning report reveals, prompting warnings that the industry is struggling to cope with funding pressures.

The local government and social care ombudsman said there were 3,106 complaints or inquiries about private or council-run adult social care in 2017/18, compared with 1,156 in 2010/11.

The proportion of complaints being upheld by the ombudsman – which deals with the final stage of grievances about adult social care in England – also increased, from 43% in 2010/11 to 62% in 2017/18. There were 1,274 recommendations for improvements in the last year.

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Why this local council has taken matters into its own hands to rejuvenate its ailing high street

With Britain's high streets in turmoil, active local councils are taking it upon themselves to think of new ways they can stave off further decline.

Ashford Borough Council, with Gerry Clarkson at its helm, is spearheading this fightback, with various projects underway, including a £90m expansion of a shopping centre, the construction of a third motorway junction on the M20, and a pledge to build 16,000 new properties by 2030 to house the increasing number of local residents.

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Local government ‘is sustainable’, says top civil servant

Local government is on a “sustainable footing”, at least until next year’s Spending Review, a top civil servant has told a group of MPs.

The sustainability of the sector for the next five “will depend on the Spending Review [in 2019]”, Melanie Dawes, permanent secretary at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, also told a Public Accounts Committee hearing on Monday.

She said: “Overall my judgment remains that the sector, for the remainder of this Spending Review, is on a sustainable footing.

“Of course the Spending Review will determine what happens thereafter.”

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Brexit deal 'could cut UK growth by 5.5%' by 2030

The PM's Brexit deal could leave the economy as much as 5.5% smaller in a decade's time than it would be if the UK stayed in the EU, a study has said.

And the cost to the public finances could be as much as 1.8% of GDP, said the research by the London School of Economics, King's College and the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

It blamed the imposition of new trade barriers and a fall in immigration.

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Melanie Dawes: Sustainability is defined as 'statutory services' only

The government’s definition of financial sustainability among councils is whether statutory services can be delivered locally, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s permanent secretary has said.

Melanie Dawes also said the government does not consider any other councils will issue a section 114 notice in the near future.

Appearing before the Commons’ public accounts committee yesterday Ms Dawes said her department’s “primary focus” is to ensure there are enough resources to enable councils to deliver statutory services.

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County chief leaves just six months after appointment

Lincolnshire CC chief executive Keith Ireland is to leave the council six months after being appointed due to differences of opinion with leader Martin Hill (Con).

In a joint statement to staff today, Mr Ireland and Cllr Hill said: “Over the last few months, it has become clear that we do not share the same approach to a number of important issues that are facing the council, and, in these circumstances, we are agreed that a parting of the ways is the best way forward for both of us.

“Whilst unfortunately things have not worked out, we are united in wishing each other the very best for the future.”

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One in four pubs in UK have closed since financial crisis

Birmingham has had the biggest number of pub closures since the turn of the millennium, according to official figures showing the nationwide scale of the decline of the local.

The Office for National Statistics said almost one in four UK pubs have closed in the decade since the financial crisis. Over a longer period, the number of pubs calling time has increased by more than 10,000 since 2001, with the total still in operation falling from 52,500 to 38,815 this year.

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McDonnell calls for check on council loans that will 'waste £16bn'

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has called for a government investigation into the use of high-cost bank loans after a report found local councils stand to waste up to £16bn on interest payments over the next 40 years.

Figures compiled by the investigative cooperative Research for Action show that local governments that were saddled with complex borrowing schemes in the early 2000s could halve their annual interest payments if those debts were paid off with cash borrowed from the government’s Public Works Loan Board (PWLB).

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The recycling system is out of date and needs to be overhauled, says Environment Agency chair

The recycling system is a throwback to last century that badly needs to be modernised, according to the head of the Environment Agency.

The system is much too complicated and inconsistent, meaning that far too little plastic and other waste is being recycled, warns Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd.

“There is a real inconsistency in terms of what is suitable for recycling. We are working with producers of waste, to simplify the materials used, so there are less types of plastic going into the waste chain and to make sure they are better labelled,” said Mr Boyd.

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Selling off student loans ‘could have damaged public finances’

An attempt to improve public finances by selling off student loans could have in fact damaged them, according to a group of MPs.

The Treasury received “too little in return” when it sold off student loans, the Public Accounts Committee concluded, in a report released yesterday.

In December 2017, the goverment sold student loans with a face value of £3.5bn for £1.7bn.

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Cycling awareness plan could lead to cheaper insurance for drivers

Motorists should be offered cheaper insurance if they take a course to make them more aware of cyclists on the roads, the government says.

The Department for Transport also wants to give councils more powers to tackle parking in cycling lanes.

It is proposing a series of 50 measures in a bid to reduce the number of cyclists and pedestrians killed.

Full Article

More than 1,000 people become homeless every month, figures reveal

The number of homeless people in the UK is soaring by a rate of more than 1,000 a month, according to new analysis which says that one in 200 Britons are now without a permanent place to live.

The figures, which show that 320,000 people are currently known to be sleeping on the streets or stuck in temporary accommodation, highlight the depths of the country’s housing crisis, despite repeated government pledges to get to grips with the problem.

Opposition politicians and campaigners said it was “unforgivable” that so many people had been swept up by the housing crisis and attributed the rise to spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a lack of social housing.

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Commission for Countering Extremism launches call for evidence on extremism in England and Wales

The independent Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE) has today (Thursday 22 November) called on the public to share their views, experience and evidence on extremism and its impact for a first-of-a-kind study.

The Commission, announced by the Prime Minister after the terror attacks of 2017, has launched a 10-week Call for Evidence, inviting firsthand accounts of the harms extremists inflict on individuals, communities and our society.

The evidence, which will be treated sensitively and in the strictest of confidence, will feed into a wide-ranging study of extremism to be published in spring 2019.

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Labour plea over £133m Northamptonshire council debt

A £133m hole in a cash-strapped county council's budget will need government help to clear, a group of Labour politicians has claimed.

Ten party members in Northamptonshire have written to Communities Secretary James Brokenshire demanding money to transform the failed county council.

Northamptonshire should also be allowed to use capital receipts to help fund the deficit, the group said.

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DfE must ensure ‘academies can be trusted’

The government must ensure academies “can be trusted to manage large amounts of public money”, the spending watchdog has urged.

Since 2010-11 nearly 7,000 maintained schools had been converted to academies at a cost of £745m since 2010-11, the National Audit Office highlighted in its overview of the Department for Education.

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It took decades for Children in Need to raise £1bn – wouldn’t it be more efficient to raise taxes?

The 150 councils that provide children’s social care burn through £1bn in just six weeks. Thirty-eight years of off-key newsreaders, straight-to-camera appeals and baked bean baths to match just 11 per cent of the annual spending on troubled children. The money raised this year – almost £51 million – is less than the average spent by a single council in a year on children’s services.

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Northants moves to bolster confidence over council loans

Northamptonshire County Council has tried to reassure other councils of its ability to repay loans from them.

A second quarter update to its Treasury Management Strategy 2018-19 says: “This concern is unfounded because whilst the council may have a budget difficulty, it does not have a cash shortage”.

It goes on to note the benefit its cash position has received from the sale of its headquarters at One Angel Square.

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Sector faces £12m apprenticeship hit - every month

Local government could lose up to £12m per month from June after struggling to spend funds from the Apprenticeship Levy, initial estimates have suggested.

Councils have spent just 10% of its levy funds so far and local government is on course to meet 36% of its share of the public sector target in the first year, with no solid indications yet this will increase significantly in year two, according to a Smith Square report.

Unspent funds expire after two years and have to be returned to the Government.

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Brexit ‘stretching government to breaking point’

The process of extracting the UK from the European Union will stretch the system of government “beyond breaking point”, a leading academic has warned.

Jim Gallagher, visiting professor at the University of Glasgow and a research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, told the Scottish Affairs Committee that Brexit was “one of the least ordered pieces of public policy” he had witnessed.

“Brexit was always going to be an almost impossible challenge for any government and for any set of intergovernmental relations,” he said yesterday.

