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News Headlines

[Coronavirus] U-Turn on free school meals means families will get extra supermarket vouchers

Families eligible for free school meals will continue to receive supermarket vouchers over the Easter holidays, the Government has announced.

The initiative, which was previously introduced to cover term time meals, has now been extended to cover the two-week seasonal holiday.

It means qualifying families will be able to claim additional shopping vouchers of £15 a week per child to help cover their grocery bills.

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[Coronavirus] Hundreds of thousands to benefit from 'council tax holiday' during coronavirus pandemic

Councils are looking at plans to ensure people struggling to pay the bills could pay nothing until June during the coronavirus lockdown. Authorities are considering the idea of a council tax “holiday” which would mean people can delay their first installment of council tax for the 2020/21 year until May or June.

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[Coronavirus] Cabinet Office moves to further protect suppliers after coronavirus

A new Procurement Policy Note (PPN) has been published by the Cabinet Office to further protect suppliers during and after the coronavirus outbreak.

Under this new PPN, contracting authorities must take action with immediate effect to ensure suppliers at risk can continue normal operations once the outbreak is over.

Suppliers at risk will continue to be paid as normal according to this PPN, even if the service is disrupted or temporarily suspended, until the end of June at the earliest.

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Other Headlines

[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson spends night in intensive care after symptoms worsen

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent the night in intensive care at a central London hospital after his coronavirus symptoms worsened. Downing Street said he was moved to the unit on the advice of his medical team and was receiving "excellent care".

Mr Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputise "where necessary", a spokesman added. The prime minister, 55, was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital with "persistent symptoms" on Sunday evening.

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[Coronavirus] NHS volunteers to start receiving tasks today - here's how they will help

NHS volunteers will begin receiving their first tasks today as they come to the aid of 2.5 million people at risk because of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 750,000 people - three times the original target - signed up to join the "volunteer army" in the war against the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK.

The Royal Voluntary Service, the charity spearheading the effort, will have completed checks for the high volume of applications by the end of Tuesday.

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Birmingham asks Sunak for short term loan to ease cash flow problems

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward (Lab) has written to the the chancellor asking for local authorities to be given short term loans to support cashflow through the coronavirus crisis.

Birmingham received £38.7m from the £1.6bn grant allocated to councils to fund additional services required as a result of the crisis, but claims it has already spent that twice over.

Speaking to LGC on Monday, leader Ian Ward (Lab) told LGC the council wrote to Rishi Sunak at the end of last month asking him to facilitate easy access to funding and also revealed the coronavirus crisis was delaying the introduction of the city's clean air zone and threatening the city's readiness to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

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Bid to relax accounts code ‘not acceptable’ to auditors and regulators

Plans to relax reporting requirements on councils' 2019-20 accounts have been roundly rejected, with auditors, regulators and the Treasury raising concerns about the plans.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy and Local Authority (Scotland) Accounts Advisory Committee local authority code board wrote to the Treasury last week to propose a simplified and streamlined version of the accounting code due to be applied to last financial year’s accounts.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson admitted to hospital over virus symptoms

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for tests, 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus, Downing Street has said.

He was taken to a London hospital on Sunday evening with "persistent symptoms" - including a temperature. It is said to be a "precautionary step" taken on the advice of his doctor.

The prime minister remains in charge of the government, but the foreign secretary is expected to chair a coronavirus meeting on Monday morning.

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[Coronavirus] Town halls consider council tax payment help

Vulnerable people and those most affected by the coronavirus outbreak are being offered help to pay their council tax. Support ranges from deferred payments to discounts for those on low incomes.

A petition on the Parliament website calling for council tax to be scrapped during the duration of the crisis has attracted almost 100,000 signatures. One council said it would be impossible to keep public services going if relief was applied "across the board".

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[Coronavirus] UK councils face lawsuits over access to education in lockdown

The UK government must ensure pupils from poor backgrounds have computers and internet connections during the coronavirus lockdown or face legal action for depriving children of their education, according to a group of legal activists.

The Good Law Project argues that the widespread reliance on online learning during the lockdown is illegally disadvantaging state school pupils who lack access to tablets, laptops or adequate broadband. It says it will sue local authorities to try to push the government into action.

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[Coronavirus] Residential homes 'desperate' for PPE, as two care workers die

The first two coronavirus deaths among care workers in England were announced, as industry leaders hit out at chronic shortages of protective equipment and urged the government to start treating social care as “a second front line”.

Carol Jamabo, 56, a community carer for Cherish Elderly Care in Bury in Greater Manchester, died last Wednesday.

Another carer died in a home run by MHA, the UK’s largest charitable social care provider, which said it was unclear where she contracted the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Free school meal vouchers to continue over Easter holidays

Teachers' unions have welcomed a government decision that means families eligible for free school meals (FSM) will continue to receive financial help to buy food over the Easter holidays.

Last week ministers said qualifying families could claim shopping vouchers of £15 a week per child in term time.

Now the scheme will be extended in England over the two-week holiday.

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[Coronavirus] Most councils still providing normal waste collections, survey reveals

The majority of councils have been able to provide a normal waste and recycling collection service, a new survey has revealed.

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) found 85% of councils are still able to provide a normal collection for general domestic waste.

Three-quarters of councils have also maintained their normal recycling services, the survey found.

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[Coronavirus] Military distributing 30 million PPE items for community frontline

More than 30 million items of personal protective equipment are to be distributed to local resilience forums this week for use in adult social care and other frontline services outside hospitals, LGC has learned.

The emergency drop off, which is being handled by the military, follows widespread concern amongst councils about access to the vital equipment for staff working in care homes and domiciliary care and the publication late last week of guidance on the correct use of PPE.

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Steve Reed named shadow communities secretary

Former Lambeth LBC leader Steve Reed has been appointed shadow communities and local government secretary by new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

However, he does not have the housing role, with Labour continuing to split its shadowing of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government between two MPs.

Mr Reed replaces Andrew Gwynne, who earlier today said he chose to return to the back benches.

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[Coronavirus] Libraries see new online memberships soar amid lockdown

New online library memberships have rocketed by up to 770% in some parts of the country, as the nation turns to books for solace during the Covid-19 outbreak.

With strict instructions to stay at home to prevent the spread of Covid-19, e-and-audio books are being increasingly sought to help soothe anxious minds, the Local Government Association (LGA) said. Despite all council-owned library buildings closing amid the pandemic, services have seen a surge in requests for digital resources.

Hampshire County Council has seen a 770% increase in new digital users, Cornwall Council a 630% increase and Hertfordshire County Council an increase of 332%.

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[Coronavirus] Councils in UK struggle to house homeless despite Government calls to accommodate them during pandemic

Homeless people seeking accommodation have been turned away by local councils for failing to meet complicated bureaucratic requirements, a London charity has said.

According to Glass Door, others have been waiting for days on the streets due to a backlog in accommodation.