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Ten of the best [councils]

Which councils are the best? It is the question that has never been answered since the demise of the Audit Commission when the then new secretary of state Eric Pickles scrapped it with a flick of his pen on entering office in 2010.

But now consultancy iMPOWER has asked just that in its latest report, which ranks local authorities by their productivity...

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Councils spent £160m on school transport for children with special needs – survey

Councils spent more than £160m last year on taxis and private hire vehicles to transport children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to and from school, according to a survey seen exclusively by the Guardian.

England’s county councils are warning that rising demand for SEND services is “creating budget risks” for local authorities, with school transport costs for children with special needs up by as much as 45% in some areas in the last four years.

The survey by the County Councils Network (CCN) shows that total spending on transport for pupils with SEND in 2017-18 was more than £323m across 36 county authorities in England, up from just under £250m four years ago.

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Council reserves in shock rise

Councils’ revenue account reserves rose for the first time in four years during 2017/18, according to outturn data.

Despite well-publicised struggles at a number of authorities which have dipped into their contingency funding to keep services running, the figures paint a surprising picture of a sector in relatively healthy condition, overall.

According to the 2017/18 revenue expenditure and financing final outturn, revenue reserves held by English local authorities rose by £612m to £24.3bn at 31 March 2017.

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Why it costs £73,000 to educate a child

The amount spent on schools is a source of frequent controversy. So, where does all the money for educating the country's children go?

School spending is watched closely - as Chancellor Philip Hammond recently discovered when his announcement of £400m for teachers to spend on "little extras" was met with anger.

It is a fact that the amount spent on education is much higher than it was 20 years ago. But that's not the full picture in a country which has seen a population boom coincide with a squeeze on public finances.

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Universal credit: Amber Rudd to 'signal shift in approach'

The new Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd is poised to signal a shift in approach on the government's controversial universal credit benefits reform, the BBC understands.

The BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg said sources suggested there will not be a pause in the rollout of the single benefit due next summer.

But she said there will be a change in tone and a commitment to fix problems.

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Special needs pupils 'spend years out of school'

Julie becomes tearful when she starts talking about her autistic son's struggle to stay in school. "He has been taught that he's not worth anything," she says.

Sam, 14 - who loves animals and rebuilding computers - was temporarily excluded from secondary school in December 2015.

Julie expected her son would be back in a matter of days. But he didn't go back to school for almost two and a half years.

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Number of children being adopted from care falls

The number of children in care who are adopted has fallen by almost 30 per cent in the past three years as social workers increasingly seek to place vulnerable children with other family members.

There were 3,820 children adopted in England last year after being in care, down from 4,370 a year earlier and from 5,360 in 2015, latest figures show.

The number has slumped since a court ruled that social workers must put greater emphasis on trying to place children with other family members, known as kinship care.

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Many home educated children ‘hidden from sight’

It is likely that many children receiving a home education are at risk because they are ‘hidden from sight’, children’s services directors have warned.

A survey of local authorities by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has revealed that somewhere in the region of 57,800 children and young people were home schooled in 2018 - up from 45,500 in 2017 and 37,500 in 2016.

The responses to the survey, which came from 106 councils, suggest that nearly a third of home schooled children had some contact with children’s services. An average of 11% of these were known to children’s social care.

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Number of looked after children rises to over 75,000

The number of children looked after by local authorities has increased since last year, prompting council chiefs to warn of the ‘huge demand’ this is placing on children’s services.

New statistics from the Department for Education show that, as of 31 March 2018, there were 75,420 looked after children in England - up 4% on the previous year’s figure.

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Cumbria council mulls over plans for major ‘one-stop-shop’ local government reshuffle

Council members at Cumbria County Council debated yesterday the possibility of abolishing their current local government structure in favour of a much larger, single unitary council in its place.

At the council meeting in Kendal yesterday, council leader Stewart Young said then-communities secretary Sajid Javid’s approval of a similar reorganisation to Buckinghamshire County Council signalled a “sea change” in the government’s approach towards unitary proposals, despite the merger being opposed by both local MPs and councillors themselves.

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Councils face £536m shortfall in Send budgets, says LGA

The scale of the crisis gripping services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) has been laid bare by research that indicates council budgets are facing a potential funding shortfall of more than £500m.

A survey by the Local Government Association (LGA) of the councils it represents in England projects a £536m funding gap this year as a result of growing demand for Send services – more than double last year’s shortfall.

The interim findings, announced on Thursday at the National Children and Adult Services conference in Manchester, come as local authorities face legal challenges over planned cuts to services.

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Councils ‘unsustainably’ spend millions of pounds more on social care

Social care was the largest area of increased expenditure for local authorities in the last financial year, government figures have revealed.

Children’s social care spending shot up by 4.2% in 2017-18 compared to the year before – by £358m to £8.8bn

Adult social care expenditure also went up 2.8% in the last financial year compared to 2016-17 – by £416m to £15.3bn.

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Councils face £500m bill after ATM business rates ruling

Councils face an estimated combined bill of up to £500m to refund supermarkets after the Court of Appeal ruled that cash machines should not be assessed separately for business rates.

Retailers Tesco, Sainsbury’s and The Cooperative Group, along with ATM operator Cardtronics Europe have won their challenge to a 2010 decision by the Valuation Office Agency to create separate entries for the sites of supermarket cash machines.

Property consultancy firm Altus estimates that the backdated bill which businesses will be due via rebates at £382m, while property consultancy Colliers put the figure at £496m.

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£536m funding shortfall for SEND children, says LGA

Increased demand from children and young people with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) means that councils face a funding shortfall of £536m this year in providing services for the group.

The estimate is included in a new report produced by the Local Government Association, based on a survey of 73 authorities – half of those with SEND duties.

The association said that results mean councils are at risk of failing to meet their statutory duties, and that children with SEND could miss out on mainstream education.

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Government must raise taxes to plug £3.6bn social care funding shortfall, councils say

Tax rises are urgently needed to plug a yawning hole in funding the care of the elderly and adults with disabilities and must be put forward by government in its delayed social care green paper, councils have said.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has drawn up its own blueprint for reforming the sector and says that income tax or national insurance increases should be urgently considered.

Successive governments have kicked the issue of funding the rising cost of care in the UK “into the long grass”, but after eight years of austerity and cuts to council budgets, the LGA says the issues is at crisis point.

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Cipfa past president to lose job as county seeks £35m savings

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy’s past president Andy Burns is set to lose his job at Staffordshire CC as the county seeks to close a £35m budget shortfall next year.

Mr Burns’ director of finance and resources role is to be eliminated as part of a reduction to the senior management team.

The role of director of strategy, governance and change, held by John Tradewell, will also be eliminated.

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Children’s services commissioner set to be sent into Northants

An additional commissioner is likely to be sent into troubled Northamptonshire County Council after Ofsted found children’s services have “significantly declined”.

A written statement from communities secretary James Brokenshire said he and education secretary Damian Hinds had agreed to “act swiftly to strengthen the focus on children in the current intervention, by appointing a new commissioner,” after a damning Ofsted letter.

Hinds said he was “minded to appoint” a children’s services commissioner for the county using powers contained in the 1996 Education Act,

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LGA survey suggests support for national adult social care levy

Significantly more members of the public would support a national tax increase over council tax rises to bridge the adult social care funding gap, according to a new poll.

The survey was carried out by the Local Government Association (LGA) as part of its submission to the government’s consultation on its green paper, which was launched after the government delayed its own proposals.

It found that 56% of people would support a 1% increase on National Insurance payments, 51% favour a social insurance payment and 49% are behind a 1% increase in income tax.

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Back to basics: What’s the point of accounting for depreciation?

Local authorities, just like private businesses, have to account for the depreciation of their assets. Conrad Hall asks whether the current rules dictate inappropriate financial reporting.

What (with apologies to Monty Python) has accounting for depreciation ever done for local government?

Not much, one might argue.

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Fare freezes ‘adding to Transport for London finance woes’

Transport for London fare freezes risk sending the authority further into the “financial doldrums”, a committee has warned.