The news comes after the Government gave local councils 48 hours to house 100 per cent of England’s rough sleepers in efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus. That deadline passed last Sunday.

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New Labour leader Keir Starmer vows to lead party into 'new era'

Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to lead Labour "into a new era with confidence and hope" after decisively winning the contest to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

The 57-year old defeated Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey in a ballot of party members and other supporters.

The lawyer, who became an MP in 2015, won on the first round of voting, with more than 50% of ballots cast.

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[Coronavirus] Government bails out bus firms to keep routes open

The government will cover the losses of bus companies in England over the next three months to ensure that services can still run.

The UK's bus industry says passenger numbers have "fallen off a cliff" since the government advised people against all non-essential travel. That caused bus firms to cut services.

A new £167m fund will ensure that bus companies can cover their costs on essential services so that key workers, such as NHS staff, can get to work.

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[Coronavirus] New PPE guidance welcomed but concerns remain over shortages

New guidance on the types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is needed in different circumstances for those on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis has been published by the government and NHS leaders.

The updated guidance comes after widespread concern and uncertainty about when PPE was required amid a national shortage of equipment.

The guidance has been agreed by the four chief medical officers, chief nursing officers and chief dental officers, and reflects the fact that coronavirus is now widespread in the community.

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[Coronavirus] Distribution of £12bn business grants gets underway

Councils have begun distributing grants to small- and medium-sized businesses forced to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than £12.3bn was transferred to council bank accounts by the government on Wednesday to redistribute in grants of either £10,000 or £25,000 to businesses in the retail, leisure or hospitality sectors with a rateable value of £51,000 or less.

Cornwall Council received the largest sum, at £281m, followed by Birmingham and Leeds city councils which are the largest English authorities with business rates administration responsibilities. Council of the Isles of Scilly and Oadby & Wigston BC received the lowest amount at £4.2m and £10.2m respectively, while on average councils received £29.3m.

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[Coronavirus] New PPE guidance welcomed but concerns remain over shortages

New guidance on the types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is needed in different circumstances for those on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis has been published by the government and NHS leaders.

The updated guidance comes after widespread concern and uncertainty about when PPE was required amid a national shortage of equipment.

The guidance has been agreed by the four chief medical officers, chief nursing officers and chief dental officers, and reflects the fact that coronavirus is now widespread in the community.

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[Coronavirus] Crematorium attendance halted in West Yorkshire

A third West Yorkshire council has confirmed it will take no further bookings for funerals at crematoria, in a move its leader said had been taken "with a heavy heart" following new government guidance.

Kirklees Metropolitan Council said yesterday it has followed Bradford City MBC and Leeds City Council in opting to only provide ‘direct cremations’, which are without mourners and involve no service. Calderdale MBC has adopted a similar policy but a spokesperson for Wakefield MDC said an end to attendance at crematorium funerals was not being considered at the moment.

Kirklees will stop taking bookings at its two crematoria for funeral services on Monday, while graveside burials will continue with a reduced maximum of 10 people permitted to attend.

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[Coronavirus] North East care homes 'need more help' to cope with coronavirus outbreak and protect staff

A body representing North East care homes says staff are frightened as they face the growing threat from coronavirus. Care North East, which represents around eighty care providers, says its members need more help in coping with the outbreak in order to safeguard staff and residents.

The association says it has several key concerns:

- a shortage of personal protective equipment and basic supplies.

- shortages of staff because some are self isolating.

- It's demanding more coronavirus testing for residents and workers.

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[Coronavirus] Downing Street warns: defy the lockdown and we'll introduce more restrictions

The coronavirus lockdown could be tightened if the public flouts social-distancing rules with a warm weekend expected, Government sources have warned.

With temperatures expected to hit almost 20 degrees Celsius, ministers including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, warned that the warm weather was not an excuse to break the lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Councils' pandemic fight is hampered by central micromanagement

NHS and care workers have gripped public attention as the country responds to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the one million people who work in local government have also been working flat-out – work that will continue well past the present crisis, that has been made much harder by 10 years of austerity, and that is not being helped by some parts of Whitehall trying to micromanage the local response.

As councils cope with a huge wave of demand on every front, from social care to refuse collection, they are taking daily instructions from ministers and officials across Whitehall, themselves under pressure and struggling to keep pace with directions from Downing Street.

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[Coronavirus] Government revamps emergency loan scheme for business

The government loans scheme for businesses struggling with finances due to the coronavirus pandemic has been revamped following criticism from industry bodies and unions.

The changes to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme include banning lenders from requesting personal guarantees on loans under £250,000, and extending the scheme to include companies regardless of whether they have been turned down for funding via other routes.

Previously, government-backed loans for small businesses were only available to firms that had been turned down for a commercial loan from their bank.

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Video conferencing first at council meeting

A council used software to help decide key planning applications in what is believed to be the first meeting of its kind in the country.

Councillors on Waltham Forest LBC’s planning committee met in a room where they could maintain social distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus, but all other participation was done using a video conferencing facility.

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[Coronavirus] Councils start to pay out business grants

Thousands of small firms have begun to receive £25,000 cash grants from councils as part of a £22bn government package in response to COVID-19.

Leader of Westminster City Council, Cllr Rachael Robathan, said: ‘We are proud to play our part in the Government’s scheme to ensure that businesses are getting the financial assistance that they need.

‘The first 300 grants worth more than £3m have now gone to some of the borough’s small businesses and we are working as fast as we can to process others.’

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[Coronavirus] Scottish unions blast 'inconsistent' way councils are handling coronavirus

Trade unions in Scotland have criticised the ‘inconsistent’ approach to protecting council staff from coronavirus.

In a letter to first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, three trade unions have warned a lack of ‘urgency and consistency’ by some local authorities is putting council workers and services users at risk.

UNISON, Unite and GMB highlight a lack of Personal Protective Equipment for workers, no strategy for testing frontline workers, and concerns that some workers are unable to practice social distancing.

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Councils warn of ‘wave of waste’

There will be a spike in household rubbish due to the coronavirus lockdown, district councils have warned today.

The District Councils’ Network (DCN) said families are likely to generate more waste while staying at home, at the same time as some councils have been forced to reduce certain waste services.

It also issued a plea for residents not to burn rubbish on bonfires, following a spate of incidents across the country.

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Launch of new Buckinghamshire Council

The new unitary authority for Buckinghamshire has been launched, bringing together five district and county councils.

Leader of the new Buckinghamshire Council, Martin Tett, said it was ready to meet the challenges of the current coronavirus crisis.

Mr Tett said: ‘Over the course of the last year or so, specialists from all five councils have been working closely together as one team to prepare for the new Buckinghamshire Council.

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[Coronavirus] Government urged to take action after spike in Universal Credit applications

The government has been urged to get Universal Credit ‘battle ready’ for an unemployment ‘crisis’, after nearly one million people applied to receive UC benefits in just two weeks.

The Department for Work and Pensions confirmed 950,000 successful applications for UC were made in the two weeks from 16 March.

In light of the surge in applications, the Resolution Foundation think-tank has called for the removal of ‘capital rules tests’ that reduce support for those with savings over £6,000 and to ‘disentitle’ those with savings of more than £16,000.

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[Coronavirus] Government to waive duties on some medical imports

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed the government is to waive duties and VAT on medical imports from outside the EU, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

NHS suppliers will no longer have to pay customs duty and import VAT on specific medical goods coming from outside the EU, including ventilators, coronavirus testing kits and protective clothing.

The removal of the tariffs, which can be up to 12% on the price of such goods, is intended to speed up supplies into the UK during the crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Small businesses struggle to get bailout grants as well as bank loans

Thousands of Britain’s smallest businesses face missing out on the £10,000 grants earmarked to help them through the coronavirus recession because councils cannot get in touch to send cash.

The handouts are being distributed through the business rates system because it is simpler and quicker to use existing processes than to create new operations from scratch.

However, councils typically do not have financial information on businesses that have never paid rates.

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[Coronavirus] Councils' plea for residents to avoid 'spiralling waste' during coronavirus outbreak

District councils have issued a plea to residents minimise their household rubbish over concerns that the coronavirus pandemic will cause a "spiralling of waste".

The District Councils Network, which represents district authorities across the country, said it fears the pandemic will lead to a "wave of waste" in the coming weeks with families staying at home.

It added that, while it was pleased that people are staying safe at home, residents should work with local councils to manage bin collections.

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[Coronavirus] UK care home bosses threaten to quit over return of coronavirus patients

Care home managers have threatened to resign over new government guidelines that state they have to accept residents who have coronavirus.

The guidance also says hospitals will not routinely test residents entering care homes, meaning managers will not know if returning residents are infectious but asymptomatic.

“Some [returning] patients may have Covid-19, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic,” the guidance says. “All of these patients can be safely cared for in a care home if this guidance is followed.”

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[Coronavirus] Matt Hancock sets aim of 100,000 tests a day by end of April

The government is aiming to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day in England by the end of April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, as he announced a "five-pillar" testing plan. It comes as the government was criticised for not increasing the number of tests more quickly.

Currently, there are around 10,000 tests being carried out a day. The new target includes swab tests, which are already in use, and blood tests, which are yet to be launched.

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[Coronavirus] A fifth of smaller UK firms 'will run out of cash'

Nearly a fifth of all small and medium-sized businesses in the UK are unlikely to get the cash they need to survive the next four weeks, in spite of unprecedented government support.

That's according to research published today, which suggests that between 800,000 and a million businesses nationwide may soon have to close.

Many firms have told the BBC that banks have refused them emergency loans.

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[Coronavirus] Virus-hit charities 'need substantial support'

Charities are expecting to lose around a third of their income over the next three months due to the coronavirus outbreak, MPs have been told.

Karl Wilding, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said his group has been “inundated with calls for help”.

MPs heard voluntary organisations needed “substantial” government support to shore up their finances.

PM Boris Johnson has promised a “package of measures” for the sector.

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[Coronavirus] England's children commissioner calls for volunteer social workers

The children’s commissioner for England has called for an army of volunteers to help support children’s social care during the coronavirus crisis in an effort to stop the most vulnerable falling through the gaps and disappearing from view.

Just as doctors and nurses who left the NHS have responded to calls to return to work to help save lives, Anne Longfield would like to see retired social workers and a range of school, nursery and care staff who have been furloughed as a result of the crisis join forces to help keep at-risk children safe.

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus threatens the future of public transport, councils warn

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed the government is working on a support package for bus services after a warning they are at risk of collapse without emergency rescue funding.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, said bus companies may not be able to survive the COVID-19 crisis because of falling passenger numbers.

In some parts of the country the number of people using buses has fallen by more than 75% in a month.

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[Coronavirus] Nearly a million universal credit claims in past two weeks

Nearly a million people have applied for universal credit benefits in the past fortnight as the coronavirus pandemic has worsened.

The Department for Work and Pensions said 950,000 successful applications for the payment were made between 16 March, when people were advised to work from home, and the end of the month.

The department would normally expect 100,000 claims in a two week period. Officials said they were working "flat out" to help people get support.

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[Coronavirus] Renters threatened with eviction 'should stay put'

People living in rented accommodation in England and Wales who have received an eviction notice have been urged not to move out.

The government announced a three month ban on evictions as part of emergency coronavirus legislation but the ban only covered new eviction proceedings, not people already in the court system.

Last week, ministers caved in to pressure from Labour and charities and announced a complete ban on evictions.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes refusing patients due to lack of PPE

Shortages of personal protective equipment and a lack of coronavirus testing for social care staff are threatening the ability of the system to cope, it has been claimed, with care homes not willing or able to accept patients being discharged from hospital as a result.

The government says that 170 million items of PPE have been delivered to hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacies over the last two weeks amid concerns over frontline NHS staff getting sick.

But there is concern that much less is getting through to the care sector, prompting senior figures in local government and the care sector to warn the NHS could be overwhelmed if more is not done to support care homes.

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[Coronavirus] Government seeks urgent PPE audit amid widespread shortages

The government has ordered an urgent national audit of personal protective equipment, body bags, swabs and infection control products.

Local resilience forum planners were earlier this week asked to share stock levels and daily consumption rates of the items at ambulance, acute trusts and in primary care and other services by 9pm on Tuesday.

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Naylor to be Birmingham chief for a year

Birmingham City Council’s long wait for a chief executive eased this morning when it was announced Barking & Dagenham LBC’s chief executive Chris Naylor is to fill the role on a 12-month secondment.

Mr Naylor, who has held the role with the east London borough for five years, this morning told LGC that Birmingham was “coming through” a period of difficulty, describing the role as “a huge job” at “the largest city council in Europe”.

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[Coronavirus] Free school meals children to get food vouchers

Families with children eligible for free school meals in England will be able to claim weekly shopping vouchers while schools are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, say ministers.

The scheme will allow schools to issue vouchers worth £15 a week per child.

Headteachers have warned that even with the vouchers, some parents will struggle to feed their children.

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[Coronavirus] Thousands of council staff moved to the frontline

Tens of thousands of UK council staff are set to be redeployed in "critical" roles during the coronavirus crisis.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the closure of hundreds of local authority-run facilities from gyms to historic bath houses.

Council bosses are now carrying out skills surveys to see whether they can move those employees into social care, crematoriums and waste collection.

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[Coronavirus] 20,000 former NHS staff return to fight virus, PM says

Some 20,000 former NHS staff have returned to work to help the fight against coronavirus, Boris Johnson has revealed in a video posted online.

The prime minister, who is self-isolating after testing positive for the virus, said the country would get through the crisis "together".

It comes after England's deputy chief medical officer said it could be six months before life returns to "normal".

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus forecast to cut UK economic output by 15%

The coronavirus pandemic could cause UK economic output to plunge by an unprecedented 15% in the second quarter of the year and unemployment to more than double, according to dire forecasts.