TfL estimates that Mayor Sadiq Khan’s fares freeze policy will cost around £640m over the four-year mayoral term, adding to the current deficit of £1bn for 2018-19, according to a report by the London Assembly budget and performance committee.

The report found that five modes of transport in London – buses, street maintenance, the Elizabeth line [Crossrail], TfL rail and other services like river services – run at a loss.

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Shares in outsourcing giant Interserve hit 30-year low

Fresh concerns have been raised over the future of outsourcing giant Interserve following a huge drop in its share price.

Shares in the UK-based global construction and support services company, which has several contracts with local authorities, hit a 30-year low on Monday amid speculation it may not be able to raise the cash it needs to continue operating.

They have rallied slightly since but continue to be volatile and far below their historical value.

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Gambling rebellion looks set to pay off

Philip Hammond is facing almost certain defeat over his budget plan to delay a crackdown on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Amendments designed to force ministers to bring forward a cut in the maximum stake from £100 to £2 have been signed by 21 Conservative MPs, including 12 former ministers, and four Democratic Unionist Party MPs. Boris Johnson, David Davis, Priti Patel and Justine Greening all support the cross-party push.

Labour also said that it would support both amendments, meaning that without a climbdown the government faces almost certain defeat.

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Northamptonshire County Council slashes deficit by £10m, but services in ‘significant decline’

Savings made by the financially-challenged Northamptonshire County Council have reduced the local authority’s overall deficit by more than £10m since a section 114 notice was issued to the council in July this year.

Council board papers due to be discussed today found that £1.3m of proposals introduced in Northamptonshire CC’s stabilisation plan in October have already been delivered, and a remaining £10.7m will bring down the council’s overall deficit to £53.4m on the year.

In July, a potential budget deficit of between £60m-£70m pushed the director of the council’s finances to issue an unprecedented second section 114 notice, banning all spending until further notice. In May government-appointed commissioners were sent in to run Northamptonshire’s finances to create further savings.

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Councils forced to close nearly 350 playgrounds in past four years

Councils have been forced to close 347 playgrounds across England since 2014, new research has revealed.

A freedom of information request by the Association of Play Industries (API) found 70 playgrounds have been closed in 2017/18 alone.

Local authorities are also spending £13m less each year on playgrounds on average.

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City council to cut 100 jobs to balance budget

Newcastle City Council has announced the job loses as part of a series of measures to save £60m over the next three years.

The authority has calculated that it has been forced to find £327m in savings since 2010 as a result of the Government’s austerity programme.

On Friday the city council published proposals for saving £20m next year as well as broad plans covering the following two years.

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Whitehall confirms £22m for domestic abuse survivors

Over 60 projects are set to receive a multi-million pound injection of cash in order to help survivors of domestic abuse, the Government has confirmed.

The £22m in funding, announced on Saturday, will go to 63 projects across England which will be delivered by councils working alongside other organisations.

The money will provide over 2,200 new beds in refuges and other safe accommodation, access to education, and tailored employment and life skills guidance to help abuse survivors.

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'Are councils sitting on a goldmine of untapped data?'

The last favourable digital experience a citizen has had will become the benchmark for every future one, including those with the public sector. Local authorities face a growing expectation to modernise public administration, only achievable through true transformation. Coupled with this is the reality that the future will see limited additional financial resources.

Authorities have traditionally looked to the back office to create efficiencies and savings. The public is now becoming the best tool to drive transformation. The key is ensuring services can be provided in a simple, accessible, cost-efficient way.

Gathering data and analytics from multiple sources across customer service operations can help create organisation-wide change. Sharing information with parts of the business that do not interact directly with customers allows them to visualise the impact their daily decisions have on customer experience.

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'Tax on age' to pay for social care being considered for the over-40s

A new levy targeted at the over-40s is being considered by ministers to help solve the social care funding crisis.

Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary, told the Telegraph he was “attracted to” a cross-party plan for a compulsory premium deducted from the earnings of the ­middle-aged and over-65s to fund the cost of their care in later life.

The proposals, set out by two Commons committees, are based on the system in Germany under which all workers over 40 pay 2.5 per cent of their wages into a pot formally earmarked for social care.

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Vulnerable children are being auctioned online by councils inviting private firms to bid for up to £7,000-a-week for their care

Children in care are being 'treated like cattle', as councils have invited companies to compete in online bidding wars for contracts worth up to £7,000-a-week.

A new report found some councils in England and Wales are putting personal details of vulnerable children in adverts online - including if they were sexually abused or involved in gangs - while inviting bids from private firms for their care.

Children's care homes are under pressure as private companies are taking over and charging councils more than £7,000 a week - more than £360,000-a-year per child - for residential placements.

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‘Devastating’ cuts hit special educational needs

A crisis in funding for children with special educational needs is plunging councils across the country deeper into the red and forcing parents into lengthy legal battles to secure support, according to an Observer investigation that reveals a system at breaking point.

Council overspending on children’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has trebled in just three years and is continuing to increase, with councils having to raid hundreds of millions from their overall schools budget to cope. 40 councils that have either cut special needs funding this year, are considering making cuts or are raiding other education budgets to cope next year.

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Councils warn of £3bn child services black hole as thousands more children require protection

Social workers drew up 29 more child protection plans every day last year than they did five years ago, figures reveal, as council leaders warned stretched children’s services are facing a £3bn funding black hole.

Some 10,000 more children were subject to protection plans - arrangements drawn up by local authorities setting out how keep vulnerable minors safe and assist their families - by the end of 2017-18 as compared to five years prior.

Government figures showed that, overall, 404,710 children referred to authorities across England were deemed to require the support of social services at the end of March this year.

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Retailers shut 2,700 shops in first half of the year

About 14 shops are closing every day as UK High Streets face their toughest trading climate in five years, a report has found.

A net 1,123 stores disappeared from Britain's top 500 high streets in the first six months of the year, according to the accountancy firm PwC.

It said fashion and electrical stores had suffered most as customers did more shopping online.

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Let’s celebrate a win for councils

Ministers are finally listening to local government and last week’s Budget represented a series of strategic victories for the sector, says James Maker of the County Councils Network.

At the start of October, the County Councils Network chair Paul Carter remarked that the local government sector was feeling ‘unloved’.

His comment is important context for any post-Budget analysis on the impact of the announcements on the sector.

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Ministers pledge £2m to help English councils tackle rogue landlords

The government is to create a £2m fund to help English councils tackle rogue landlords, after a Guardian and ITV News investigation revealed how convicted property owners are continuing to collect rents – often funded by the taxpayer – despite being ruled unfit to let out property.

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Owners of holiday homes could soon pay council tax

Second homeowners who declare their properties as ‘holiday lets’ may be required to pay council tax following a government consultation.

Properties available to let as ‘holiday accommodation’ for 140 days or more a year are liable for business rates rather than council tax. Around 47,000 properties are in England are currently liable for business rates.

But the vast majority of these (96%) qualify for 100% Small Business Rates Relief as they have a rateable value of less than £12,000 a year. Consequently, they pay no property tax at all, while owners are not obliged to demonstrate that the property is actually being commercially let.

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Council tax "loophole" that saves wealthy homeowners thousands to be closed

A business rates "loophole" in England surrounding second home owners who claim their properties are predominantly being used as holiday lets is to be reviewed by Government ministers.

The Government said it is aware of concerns that current arrangements do not provide strong enough protections against some second home owners abusing the system.

It said the loophole could be costing councils across England millions of pounds in lost council tax.

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Can the government deliver on radical care reform?

Another week, another sign that the care system in England is in dire trouble.

News that Allied Healthcare - one of the biggest providers of home care in the country - is at risk of going under, sent shockwaves around the sector.

The 13,000 vulnerable people who rely on its staff for washing, dressing and help with eating now face an anxious wait to see if bosses can get the finances together to keep services going.

But Allied is not alone. The UK Homecare Association, the body which represents the firms providing care, warned only last month that providers were refusing to sign up to council contracts because of the low fees being offered.