The deepest recession since the financial crisis is now all but unavoidable, according to analysts at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), after businesses shut up shop and consumer spending fell dramatically as a result of lockdown restrictions.

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[Coronavirus] UK unemployment set to double as GDP collapses

Unemployment in Britain is expected to more than double in coming months, as economists warn that the impending rise will be even sharper than during the 2008 financial crisis.

Investment bank Nomura predicts an unemployment rate of 8% in the April-June quarter, rising to 8.5% in the following three months. In January, the figure was 3.9%

It says the effects of the pandemic will be an economic hit “multiple times that of the global financial crisis”, despite government efforts to stabilise the economy with huge stimulus pledges.

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New permanent secretary at MHCLG announced

Jeremy Pocklington has been named as the new permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

He succeeds Dame Melanie Dawes, who left the civil service to lead Ofcom in February. He has been acting permanent secretary since her departure.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: "He is a highly talented and dedicated senior civil servant who has been a great support to me since I became secretary of state and most recently as we work intensively to respond to Covid.

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[Coronavirus] Thousands of rough sleepers still unhoused in England, say charities

Thousands of rough sleepers in England are thought to remain unhoused despite an unprecedented government request to local authorities to find housing for those on the streets by Sunday evening to avert the spread of Covid-19.

After the unfunded request from the government last week, which also called for the closure of night shelters and street encampments, homelessness charities questioned whether fulfilling it would be feasible.

On Monday, charities were keen to stress that considerable progress had been made in a short space of time, with the national homelessness charity Crisis estimating that about 4,200 had been rehoused in England within a few weeks.

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[Coronavirus] Care home calls for camper vans to help staff stay on site

A care home where three quarters of elderly residents have been infected has appealed to the public for a camper van or caravan so that its staff can stay on site and not pass on the virus at home.

Families of residents at Oaklands care home in Hove said the virus had spread rapidly through the home despite staff “doing everything right” to contain it.

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[Coronavirus] Homeless people 'scared and hungry' on streets despite promise to house them over weekend

Homeless people are “scared, hungry and desperate” as they continue to survive on the streets during the coronavirus pandemic despite a government order for local authorities to place rough sleepers in hotels or other accommodation over the weekend, charities have warned.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) wrote to local councils in England on Friday saying they must find accommodation for all rough sleepers by the weekend, as part of efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus restrictions ‘likely to last six months’

Life in Britain will not return to normal for six months, England’s deputy chief medical officer has warned, as ministers begin preparing the public for an extended period of lockdown.

At the government’s daily press conference, Jenny Harries said that strict social distancing rules may have to be in place for between two and three months.

But she added that it would be a further three months before all restrictions were lifted, and even then there were likely to be “bumps” as new clusters of cases of coronavirus were identified.

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[Coronavirus] Birmingham and Manchester temporary hospitals announced

Two new temporary hospitals will be set up to help cope with the coronavirus crisis, the head of the NHS in England has said.

Sir Simon Stevens said the new hospitals will be built at Birmingham's NEC and the Manchester conference centre and will be ready next month.

A hospital being set up in London's ExCeL centre will be available for use next week, it was announced.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson, 55, has coronavirus: PM tests positive for disease as crisis grips the UK

Boris Johnson today dramatically announced he is suffering from coronavirus.

The Prime Minister said he had tested positive for the disease, after being advised by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty to get checked as the outbreak spreads across the country.

The 55-year-old insisted he has 'mild' symptoms', and will be continuing to lead the national response over video-conference.

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[Coronavirus] Non essential services slashed as focus diverted to coronavirus crisis

Waste collection services are being cut to the bare minimum, libraries closed and road repairs postponed as councils redeploy staff to the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.

This week, county councils began to set aside hundreds of millions to purchase thousands of new beds to ensure that those requiring social care are released quickly from hospital, to free up more space for coronavirus patients, including Buckinghamshire CC, which is taking over a hotel to use its beds to free up hospital wards.

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[Coronavirus] Confusion over local responsibility for ‘NHS’ volunteers

Leading local government voices are calling for clarity over how the national ‘NHS’ scheme to recruit volunteers will join up with the local volunteer schemes being coordinated by councils through specially designated hubs.

The NHS Volunteer Responders scheme, which was launched nationally on Tuesday, has already seen more than 670,000 members of the public apply centrally to carry out tasks to assist those self isolating at home. They will be made up of community response volunteers collecting and delivering supplies, patient transport volunteers to transport those discharged from hospital, NHS transport volunteers to deliver medical supplies and medication and check-in and chat volunteers to support residents over the phone.

Separately, councils have been told by government to organise themselves into ‘local authority hubs’ to help coordinate community volunteers at a local level.

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[Coronavirus] DPH’s call for access to NHS 111 data to track coronavirus spread

Directors of public health are urgently calling on NHS England to share detailed local coronavirus data collected by NHS 111 with councils.

NHS England has been collecting postcode data on the suspected spread of the virus based on callers who ring NHS111 to report Covid-19 symptoms. But so far this crucial information has not been shared with councils, leading to growing frustration among local public health leaders.

Dominic Harrison, public health director for Blackburn with Darwen BC, said that the deaths and confirmed cases data councils are basing their planning on is two to three weeks behind the infection.

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[Coronavirus] Eleanor Kelly: PPE ‘absolutely paramount’ for coronavirus shielding effort

Efforts to free up hospital beds and shield the most vulnerable from coronavirus will struggle without more personal protective equipment for social care staff, a council chief executive overseeing the capital’s emergency response has warned.

Southwark LBC chief executive Eleanor Kelly is one of the four senior public service figures on the strategic coordinating group leading London’s efforts to manage the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The group is chaired by City of London Corporation chief executive John Barradell and Ms Kelly is co-chair with responsibility for tactical arrangements.

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Borrowing still forecast to be lower than 2009 peak

Government borrowing is forecast to be as high £177bn in 2020-21, but still lower than in 2009, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The IFS predicts that the government could borrow an additional £120bn to ease disruption caused the coronavirus pandemic, more than tripling the amount forecast in the Budget.

At around 8% of national income, national debt would be more than in 2008–09 but some way below the peak of 10.2% of national income in the 2009-10, according to the institute.

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[Coronavirus] Government to subsidise up to 80% profits for the self-employed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that self-employed people are to receive subsidies of up to 80% of profits up to £2,500 per month, in a bid keep businesses running during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new grant, which goes live in April, will be available to self-employed people who posted profits of less than £50,000 for the last financial year, or if their average trading profit for the last three years, is less than £50,000.

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Fury as millions of council tax payers face inflation-busting 3.9 per cent average rise to above £2,000 a year despite coronavirus crisis

Millions of householders will receive council tax bills in excess of £2,000 next week as town halls put up their charges by twice the rate of inflation.

Ministers revealed last night that bills will increase by 3.9 per cent on average, equivalent to £68 on the average Band D bill or £136 on the top Band H bill.