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Children's services: What do we know about the children most in need?

More families struggling, more children needing protection, difficulties recruiting enough social workers and tighter budgets are all factors in what councils in England say is a crisis facing children's services.

The latest figures show demand for support rising steeply and this summer council leaders warned they would have to overspend next year to meet demand.

So why are services designed to protect the most vulnerable children in society under so much pressure?

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Inquiry into the funding of children’s services launched

An inquiry into the funding and provision of children’s services has been launched as local authorities struggle to cope with the impact of rising demand combined with funding cuts.

The real-terms spending on local children’s services fell by 7% between 2010/11 and 2016/17 due to cuts for discretionary services. This was despite a 3.2% increase in spending on statutory children’s services during the same period.

On top of this, local authorities have had to cope with significant increases in demand. The National Audit Office calculated that the number of looked-after children grew by 10.9% during this six year period.

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Older people could become ‘victim of a broken system’ as one of England’s largest care home providers faces closure

Concerns have been raised that one of the biggest care providers in the UK might not be able to continue to operate in a matter of days.

Allied Homes, which looks after care services across 84 councils for around 9,300 people could cease to operate as of 30 November. ‘

The authority that looks after care homes, the quality care commission, said it has written to 84 English local authorities who commission some sort of care services through Allied Healthcare to notify them of its concerns.

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Child protection services near crisis as demand rises

A steep rise in vulnerable children needing protection over the past 10 years is pushing council children's services in England into crisis, suggests research to be published tomorrow.

There has been a substantial increase in calls from the public and professionals worried about a child, according to a study for the Association of Directors of Children's Services.

Over the past year, almost 2.4 million people contacted children's services because they were worried about a child - a 78% increase on 10 years ago, while serious investigations over concerns of significant harm are up from just under 77,000 in 2008 to almost 200,000 last year - a rise of 159%.

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Firms cash in on psychiatric care crisis


Companies and charities are making millions of pounds by treating NHS patients in psychiatric hospitals that are sometimes substandard and fail to provide adequate or safe care, an investigation has found.

Thousands of patients are detained, sometimes against their will and in other cases for many years, in wards and units that inspectors say do not meet required standards of care.

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Education Secretary Damian Hinds calls for billions more investment after Chancellor promised more cash for potholes than schools in his Budget

The Education Secretary is demanding billions more for schools following a Budget in which the Chancellor lavished more money on potholes than classrooms.

Damian Hinds said education spending was a ‘special case’ that deserved more than the real-terms freeze currently on offer to all departments outside the NHS in next year’s spending review.

Philip Hammond warned last week that a huge increase in health spending meant other departments would be left with an average zero per cent real-terms settlement in the three-year review.

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'Audit culture' causing staff burnout in schools, report finds

The Department for Education has pledged to ease pressures on teachers in England, after it accepted the recommendations of a new report that said an “audit culture” in schools was causing anxiety and staff burnout without improving results.

The report by the DfE’s teacher workload advisory group says teachers have to waste time producing data on their pupils, with the recording, monitoring and analysing of data being demanded by multiple sources, including local and central government, Ofsted school inspectors and multiple tiers of school management.

In some cases teachers are expected to report on up to 30 different elements of data for 30 children in a class, which the report described as an attempt to provide “spurious precision” in tracking pupil attainment.

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People must take responsibility for own health, says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has triggered a row after urging people to take greater responsibility for their own health to tackle the rising toll of illness from diseases such as cancer and obesity.

In a speech on Monday the health and social care secretary will call for a big increase in people making healthier lifestyle choices, such as reducing the amount of alcohol and junk food they consume.

Speaking ahead of the speech Hancock said “We need to do far more to personally take responsibility for our own health.”

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Theresa May's flagship policy to solve housing crisis will deliver no new homes in half of England

Theresa May’s flagship policy for sparking a revival in council housebuilding will not deliver a single new home in more than half of the local authorities in England.

Some of the most deprived towns and cities with the greatest need for new homes, including Liverpool, Bolton and Wakefield, are among areas that will miss out as a result of changes that will only benefit some councils.

The prime minister used her speech to the Conservatives’ annual conference last month to announce a major change that will see the government scrap restrictions on how much councils can borrow to fund housing.

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Bus firms pay fat cats £1.5 billion - while prices go up 55% and routes are axed

Bus firms have paid shareholders £1.5billion in dividends in the past 10 years, while fares have soared and services have been axed.

Fares have gone up 55% on average since 2008, far outstripping pay growth. Some passengers have even been hit by increases of 100% and bus use is at a 12-year low.

Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach carry 70% of all bus passengers and have paid an average £149million a year in dividends in the past 10 years.

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East Sussex council's basic services 'not sustainable'

A cash-strapped council has warned it will not be able to afford to provide basic services unless it receives more government money.

Conservative-led East Sussex County Council (ESCC) said it needed to save more than £45m by 2021-22.

In its Core Offer document the council sets out a list of services it could provide as a "bare minimum".

However, the chief executive said it was "unlikely" that even this reduced level of services could be sustained.

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Littering out of your car could now land you up to £450 fine

Drivers caught littering could in certain circumstances land up to £450 fines and costs in the UK.

In the UK, anyone caught littering from their vehicle could be handed an on-the-spot fine of £80.

However, a recent case involving a driver from Ipswich revealed how these fees could soar.

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Education spending now 'skewed' to poor following 'remarkable shift'

There has been a "remarkable shift" in poorer children now receiving a bigger share of education spending in England, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The independent financial researchers say in previous generations children from richer families were the main beneficiaries, as they were likely to stay longer in education.

But this pattern has been reversed by policies deliberately "skewed" to give more funding towards the deprived and with more poorer youngsters going to sixth form and university, it says.

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Rural areas 'least socially mobile'

People living in England's rural and coastal counties are having their life chances held back by a "false perception of affluence", MPs say.

Their report said vital services like public transport, youth centres and childcare were being "hampered" by an "inequitable" council funding model that benefits urban areas.

They said rural areas were among the country's least "socially mobile".

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Millions underestimating cost of care - Which?

Millions of people are underestimating the cost of paying for a care home by an average of £12,000 a year, a survey suggests.

Which? found that 55% of people estimated a figure for the cost of a private nursing home place in their area that fell short of the average cost.

On average, people underestimated the true cost of a care home place in England by £237 per week – the equivalent of £12,000 a year.

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Lord Porter: We need a big, bold move to put social care on a firm financial footing

I am sure that many House readers have heard plenty about the Local Government Association’s (LGA) adult social care green paper which we launched in the summer. Sadly, this issue has not been resolved by successive governments and, with people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, the system is at breaking point.

Over recent years, councils have protected adult social care relative to other services to try and stave off the most challenging consequences of the crisis. But the scale of the overall funding picture for local government as a whole means adult social care services still face a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care.

The likely consequences of this are more and more people being unable to get good quality, reliable care and support which enables them to live more fulfilling lives; more providers exiting the market, and greater strain on the care workforce and unpaid family carers.

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Hammond v McDonnell on Budget 'end of austerity' claim

Labour have dismissed the government's Budget claim to be ending austerity.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said welfare cuts were continuing and public services could face a further squeeze.

But Chancellor Philip Hammond, who announced tax cuts as well as more money for the NHS and universal credit, said more spending was on its way.

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Anger over chancellor's £400m 'little extras' for schools

eachers and parents have reacted with anger to an announcement in the Budget that schools are to receive a one-off payment of £400m for "little extras".

Schools in England will receive the sum to "buy the little extras they need", Chancellor Philip Hammond said.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said Mr Hammond's choice of language was "utterly insulting to parents and teachers".

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Why did the council 'house' me in a tent?

Theo had just turned 17 when he became homeless. He turned to the council for help - but was given only a one-man tent, writes the BBC's Emma Forde.

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Budget 2018: Philip Hammond hails better borrowing figures

Chancellor Philip Hammond has used the Budget to ease the government spending squeeze as he declared that austerity was "finally coming to an end".