In no fewer than 36 districts across the country, the Band D bill exceed £2,000. Last year, only seven districts charged more than that.

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[Coronavirus] Council bodies accept Spending Review delay decision

Local government organisations have expressed understanding at the government’s decision to postpone the upcoming Spending Review.

Reacting to the news of the delay, Joanne Pitt, CIPFA local government policy manager, said: ‘’During this time of increased uncertainty and strain on public services, it is understandable that the spending review has been postponed to focus efforts on combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.

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[Coronavirus] Scotland passes Covid-19 business rates compensation law

Legislation to compensate Scottish councils for the loss of business rates revenue in the light of the coronavirus pandemic has been approved by the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs backed an order on Tuesday afternoon which will see the general revenue grant allocated to councils boosted to offset the fall in revenue which will follow the government’s guarantee of total rates relief for businesses worst hit by the spread of the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Social care faces 'complete emergency', Commons committee told

The social care system is in a "complete emergency" and will require a funding top-up to deal with the impact of coronavirus, MPs have heard.

Experts from the sector warned that "we're going to have to pay our way out of trouble" as the virus puts additional pressure on both carers and vulnerable Britons.

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[Coronavirus] UK government unveils aid for self-employed

Self-employed workers can apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits to help them cope with the financial impact of coronavirus, the chancellor has announced.

The money - up to a maximum of £2,500 a month - will be paid in a single lump sum, but will not begin to arrive until the start of June at the earliest.

Rishi Sunak told the self-employed: "You have not been forgotten."

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[Coronavirus] Universal credit 'almost impossible' to complete claim as more than 500,000 apply

Workers attempting to apply for universal credit after being laid off during the coronavirus crisis have described how it is almost impossible to complete a claim.

More than 500,000 people have applied for the vital payments in the last nine days, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed on Wednesday.

However, benefits experts have warned that only a fraction of them will have succeeded because the service is swamped and it is currently almost impossible to talk to anyone at the DWP.

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[Coronavirus] Forces raise concern over resilience plans for elderly through LRFs

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse has been urged to escalate to central government concerns raised by members of some local resilience forums (LRFs) that councils haven’t got the measures in place to lead with support for vulnerable people during the lock down.

The leading charity for older people warned it was vital that “national and local support mechanisms” were operating within days.

But concerns have been raised that some councils have not taken decisions fast enough to be ready. Contacts outside of gold groups were described by one official as “patchy”.

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[Coronavirus] COVID-19 to send almost all G20 countries into a recession

Following the coronavirus outbreak, we have revised our growth forecasts for all countries across the world. The results paint a bleak picture. Across the G20, all but three countries will register a recession this year. The global economy will contract by 2.2%.

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[Coronavirus] £1.6bn for social care ‘unlikely to be enough’ for coronavirus crisis response

The social care sector will have to “pay it's way out of trouble” in order to cover the mounting costs of the coronavirus crisis, the co-chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services James Bullion has warned.

Speaking at a session of the Commons health and social care committee, held remotely on Thursday to hear evidence on preparations for coronavirus, Mr Bullion warned that the unringfenced £1.6bn promised by the government to support social care, which is due to arrive in council bank accounts on Friday, is “unlikely to be enough”.

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[Coronavirus] Sarah Norman: ‘The demands on us are enormous’

The government’s “battle rhythm” of holding early evening press conferences is adding to pressure on staff delivering the local response to the coronavirus crisis, a leading council chief executive has warned.

Speaking to LGC about how Barnsley MBC is working to protect residents and businesses through the outbreak, chief executive Sarah Norman stressed she did not want to be overly critical of the government but said the practice over the past week of making significant announcements late in the day was unhelpful.

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[Coronavirus] Free parking for all frontline coronavirus workers

NHS staff are to be given free car parking with immediate effect at hospitals and other medical facilities for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Social care staff and health service volunteers will also be exempt from parking charges.

NHS Trusts set their own parking charges, but the Government will cover the cost of any income lost from daily fees paid by staff, the Department of Health said.

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[Coronavirus] Councils coronavirus Q&A with Andy Burns, CIPFA

Council finance officers around the UK are joining the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. PF talks to CIPFA associate director Andy Burns about the challenges they are facing.

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[Coronavirus] Cambridge to lead £20m fight against spread of coronavirus

The University of Cambridge will be taking a major role in the fight against the coronavirus spread after it was announced that a £20m investment will allow for large-scale investigation into the cause of the virus.

The national effort to understand and restrict the novel coronavirus infection is set for a boost as the Government and the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser announced the role of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium.

Included in this collaboration is the NHS, Public Health Agencies, UK Research and Innovation, Wellcome Sanger Institute and numerous academic institutions, who will work to map the cause of the disease with a view to share that data with hospitals, NHS centres and the Government.

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[Coronavirus] Retired social care workers urged to return to help during coronavirus outbreak

Retired care workers are being urged to return to help the social care sector through the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, has written to care providers saying the sector will need the “support of the nation” if it is to continue helping vulnerable people.

He is calling for retired staff to join the national effort, as well as employees, particularly those from the catering, hospitality and air travel industries, who may be without work.

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[Coronavirus] Retired social care workers urged to return to help during coronavirus outbreak

Retired care workers are being urged to return to help the social care sector through the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, has written to care providers saying the sector will need the “support of the nation” if it is to continue helping vulnerable people.

He is calling for retired staff to join the national effort, as well as employees, particularly those from the catering, hospitality and air travel industries, who may be without work.

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[Coronavirus] Care home staff are being left with no protective equipment and told to self-isolate at work if they test positive for coronavirus

Care home staff are being told to self-isolate at work if they test positive for the deadly coronavirus, a union has claimed.

The GMB claimed many care workers were not being given proper personal protection equipment (PPE), leaving them vulnerable to falling ill with the virus which has infected more than 9,500 people in the UK.

Many carers have also been left without any childcare outside of school hours because of the unsociable hours they work, the union added.

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[Coronavirus] Parliament shuts down for a month

Parliament has shut down until 21 April at the earliest to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Emergency laws to deal with the pandemic have been rushed through both Houses and were given Royal Assent earlier on Wednesday.

MPs voted to plan for a managed return to work on Tuesday 21 April, to deal with Budget legislation.

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[Coronavirus] UK coronavirus home testing to be made available to millions

Millions of 15-minute home coronavirus tests are set to be available on the high street or for Amazon delivery to people self-isolating, according to Public Health England (PHE), in a move that could restore many people’s lives to a semblance of pre-lockdown normality.

The UK government has bought 3.5m tests – which reveal whether someone has had the virus and is therefore thought to have some immunity – and is ordering millions more, it has said.

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[Coronavirus] DWP swamped with half a million universal credit claims in nine days

Almost half a million people have made new claims for universal credit since the coronavirus epidemic took hold in Britain, creating long delays as checks are made before payments are approved.

Dawn Butler, the Labour MP, tweeted a screenshot of one claimant’s computer screen with a message saying there were 76,628 people in the queue ahead of them.

Other MPs said people had described waiting on the telephone for hours to have claims approved, only to be told to ring back the next day.

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PWLB lending limit to be raised £115bn

The Public Works Loan Board lending limit is to be raised from £95bn to £115bn under measures in the Finance Act 2020.

Alongside the rise, which will increase the cumulative maximum councils can borrow from PWLB fromn the current £95m, the act will give the Treasury powers to increase the lending limit further, to a maximum of £135bn.

The Act is still making its way through Parliament, which is set to close early for Easter from today, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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[Coronavirus] Jenrick brings forward payment of £3.4bn in corona crisis cash

Local government should get £3.4bn in its bank accounts by this Friday after ministers acted to bring forward planned cash payments in response to the coronavirus outbreak, LGC has learned.

Robert Jenrick made the announcement on a call to chiefs yesterday afternoon. It will consist of £1.6bn from the Covid-19 response fund which had originally been planned to be paid on 3 April and £1.8bn in section 31 grants in lieu of lost business rates as a result of the major exemptions of business rates.

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Bradford and Kirklees give go-ahead to progress devo deal

Bradford City MBC’s executive and Kirklees Metropolitan Council’s cabinet have both overcome social isolation restrictions to signal the go ahead for the West Yorkshire devolution deal to move forward to its next stage.

As councils are unable to meet in full due to social restrictions put in place by the government to tackle the coronavirus, Bradford’s executive provided their views to the council’s chief executive Kersten England in this morning’s meeting which was held by teleconference. Ms England will take the decision under delegated powers tomorrow.

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[Coronavirus] Now is not the time for Westminster to tighten its centralising grip

In midst of what will perhaps be the biggest crisis of the 21st century, local councils across the UK are being called upon to act in unprecedented ways to support communities, protect the vulnerable – while at the same time taking steps to implement social distancing.

But this requires Westminster to loosen the reins of power and to trust decision-makers in local and combined authorities to know what is right for their communities.

In addition, as COVID-19 spreads, the way the Government acts and responds to the changing context of governance is important.

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[Coronavirus] NHS account deadline delayed due to pandemic disruption

Coronavirus disruption has led officials to push back the deadline for NHS accounts, and delay the implementation of an IFRS accounting standard for a year.

Draft accounts will now not be due until 11 May if provider organisations (foundations and trusts) choose to extend the deadline - currently 27 April - and audited accounts will not be due until 25 June.

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[Coronavirus] York Council leader warns of £20m shortfall due to coronavirus

City of York Council leader Keith Aspden has warned his council faces a £20m shortfall in funding due to rising costs in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

He has called for government to allocate more funds to the council, which he said is expected to receive less than £5m of emergency coronavirus funds.

Aspen made his intervention in a letter sent to Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, Simon Clarke, Northern Powerhouse minister, and Vicky Ford, parliamentary undersecretary of state for children and families.

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Council Tax levels set by local authorities in England 2020 to 2021

Information on Council Tax levels set by local authorities in England and associated information for the financial year 2020 to 2021.

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[Coronavirus] UK brings in strict curbs on life to fight virus

Boris Johnson has outlined strict new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people.

He said people should leave home only to exercise once a day, travel to and from work where "absolutely necessary", shop for essential items and to fulfil any medical or care needs.

He also ordered the immediate closure of shops selling non-essential goods.

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[Coronavirus] Home care business to recruit 10,000 new staff as demand soars

A London-based home care firm, Cera Care, is seeking 10,000 new staff across its UK business, in an effort to fight the Covid-19 crisis.

Cera Care hopes to train and certify workers as qualified carers and put them to work in as little as 10 days.

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Fewer potholes being repaired in England and Wales

The number of potholes repaired in England and Wales has fallen by a fifth in the past 12 months amid a decline in road maintenance budgets, figures show.

Local authorities filled 1.5m potholes in the 2019-20 financial year compared with 1.9m during the previous 12 months, according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

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[Coronavirus] Communities secretary handed power to order virtual council meetings

MPs have backed emergency legislation which paves the way for council meetings to be held remotely.

Government amendments to the Coronavirus Bill, which completed its fast tracked passage through the Commons last night, allow for the communities secretary to specify the frequency, location and manner in which council meetings must be held, including a provision that meetings can be held without any or all of the participants being in the same place.

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[Coronavirus and CSR] Spending review outlining government plans for next three years to be delayed over Covid-19, chancellor says

The comprehensive spending review setting out government expenditure plans for the next three years will be delayed from July because of the coronavirus outbreak, chancellor Rishi Sunak has told cabinet.

No new date was given for the CSR, with ministers told only that it will come "in due course".

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Chancellor's package of support could cost ‘several billion pounds’ per month

Rishi Sunak’s support package for workers could cost several billion pounds per month, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The new package, announced last week, will see the government cover 80% of employees’ wages for up to £2,500 per month, if they are unable to work.

The IFS predicts that if 10% of employees are affected, this could cost up to £10bn over the next three months. If more take advantage of the support then the cost will be “proportionally higher”.

IFS director Paul Johnson said: “The chancellor has announced a huge package of support aimed at keeping people in employment. The cost of the wage subsidy package is unknowable at present but will run into several billion pounds per month that it is in operation.

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[Coronavirus] Government confirms it will plough £500million into an emergency hardship fund to cover council tax bills for vulnerable people worst affected by coronavirus

Families at most risk of financial hardship as a result of the economic collapse caused by coronavirus will be able to get help with their council tax payments after the Government confirmed set up a £500million hardship fund,.

The money for councils to give tax relief to vulnerable people and households, first announced in the Budget, was confirmed by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick this morning.

The money will go to local authorities in England to enable them to reduce the 2020/21 council tax bills of working-age people who receive local council tax support, he said.

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[Coronavirus] Council procurement innovates around Covid-19 restrictions

As the country, and indeed the world cease operations to tackle this pandemic, public services must continue, and arguably now more than ever - so must public procurement.

Last week, the government made it easier than ever to facilitate the procurement of goods and services in order to allow emergency contracts to be awarded without the delay of red tape.

Paul Meigh, Head of Procurement at Central Bedfordshire Council spoke to PSE about the additional challenges this virus has posed on public procurement.

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[Coronavirus] Councils put at heart of coronavirus response

Councils will be put at the heart of the response to coronavirus by delivering a national network of support to people at very high risk.

The Government has high expectations of the role that councils will need to play in supporting vulnerable people to get the support they need.

New hubs, which will focus on providing access to food, medicines and other supplies, will provide targeted support after 1.5m people deemed clinically vulnerable were asked to stay at home for three months.

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[Coronavirus] People who ignore government advice 'selfish'

People who have ignored government advice aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic are "very selfish", says the health secretary.

Matt Hancock said the government was willing to take "more action" if needed to stop the virus from spreading.

Over the weekend, photos emerged showing crowds of people visiting open spaces across many parts of the UK.