Against a backdrop of stronger tax receipts, Mr Hammond said borrowing this year would be £11.6bn lower than projected in March, at £25.5bn.

Borrowing is expected to fall over the next five years.

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Budget income tax cuts 'to overwhelmingly benefit the rich'

Income tax cuts for millions of workers announced in Philip Hammond’s budget will “overwhelmingly benefit richer households”, analysis has found, with almost half set to go to the top 10% of households.

The analysis by the Resolution Foundation thinktank found that welfare cuts would continue to affect the poorest households, despite Hammond’s announcement that austerity was coming to an end.

Three-quarters of the £12bn in welfare cuts announced after the 2015 election remain government policy.

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Hammond no longer on track to balance budget, says OBR

Philip Hammond will allow the government’s spending deficit to rise next year as he seeks to pay for the first round of extra NHS spending and a series of measures that will “bring an end to the era of austerity”.

The chancellor sanctioned a rise from 1.2% to 1.4% in the annual deficit between this year and 2019/20 as he sought to honour promises made by the prime minister to boost spending on health, local authority housing and a freeze on fuel duty.

Over the next five years, Hammond has authorised £30bn of extra spending and tax cuts that he might have kept aside for a rainy day, according to the Treasury’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

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Budget 2018: A bit of a gamble, says IFS

The Budget has been branded "a bit of a gamble" by a respected economic research group.

The chancellor was able to promise more spending in his budget after forecasts for tax collection were raised, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said.

But those forecasts could easily change for the worse, leaving the chancellor in a tight spot, the IFS said.

The think tank also warned that many public services will continue to feel squeezed for some time to come.

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School places crisis is worse than ever with half of children in some areas expected to miss out on their chosen secondary

Parents are today scrambling to get their child into a top secondary school in the most competitive year ever.

Applications must be submitted by midnight tonight but even those making the deadline may well miss out on their favourite school.

A baby boom fuelled by migration a decade ago has caused a surge in applications – with a predicted record high of 607,000 pupils vying to find a place.

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Philip Hammond prepares last Budget before Brexit

Philip Hammond is preparing to present the last Budget before Brexit.

The chancellor is expected to announce a rise in spending on mental health in England and has also hinted at cash for universal credit welfare reforms.

He has admitted a change of approach, including an entirely new economic plan, will be needed if the UK and the EU cannot agree a deal by 29 March.

Labour is calling for more investment in public services to put an end to years of "failed austerity".

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2018 Budget Preview

The BBC's live coverage of the budget

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Budget 2018: £2billion annual boost for mental health services to be announced

An additional £2billion each year is expected to be allocated for mental health crisis services in the upcoming budget announcement.

Philip Hammond will use the Budget, to be outlined on Monday, to set out the start of a long-term plan to achieve "parity of care" between physical and mental health.

This extra money is set to pay for the provision of "comprehensive" mental health support in every major NHS A&E department.

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Budget 2018: Mental health ambulances promised in drive for more dedicated treatment

Mental health services will get a cash injection of £2bn a year, as Philip Hammond promises more dedicated support in Monday's budget.

Special ambulances to treat people with conditions like depression, anxiety and PTSD are part of the new measures to ensure mental illnesses are treated as seriously as physical ones.

The vehicles look like normal cars and are designed to reduce stigma.

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Philip Hammond: No-deal Brexit would require new Budget

The government will set a new Budget if it is unable to reach a Brexit deal with the EU, the chancellor has said.

Philip Hammond said a no-deal Brexit would require a "different response", with "fiscal buffers" being maintained to provide support for the economy.

Mr Hammond was speaking on the eve of his Budget, which he will present to the Commons on Monday.

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More children in England at risk of abuse or neglect

An average of 188 children a day in England are being put on protection plans because they are at risk of abuse or neglect, official figures reveal.

Councils started 68,770 child protection plans during 2017-18, a rise of 2,360 in a year.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils were "pushed to the brink by unprecedented demand".

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MPs demand policing is a Budget priority

Policing “urgently” needs more funding in the Budget to avoid “dire consequences” for public safety, MPs have warned.

Neighbourhood policing has been cut by more than 20% since 2010 and some forces have lost more than two-thirds of neighbourhood officers, the home affairs select committee has noted in a report out yesterday.

On average forces in England and Wales have experienced a 35% reduction in the number of neighbourhood officers between 2009-10 and 2017-18 with the biggest cuts coming in Northamptonshire (71%), West Yorkshire (69%) and the City of London (69%).

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Budget to offer business rates relief for small shops

The chancellor will cut business rates bills by a third for almost half a million small high street shops in a £1.5bn spending pledge to fight the threat posed by Amazon and other online retailers.

In next week’s budget, Philip Hammond will order £900m of immediate business rates relief for small retailers in an effort to combat shuttered shops on the high street, where small businesses have been threatened by high rates and the rapid rise of online shopping.

Small retailers will be the focus of the business rates relief. A Sheffield pub with an estimated rental value of £37,750 would be likely to save £6,178 on business rates next year. A Birmingham newsagent would save £1,749 with a rental rate of £14,250.

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Budget 2018: Labour urges Hammond to 'stump up cash'

Labour is calling for concrete action by the chancellor in Monday's Budget to end austerity not just "financial conjuring tricks" and "vague promises".

Philip Hammond must "stump up the cash" for schools, councils and social care, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said.

Theresa May has pledged that almost a decade of budget cuts, pay restraint and benefit freezes are nearing an end.

Labour has calculated that £30bn in extra spending would be required by 2023 to make this a reality.

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Councils buying care 'on the cheap'

Councils across the UK are buying vital home help for elderly people on the cheap, the firms providing care say.

Thousands of vulnerable older people rely on councils to organise support for them for daily tasks such as washing, dressing and feeding.

But research by the UK Homecare Association found only one in seven was paying a fair price for care.

It said this meant visits were being cut short, but councils said they had insufficient money to pay more.

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Lancs appoints combined CEO/151 amid harsh criticism of council’s governance

Lancashire County Council has voted to appoint Angie Ridgwell to its controversial permanent role of chief executive and section 151 officer.

In a bitter meeting of the full council last week, Conservative councillors voted through the appointment, after opposition councillors abstained.

Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors complained that combining the role of chief executive and section 151 officer was contrary to good governance practice.

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Arlingclose launches system for rating local authority creditworthiness

Treasury adviser Arlingclose will next month launch a new rating system to rank the financial strength of local authorities, which it says will complement a similar initiative launched by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

The firm will award gold, silver and bronze rankings to authorities, based on a series of indicators, namely level of indebtedness, interest cost burden, income flexibility, the level and rate of use of revenue reserves, and budgetary control.

However, unlike CIPFA’s “traffic light” financial resilience rankings, plans for which were revealed earlier this year, Arlingclose’s will only be available to councils lending to other authorities through its online platform.

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'Grave concerns' about future of council-run nurseries and support for special needs pupils as Tories refuse to guarantee vital funding

Thousands of children with special needs could miss out on vital support if the government doesn't extend nursery funding.

Some facilities could even be forced to close their doors without the extra money.

Labour have said the schools are “crying out for more funding” as they pile pressure on the Tories ahead of the budget.

Council-run nurseries will lose almost £60m a year from 2020.

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Councils sitting on £431m of infrastructure funds

Local authorities in England and Wales are sitting on £431m that should be invested in local infrastructure, a freedom of information request has revealed.

FOIs sent out by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) show that nearly two fifths (39%) of the receipts from a levy on property developers meant for local infrastructure improvements remains unspent by councils.

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) was introduced in 2010 to help local authorities meet the impact of property developments in their areas. The revenue raised enables them to, for example, build transport links or new schools.

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Local government finance settlement date confirmed in government response to Hudson review

Local authorities will have more certainty to plan their budgets as government confirms it will aim for set dates each year for the provisional and final local government finance settlements, the Minister for Local Government Rishi Sunak MP confirmed today (24 October 2018).

The minister outlined the move in a response to an independent review into the department’s oversight of the business rates system.

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The money messages may be getting back to the centre

Local government often opines it is seldom listened to by central government – an accusation with some merit. However the last few weeks have seen several key announcements that do suggest perhaps some of the messages from our member councils are cutting through after all.

The County Councils’ Network (CCN) has received coverage across the national news highlighting the state of local government funding, and illustrating that our member authorities will need to outline £1bn more in new savings and cuts next year to balance their budgets, on top of eight years of austerity.

Local government often opines it is seldom listened to by central government – an accusation with some merit. However the last few weeks have seen several key announcements that do suggest perhaps some of the messages from our member councils are cutting through after all.

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Children's services are at breaking point, experts say

Children’s services from Sure Start to schools and NHS mental health are at breaking point, according to a coalition of 120 organisations that have called on the chancellor to invest in young people in the budget next week.

An open letter to Philip Hammond and Theresa May from a group of charities, teaching unions and medical colleges accuses the government of ignoring children and young people in its spending plans.

Local authorities backed the call, saying council-run children’s services were fast approaching a tipping point as they struggled to maintain services in the face of a funding gap estimated to reach £3bn by 2025.

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LGA responds to children's organisations call for Government to fund children's services

Responding to a call by a group of children’s organisations for the Government to improve funding for children’s services, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“This is a compelling demonstration of the grave concerns shared across the sector as funding cuts increasingly leave services struggling to provide the care and support that thousands of children and families rely on.

“Councils have long-called for the Government to recognise the urgency of the funding crisis facing children’s services, which are fast approaching a tipping point and face a funding gap of £3 billion by 2025 just to keep services running at current levels.

“The Autumn Budget presents the perfect opportunity for the Government to take action and give councils the funding they need to keep children safe from harm and enable them to live the happy and fulfilling lives they deserve.”

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Social care crisis: Councils receive 5,100 new requests for adult care every day amid soaring demand

Councils in England are being swamped with 5,100 new requests for adult social care every day, figures have revealed.

Local authorities last year spent £17.9billion on caring for adults – £402million (2.3 per cent) more than the year before.

While the total number of people relying on long-term care is going down, 1.3million people contacted their local council for help in 2017-18.

Experts say the system is at 'breaking point' and the number of people receiving care is only going down because councils are rationing it.

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Councils affected by China's waste ban

A fifth of councils have been directly affected by China’s ban on imported waste over the past year, according to a new survey.

The poll, conducted by the Local Government Association, found China’s restrictions on imports of mixed paper and certain types of plastic have increased recycling costs for some councils by as much as £500,000.

The fee charged to councils to process materials collected from kerbside collection at a materials recovery facility (MRF) is said to have increased from £15 to £22 per tonne over the last year.

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Whitehall announces £5m fund to fight knife crime

Local authorities are being given the opportunity to bid for funding to tackle youth and gang crime in high-risk areas.

The Supporting Families Against Youth Crime fund will support frontline professionals working with children and young people to intervene earlier to help keep them away from gangs.

It will also support more in-depth work with parents and carers to help them fully understand the risk factors and dangers of their children becoming drawn into gang crime.

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We need to stop local services becoming dependent on property prices [opinion]

Cash-strapped councils increasingly borrowing to invest in commercial properties risk local services - which are often for vulnerable people - being at the mercy of the property market, says CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman...

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PAC calls for costed 10-year social care plan

The integration of health and care will not progress while local authority finances are squeezed, MPs have warned today.

[The] adult social care sector is in a “precarious state because of long-term underfunding” and needs a long-term funding plan, a Public Accounts Committee report has urged.

“With local authorities squeezed there is no realistic prospect of progress” on health and care integration, the report said. [It said that] the Department of Health and Social Care should provide a costed 10-year plan for social care to run alongside that for the NHS.

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SOLACE Summit: Councils are at back of austerity queue

Councils are at the ‘end of the queue’ when it comes to receiving funding from the Treasury, the chief executive of Brighton & Hove Council has said.

Speaking weeks after prime minister Theresa May declared the age of austerity over with a message to voters that there are ‘better days ahead,’ Geoff Raw was sceptical that it would mean a cash bonanza for local authorities.

Welcoming delegates to the Society of Local Authority Chief Executive’s annual summit in Brighton today, Mr Raw, said the sector would have to wait to discover the impact of Mrs May’s announcement.

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Somerset County Council: Protesters gather to challenge £14m cuts

Protesters gathered outside a council to challenge councillors about £14m of extra cuts agreed last month.

Opposition councillors called the meeting to ask Somerset County Council's Conservative leadership to explain what would happen if the savings cannot be achieved.

Liberal Democrat Liz Leyshon said February's budget would not have been approved if they had the full picture. The Conservatives say they will update councillors about finances more often.

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Gloucestershire council 'in crisis' as fourth director quits

Leadership at Gloucestershire County Council has been described as being in "crisis" after the resignation of its fourth director in a year.

Strategic director for finance, Jo Walker has quit to become chief executive at North Somerset Council.

Lib-Dem opposition leader Paul Hodgkinson said her departure reflected a "crisis of leadership". But the ruling Conservatives said Ms Walker's move endorsed "the high calibre of staff at the council".

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PAC chair seeking ways to beef up local government spending scrutiny

The Public Accounts Committee chair has been speaking “behind the scenes to persuade various players” to enhance the scrutiny of local government spending.

Meg Hillier [has said that] how local government is spending money needs to be more “transparent” for an increasingly “savvy” British public.

“I think the British public are much more savvy about things - they don’t trust the authority to spend things well,” she said.

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Chiefs warning to May if austerity not lifted

More councils face scaling back services to a minimum statutory offer if prime minister Theresa May reneges on her promise of ‘better times ahead,’ local authority chief executives have warned.

Pressure on the Government to boost public sector spending in chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget later this month is growing after eight years of austerity, which has led to a number of councils rapidly moving to a core statutory offer.

One in three council bosses have now used a survey by The MJ and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) to warn their organisation will have to reduce to a minimum statutory offer if the cuts fail to come to an end.

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LGA improvement cash could be slashed

Smith Square’s top-slice funding could be slashed under plans being considered by Whitehall over fears the sector-led improvement regime is not delivering good value.

The Local Government Association (LGA) was given £20m to fund a range of training and improvement services in 2019/20.

However, The MJ understands that only £10m has been agreed for next year, with further funding hanging in the balance.

A Ministry of Housing, Local Government and Communities (MHCLG) source told The MJ there were fears over the efficiency and transparency of the peer review process, and questions over whether it was delivering good value.

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East Sussex council leader plays down service cuts report

A report laying out how county council services in East Sussex could be severely reduced was not intended as a "budget-setting paper", the authority's leader has said.

Councillor Keith Glazier made the comments at a meeting on Tuesday, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

The East Sussex County Council leader told councillors the aim of the report had been to "prompt discussion".

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Local government fraud cases rise, says CIPFA survey

The number of cases of fraud committed against local authorities went up in 2017-18 and the value prevented is a little lower, CIPFA has revealed.

In its annual fraud tracker, out today, the institute showed this type of crime remains a “major financial threat” to councils with housing fraud being the most common type.

The total value of fraud prevented is down from last year’s CIPFA estimates - from £336m to £302m – while the prevalence of fraud has increased from 75,000 cases to 80,000 this year.

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Durham County Council adds £49k security after threats

A council has spent £49,000 on new security after a spate of cases of staff being threatened and intimidated.

One incident saw a member of the public climb over a helpdesk to confront workers, Durham County Council said.

The new security doors have been fitted at County Hall in Durham despite the council progressing with plans to demolish the building and move to new offices.

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Council hit by cyber attack reveals £2m cost

A Cumbrian council has said it will "never know" whether it was the target of a cyber attack because it is host to the Sellafield nuclear waste plant.

Copeland Borough Council has revealed that an attack on its systems in August 2017 has cost it about £2m.

The hack locked staff out of a number of council services, including payroll, planning and environmental health.

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Public faces 'care injustice' as NHS struggles

The public is facing a growing "care injustice" as people are finding it more difficult to get help in England, the regulator is warning.