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[Coronavirus] Army to distribute masks and protective suits to frontline NHS staff

The Army will be brought in to help get deliveries of protective equipment to frontline NHS staff who are battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Hospital trusts have been told they will be receiving deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons and protective suits "around the clock" during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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[Coronavirus] Million undocumented migrants could go hungry, say charities

Approximately a million undocumented migrants living under the radar in the UK could be at risk not only of contracting Covid-19 but also of starvation because of the crisis created by the pandemic, charities have warned.

Nobody knows exactly how many of these migrants are currently in the UK, as the Home Office does not have comprehensive records of their whereabouts.

This group includes asylum seekers whose claims the Home Office has rejected but who are fearful of returning to their home countries and temporary workers whose visas have expired.

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[Coronavirus] What's in the emergency Coronavirus legislation?

What does the legislation include?

The bill gives the government wide-ranging powers, unlike any other recent legislation.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has stressed that the powers in the bill would only be used "when strictly necessary" and would remain in force only for as long as required to respond to the crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Landlords barred from evicting firms that fail to pay rent

Thousands of retail, hospitality and leisure firms have been given a last-minute reprieve allow them to suspend rent payments to landlords for at least three months.

Landlords will be banned from evicting commercial tenants during the period as part of the latest government support for businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

The move comes as a major relief for thousands of firms amid a pending quarterly rental payment due to landlords on Wednesday.

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[Coronvirus] Rishi Sunak faces legal action from gig economy workers

Pressure is mounting on Rishi Sunak to extend his coronavirus bailout to the UK’s five million self-employed people, with gig workers threatening legal action against the chancellor’s current “discriminatory” policy and a survey suggesting half would keep working if they had symptoms.

On Friday, Sunak said self-employed workers could access £94.25 a week in universal credit, but he gave a far more generous deal to employees of 80% of salaries, capped at £2,500 per month.

He is being lobbied to go further in coming days or risk public health by incentivising self-employed taxi-drivers, couriers and other gig economy workers and zero-hours contractors to keep working while ill.

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[Coronavirus] Fraudsters impersonating officials are targeting the elderly

Fraudsters are knocking on the doors of the elderly and scamming them out of their savings by impersonating officials during the coronavirus crisis, a body has warned.

Exploitative criminals are committing burglary or fraud by pretending to be Government, council or medical officers, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson announces closure of all UK pubs and restaurants

Boris Johnson took the extraordinary step of ordering pubs, clubs and restaurants across the UK to close on Friday, and announced an unprecedented wage-support scheme to try to prevent a tsunami of job losses.

Announcing the decision in the fight against the coronavirus, the prime minister said that he realised it went against what he called “the inalienable free-born right of people born in England to go to the pub”.

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[Coronavirus] Jenrick in coronavirus cash flow appeal

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick has urged councils experiencing cash flow issues as a result of coronavirus to get in touch.

Some local authorities have decided not to take any April direct debit payments, which will have a significant impact on cash flow.

The Local Government Association is currently collating the financial pressures the sector is experiencing.

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[Coronavirus] Race to implement economic support package

Council finance officials and civil servants have raced to work out how to implement the Government’s enhanced package of economic support for coronavirus-affected businesses.

The Government pledged grant funding of £10,000 for all firms in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief and grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure firms with property that has a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000.

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[Coronvirus] Chancellor prepares wage package rescue plan

The chancellor is set to announce an employment and wage subsidy package to try to protect millions of jobs.

Talks went on into the night with business groups and union leaders, who urged the government to help pay wages amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Many firms are warning of collapse, wiping out thousands of jobs, as life in the UK is largely put on hold.

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[Coronavirus] Tens of thousands of retired medics asked to return to NHS

Letters are being sent to more than 65,000 retired doctors and nurses in England and Wales asking them to return to the NHS to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

Senior officials say the ex-employees are needed to boost frontline services.

It comes after the government pledged to ensure that all hospitals have enough protective gear and ventilators.

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[Coronavirus] (COVID-19): guidance for local government

In the Budget on 11 March 2020, the Chancellor announced a package of measures to provide support for public services, individuals and businesses to ensure the impact of coronavirus is minimised.

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[Coronavirus] Whiteman: virus spend could lead to s114s unless borrowing rules eased

Councils battling coronavirus could be forced into effective bankruptcy unless ministers relax restrictions which prevent borrowing to fund services, Rob Whiteman has said.

The chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy spoke to LGC to demand government support for councils on a par with that given to the NHS and business, as well as to predict a new era of state intervention to support businesses and individuals.

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[Coronavirus] Stop going to the pub or I'll BAN you: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says human rights should be 'infringed' as he slams people for still going to bars and using public transport

The Mayor of London has hit out at people who continue to go to pubs and use public transport, warning he will 'infringe' their human rights if necessary.

Sadiq Khan said 'liberties and human rights need to be changed, curtailed, infringed' in order to protect people and prevent further coronavirus deaths.

He threatened to ban people from going to the pub and cafés in his stark address to the London Assembly last night.

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[Coronavirus] Waste operators call for ‘performance penalty’ relief to keep services running

Waste operators have asked to be excused from performance penalties from the councils they have contracts with as part of the effort to keep services running during the pandemic.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), the voice of the UK’s recycling and waste management industry, yesterday called on the Government to help keep vital waste services moving.

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[Coronavirus] Clive Betts: Ministers must answer key council questions on coronavirus

Last week’s Budget left a series of answered questions for local government, writes the chair of the Commons housing, communities and local government select committee.

Though delivered only a week ago, the government’s Budget for this parliament already feels like a distant memory. The outbreak of covid-19 has overtaken events. There are now some very serious concerns about public service preparedness for the pandemic.

Coronavirus poses some substantial challenges for local government. Take, for instance, social care – where there are already 120,000 vacancies in the workforce.

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[Coronavirus] PM’s lock down plans came ‘as surprise’ to London’s police and politicians

Government must share its plans for tackling coronavirus in the capital with London local government ahead of making announcements to avoid more of the "confusions and panic" created by suggestions the capital could be put into lock down, senior figures have warned.

The prime minister “set hares running” among the capital's local government leaders when he raised the possibility on national television during his press conference on Wednesday.

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[Coronavirus] Politics latest news: Boris Johnson expected to announce London shutdown today, with pubs and restaurants to close

Boris Johnson is expected to announce the shut down of London today with bars, clubs, pubs, restaurants and cafes all ordered to close.

Shops considered ‘non-essential’ such as clothing stores are also likely to be forced to shut their doors in an attempt to curb coronavirus in the capital.

Well-placed sources said the Prime Minister would make the announcement at his afternoon press conference. London’s mayor Sadiq Khan is expected to make a separate statement.

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[Coronavirus] Universal Credit to be raised by £1,000 a year in £7bn rescue deal

Universal Credit will be raised by £1,000 a year as part of a £7billion coronavirus welfare rescue package.