The Care Quality Commission highlighted growing hospital waiting lists, delays at A&E and record dissatisfaction levels with GPs in its annual report.

Mental health and old-age care were also becoming harder to access.

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Warrington doubles down on solar farm investments

Warrington Borough Council has bought two more solar farms to raise an estimated £150m in revenue over the next 30 years.

The council, which has previously bought another solar farm and launched a solar bond, this week approved £58.7m of Public Works Loan Board borrowing to build the two farms – near York and Hull – through separate special purchase vehicles.

The business plan for the developments predicts rates of return of 8.21% and 11% respectively from selling energy to the National Grid.

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UK economy grows faster than expected in three months to August

UK GDP growth was stronger than expected in the three months to August thanks to the summer heatwave, official data on Wednesday showed.

The economy expanded by 0.7 per cent over the three months, according to the latest estimate from the Office for National Statistics.

That was higher than the 0.6 per cent consensus among City analysts.

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UK public finances are among weakest in the world, IMF says

Britain’s public finances are among the weakest in the world following the 2008 financial crash, according to a fresh assessment of government assets and liabilities by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Washington-based lender said a health check on the wealth of 31 nations found almost £1tn had been wiped off the wealth of the UK’s public sector – equivalent to 50% of GDP – putting it in the second weakest position, with only Portugal in a worse state.

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Councils turning against outsourcing, survey reveals

Local authorities are losing their appetite for outsourcing and rethinking their relationship with the private sector, a new survey has revealed.

The survey of local government leaders, chief executives and mayors, published by the New Local Government Network (NLGN), found that 39% say they will outsource less over the next two years.

It also showed that only 15% say they intend to outsource more over the next two years, while 46% indicate no change from current levels.

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Councils turning against outsourcing, survey reveals

Local authorities are losing their appetite for outsourcing and rethinking their relationship with the private sector, a new survey has revealed.

The survey of local government leaders, chief executives and mayors, published by the New Local Government Network (NLGN), found that 39% say they will outsource less over the next two years.

It also showed that only 15% say they intend to outsource more over the next two years, while 46% indicate no change from current levels.

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DUP 'could vote against the Budget' over Brexit deal

The Democratic Unionist Party's 10 Westminster MPs are planning to vote down the Budget later this month if they are unhappy about the government's Brexit plans, the BBC understands.

Theresa May relies on DUP support in key votes because she does not have a majority in the House of Commons.

But the DUP could abandon this deal if Brexit means new barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, Newsnight's Nick Watt said.

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'Territorial injustice' may rise in England due to council cuts – study

Disproportionately harsh spending cuts to local public services in England’s poorest areas are likely to intensify perceived “territorial injustice” between deprived and wealthy parts of the country, a study has shown.

Post-industrial cities in the north of England, together with some inner-city London boroughs, have been hit by the deepest cuts to local government spending since the start of austerity in 2010, says the research by the University of Cambridge.

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Councils' concern over Universal Support withdrawal

Councils have reacted with dismay after the Government handed support for the Universal Credit (UC) rollout to the charity sector.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced last week that Citizens’ Advice had been awarded a £39m contract to deliver Universal Support, which helps claimants adapt to the new system.

Director general of UC, Neil Couling, explained to chief executives in a letter that the ‘service as currently configured is not providing consistent support nationwide’.

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English councils undergoing harshest spending cuts

English councils have been hit twice as hard by spending cuts compared to their Scottish and Welsh counterparts, according to a study published today.

A separate survey also released today has found almost two-thirds of the public want more spending - even if it means tax hikes.

The University of Cambridge, using council-level spending figures compiled by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, found that councils in England had suffered an average service spending fall of almost 24% since 2010 - compared to 12% in Wales and 11.5% in Scotland.

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Northamptonshire County Council: £65m of cuts agreed

A cash-strapped county council which had commissioners appointed after it faced a financial crisis has agreed a £65m package of cuts.

Northamptonshire County Council's cabinet backed a so-called "stabilisation plan".

Planned spending cuts on agency staff and highways services are among the main proposed savings.

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Warrington Council to invest £59m in solar farms in Yorkshire

Warrington Borough Council has agreed to invest £58.7m in two solar energy farms more than 90 miles away in a bid to reduce its electricity bill.

The local authority has approved plans to purchase the plants in Hull and York.

The solar farms will supply electricity to the council in a move forecast to save £1m per year.

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Schools will be asked to track children's happiness amid fears about growing mental health epidemic

Schools will be asked to monitor children's happiness and mental health in a bid to tackle growing levels of anxiety among young people, the Prime Minister will announce today.

The new measures are part of a wider mental health strategy which will see thousands of therapists sent into classrooms, and annual publication of a ‘happiness index’ tracking the state of the nation’s youth.

Theresa May will also appoint the UK’s first minister for suicide prevention and £1.8m funding for the Samaritans, as she pledges to “end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence”.

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Fears for the future of music lessons in schools

Music lessons in England schools could be under threat unless central government covers the cost of a pay rise for teachers, councils claim.

In July, the government agreed to fund a 3.5% rise for lower-paid teachers and 1.5% and 2% for higher-paid teachers, senior staff and head teachers.

But councils say this does not cover centrally employed teachers, most of whom offer music lessons in schools.

The government says it is putting £400m into arts and music over four years.

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Number of children referred to mental health services in England rises by a quarter

The number of children referred to mental health services in England has risen by more than a quarter in the last five years – but one in four are being denied support, according to new report.

At least 55,800 children were denied access to child and adolescent mental health services in England despite being referred last year amid cuts to services, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) says.

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Local government funding to be slashed by a further £1.3bn

Council budgets will be cut by a third next year, causing 'dramatic' reductions in services, local government leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says a further £1.3bn will be cut in 2019/20 under current plans. This amounts to 36% of their budgets.

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Should we be forced to pay £30,000 for old-age care?

It was hardly mentioned at the Conservative Party conference, but behind the scenes it is an issue which is causing much angst in Westminster: what to do about paying for care in later life in England.

The Tories have already had their fingers burnt by the problem - last year's election campaign was nearly derailed by the so-called "dementia tax", forcing the prime minister into a U-turn only days after announcing the policy.

Ministers took the sting out of the issue by promising to publish new plans by the summer.

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Metro mayors call for post-Brexit fiscal devolution

Four of England’s metro mayors are demanding control over the cash set to replace Brussels funding in the wake of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Labour’s Andy Burnham of Greater Manchester, Steve Rotheram of Liverpool city region, and Dan Jarvis of Sheffield city region have written to the Financial Times, with the Conservative mayor of Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, calling for more fiscal devolution after Brexit.

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Whitehall announces £24m scheme to ‘boost’ social mobility in North East

The education secretary will today launch a multi-million pound programme to boost social mobility and raise aspirations for children in the North East.

Secondary school performance in the area is significantly below other regions, and fewer 18-year-olds attend the country’s top universities than those from other parts of the country.

The North East also has one of the highest proportions of young people not in education, employment or training after year 11.

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North's elected mayors call for post-EU spending powers

Elected mayors in the North of England want devolved powers to spend a share of the money which will replace £2.4bn per year of EU funding from 2020.

The mayors said controlling funds to tackle regional inequality from London amounted to a "Whitehall power grab".

The Conservative Party pledged last year to replace economic aid which the EU has paid since 2000 with a new fund.

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Stamp it out. Council tax and stamp duty should be scrapped and replaced by a new tax on homeowners, says Left-wing think-tank

It argued the move would help reduce wealth inequality between those who own a home and those who don’t.

The think tank claimed housing is currently “undertaxed” relative to other assets, distorting investment behaviour and contributing to inequality between homeowners and renters.

A property tax rate of 0.5 per cent would mean an annual tax bill of £1,243 for the owner of an averagely priced UK home valued at £248,611, the IPPR said.

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Teacher crisis hits London as nearly half quit within five years

London schools are in the throes of a growing crisis in teacher retention, with figures revealing that more than four out of 10 quit the profession within five years of qualifying.

Schools across England say they are struggling to recruit and retain staff, but the problem is most acute in inner London where just 57% of teachers who qualified in 2012 were still working in the classroom by 2017.

According to new analysis of government figures by Labour MP Matthew Pennycook, of the 35,000 newly qualified teachers (NQTs) who started teaching in the capital since the Conservatives took power in 2010, more than 11,000 have already left.

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Theresa May's claim that austerity is coming to an end is as likely as her winning Strictly Come Dancing, Labour has said.

The prime minister told the Conservative Party conference that, after a decade of economic sacrifices, the end was in sight.

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the words "lacked credibility".

He said children's services faced a £2bn budget shortfall while councils had a £4bn hole in their finances.

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The social care system is collapsing. So why the government inaction? [opinion]

Future history students will enjoy speculating about the Brexit deal (or no deal) and what might have happened if this historic agreement had concluded differently. However, these studies are unlikely to consider the impact of the time and energy lost to discussions and discord on Brexit over the past two years...

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UK's rejection of child refugees under Dubs scheme unlawful, court rules

The government’s treatment of unaccompanied child refugees who were denied residence in the UK has been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal.

Lord Justice Hickinbottom said children were given “patently inadequate” reasons for being refused entry under the Dubs Amendment - an act that required the government to relocate a number of unaccompanied children to the UK.

But a 480 cap on places for unaccompanied child refugees will remain in place after the court rejected an argument that the government had not properly justified the upper limit.

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Councils will be allowed to borrow billions more to build new affordable homes for millennials struggling to get on the housing ladder

Councils will be allowed to borrow more money to build new homes, Theresa May announced today.

The PM said councils would no longer be capped on how much they can borrow against their Housing Revenue Account assets – effectively loaning against their property to free up cash to build homes.

Local government leaders welcomed the move today and signalled it would unlock a new wave of housebuilding in the UK.

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Whitehall 'neglecting' smaller cities and towns, report warns

The Government’s focus on major cities ‘neglects’ the contribution that smaller cities, towns and communities can make to economic growth, according to a new study.

The report, published by Centre for Towns, Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Industrial Communities Alliance, Key Cities Group, argues that national policymaking is ‘preoccupied’ with London and the main regional cities because of an assumption the wealth created in these areas will trickle down to the rest of the country.

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Northamptonshire County Council plan to cut £65m unveiled

A council plans to cut spending on agency staff and highways services, while boosting tax receipts, to tackle a £65m funding shortfall.

The "stabilisation plan" published by Northamptonshire County Council aims to save an additional £20m in 2018-19, on top of £45m in cuts already planned.

Government-appointed commissioners have been brought in to oversee the council, which has twice banned new spending.

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Matt Hancock: ‘Emergency social care funding will free up vital hospital beds'

An emergency £240m will be pumped into the social care system to try and avoid yet another NHS “winter crisis”, the Health and Social Care Secretary has announced.

Matt Hancock told the Conservative Party conference action was needed to stop hospital beds being used by people who could be better cared for in their homes – so-called “bed blockers”. The extra money will be allocated to councils to spend on measures including housing adaptations and care packages.

“We will use this money to get people who don’t need to be in hospital, but do need care, back home, back into their communities, so we can free up those vital hospital beds,”Mr Hancock said in Birmingham. “And help people who really need it get the hospital care they need.”

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English councils brace for biggest government cuts since 2010 despite 'unprecedented' budget pressures

Councils are facing the biggest cuts to government funding since 2010 despite unprecedented pressure and demand, which could risk “tipping many over the edge”, local authorities have warned.

Figures show that the revenue support grant – the main source of government funding for local services – will be cut by 36 per cent next year, marking the largest annual deduction in almost a decade.

It comes despite repeated warnings that continuing cuts to vital local authority provisions mean vulnerable people, such as the elderly, at-risk children and homeless people, are being left to “fend for themselves”.

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Teachers to be given extra volleyball and zumba coaching - as they're told to get pupils fit

Around 17,000 teachers will receive extra coaching to help get children fit in a new blitz on school sport.

Sport England is spending up to £13.5million on a teacher training programme – the first ‘significant’ investment in secondary school PE since 2008.

The move comes as Education Secretary Damian Hinds this weekend revealed he is launching a fresh drive to boost competitive sport in the country’s schools.

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Chancellor Philip Hammond announces u-turn on apprentices tax in a bid to build bridges with businesses

The Chancellor’s review of the Apprenticeship Levy – a flagship policy of his predecessor George Osborne – is one of a series of pro-enterprise moves that he will unveil in his conference speech.

The olive branch comes after bitter fallouts with the Government over attack on boardrooms and Brexit.

The Government also suffered a withering attack on its own conference stage from TV business celebrity and former Labour minister Lord Jones.

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Number of new-builds falls short of pre-crash level

England is building 21 per cent fewer homes than during a peak in 2007 as the government struggles to reach its target of 300,000 homes a year.

Figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showed that housebuilders started work on 38,730 homes in England on a seasonally adjusted basis in the three months to the end of June. This is down from 48,920 in the first three months of 2007. However, it was 126 per cent higher than a low of 17,120 in the first quarter of 2009, in the depth of the financial crisis.

Conversions — for example, turning an office block into flats — also count toward the 300,000 target. When these are included, the figures show that there were 217,350 “additional dwellings” in England in 2016-17, a ten-year high. However, the number of housing starts for new homes is still declining, suggesting that a higher total figure may not be achieved this year. Compared with the previous quarter, the number of housing starts fell by 3.7 per cent from 40,200 in the three months to March and by 4.1 per cent from a year earlier.

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Head teachers protest at Downing Street funding rally

Hundreds of head teachers from England and Wales are due to attend a rally in central London later, to demand extra funding for schools.

They will meet in Parliament Square before delivering a letter to No 11 Downing Street, amid concerns over work conditions and overcrowded classrooms.

The heads quote the Institute of Fiscal Studies' claim that per pupil funding has fallen 8% in real terms since 2010.

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Government spending on children at risk of neglect or abuse slashed by more than a quarter in five years, figures show

Government spending on children at risk of neglect or abuse has been slashed by 26 per cent over the past five years, new figures show, leading campaigners to claim they were being left to “fend for themselves”.

Budgets for “early intervention” children’s services, designed to help stop family problems such as abuse and neglect spiralling out of control, have dropped by £743m in the last five years, data from the Department for Education shows.

Over the same period, government spending on children’s centres, such as Sure Start and other universal family services, has dropped by £450m - a decrease of 42 per cent.

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Government spending on children at risk of neglect or abuse slashed by more than a quarter in five years, figures show

Government spending on children at risk of neglect or abuse has been slashed by 26 per cent over the past five years, new figures show, leading campaigners to claim they were being left to “fend for themselves”.

Budgets for “early intervention” children’s services, designed to help stop family problems such as abuse and neglect spiralling out of control, have dropped by £743m in the last five years, data from the Department for Education shows.

Over the same period, government spending on children’s centres, such as Sure Start and other universal family services, has dropped by £450m - a decrease of 42 per cent.

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Labour Plans Dramatic £4.8bn Expansion Of Free Childcare Policy

A massive expansion of free childcare and “Sure Start plus for the 21st Century” will be central pillars of Labour’s offer to voters, Jeremy Corbyn will confirm.

Under new £4.8bn plans from the party, 30 hours of free childcare will be available to all two, three and four-year-olds, and all means-testing will be scrapped.

The poorest families will also be eligible for more free hours over and above the 30-hour threshold, while more well-off families needing extra childcare will be charged a maximum of £4-an-hour.

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Labour leaders refuse to back Corbyn's illegal budget comments

A number of Labour council leaders have refused to endorse comments made by the party’s leader in support of councils that refuse to set legal budgets.

Jeremy Corbyn said he understood why councils might choose to break the law in order to make a political point about a lack of money.

“I absolutely understand it,” Mr Corbyn told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. “I represent an inner city area, Islington, as you know, and we were very angry in the 1980s at the way in which our counc