The "standard allowance" - £323.22 a month for single people and £507.37 a month for couples - will be raised for the next 12 months. Working Tax Credit will be raised by the same amount.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the move would "benefit 4million of our most vulnerable households".

The government will also suspend the minimum income floor in Universal Credit "for everyone effected by the economic impact of coronavirus".

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[Coronavirus] Take your own rubbish to the tip, families told as bin collections cancelled in crisis

FAMILIES have today been told to take their rubbish to the tip as bin collections will be cancelled during the coronavirus outbreak.

Councils across the country have scaled back household bin collections and people have been told take their own waste to the dump rather than wait for lorries.

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[Coronavirus] Government to pay up to 80% of workers' wages

The government will pay the wages of employees unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic, in a radical move aimed at protecting people's jobs.

It will pay 80% of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.

The "unprecedented" measures will stop workers being laid off due to the crisis, chancellor Rishi Sunak said.

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[Coronavirus] Buoyant tax income ahead of coronavirus crisis

The last set of public finance figures before the Government’s £350bn injection to combat coronavirus’ economic impact shows a buoyant month for tax income.

However, the long-term impact of small businesses and self-employed traders shutting down for many weeks will inevitably hit future tax revenues.

Borrowing in February was £300m, half the amount for the same month last year.

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[Coronavirus] Social workers call for clarity on carrying out statutory duties

Social workers are concerned they will be unable to safeguard families and carry out their statutory duties in the face of mass isolation.

They are calling for more information on the implications for registration if they are unable to meet duties, timescales or usual legal compliance during this crisis.

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Universal Credit advances fraud could have cost £150m

Universal Credit ‘advances fraud’ is estimated to have cost the Department for Work and Pensions up to £150m in the 18 months to December 2019, according to the National Audit Office.

Advance payments were introduced by the DWP to help claimants who were struggling with the potential five-week wait for their first Universal Credit payment. However, the NAO estimates the DWP has seen 100,000 fraudulent claims in the 18 months since.

A number of illegal practices were identified, including providing false information to boost the value of the advance and fraudulently using the personal identification details of third parties, either knowingly or without their consent.

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[Coronavirus] Local authorities to receive £1.6bn from Response Fund

Councils are set to receive £1.6bn of funding to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, as part of the government’s £5bn coronavirus fund announced during the Budget.

The money has been allocated to help local authorities respond to the increased strain on services, including support for adult social care services and helping the most vulnerable, including homeless people.

The money forms part of the £2.9bn of funding allocated to help local authorities and health services with the pandemic.

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[Coronavirus] Emergency laws will give powers to close airports and detain and quarantine people

The government will today outline details of new emergency powers to contain the spread of COVID-19 when it publishes the Emergency Coronavirus Bill.

It is expected to include details for shutting down the UK's ports and airports and giving police powers to detain people suspected of having coronavirus.

It follows significant economic measures introduced by Chancellor RIshi Sunak

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[Coronavirus] Up to 20,000 troops on standby to help deal with COVID-19 outbreak

Up to 20,000 service personnel will be put on standby to help combat the coronavirus, with troops gearing up to drive oxygen tankers, support the police and boost hospital capacity.

On Thursday, reservists will be put on notice to mobilise if required as part of a war-like effort to prepare the armed forces in case the government calls upon them in large numbers.

But the military must also deal with the threat posed by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

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[Coronavirus] 40 London Underground stations to be closed

Up to 40 stations on the London Underground network are to be shut as the city attempts to reduce the effect of the coronavirus outbreak.

Transport for London (TfL) announced there would be a partial shutdown of the network from Thursday morning.

Additionally, there will be no night Tube and bus services will also be reduced, it said.

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Council tax reform would help 'level up' north of England

More than 10m households would benefit from lower council tax bills if the government reformed the “arbitrary and unfair” annual property charge to reflect the growing divide between London and the south-east and the rest of England.

Council tax bills would fall by 56% in Blackpool, 57% in Stoke-on-Trent and 60% in Kingston upon Hull, the tax and spending watchdog said, ending decades of punishing tax rates in many of Britain’s most deprived areas.

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[Coronavirus] Business grant commitment sparks major cashflow concerns

Councils will be struggling with cashflow in “a matter of months” unless the government provides funding for the cash grants and rates relief it has promised businesses to mitigate the impacts of coronavirus, finance directors are warning.

On Tuesday, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced no businesses in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors would pay business rates in 2020-21. He also said that businesses in those sectors with a rateable value of less than £51,000 would be eligible for cash grants of up to £25,000, administered by councils.

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Devon CC’s children’s services criticised for ‘serious failures’

Ofsted has found ‘serious failures’ in services for young people in Devon as they discovered a minority of care leavers had been living in tents.

Devon County Council’s children’s services have been rated ‘inadequate’ after an Ofsted inspection in January.

The inspectors’ report said that senior leaders did not know about the extent of the failures to protect some of the most vulnerable children and young people from harm.

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[Coronavirus] Tenants protected from eviction during coronavirus outbreak

Council leaders have welcomed measures to protect renters from being evicted due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Government has announced emergency legislation to ban new evictions from social or private rented accommodation during the pandemic.

Under the measures, landlords will be unable to start court proceedings for at least three months. During this time, landlords will be given a three month mortgage payment holiday.

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[Coronavirus] Schools shut down to stop spread of Covid-19

All schools, colleges and early years settings will be closed as of next week as part of the effort to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

Starting next Monday, children will have to remain at home with their families as schools close down in response to the spread of Covid-19.

The children of key workers, such as NHS staff, police, and supermarket delivery people, as well as vulnerable children, will still be able to attend school.

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[Coronavirus] UK interest rates cut to lowest level ever

The Bank of England has cut interest rates again in an emergency move as it tries to support the UK economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the second cut in interest rates in just over a week, bringing them down to 0.1% from 0.25%.

Interest rates are now at the lowest ever in the Bank's 325-year history.

The Bank said it would also increase its holdings of UK government and corporate bonds by £200bn with an effort to lower the cost of borrowing.

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[Coronavirus] £2.9bn provided to free up hospital beds for coronavirus patients

Local authorities will get more than half of a £2.9bn pot of emergency funding to sort out – at least for now – the long-running problem of elderly and vulnerable people stuck in hospital because the social care they need is not available.

The announcement came as the NHS launched an appeal to 65,000 retired doctors and nurses to come back to help with the coronavirus epidemic, under the slogan evocative of wartime: “Your NHS needs you.” Majority of retired NHS staff don't want to return to tackle Covid-19 crisis

The beds occupied by elderly and vulnerable people who have recovered from illness but need care in the community are now urgently needed for the expected influx of severely ill coronavirus patients.

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[Coronavirus] Volunteers mobilise to ensure children get fed during school closures

The government has said that low-income families whose children are ordinarily eligible for the meals will be offered vouchers, food or meals, even if they are no longer attending school because of coronavirus closures coming into force from Friday.

Around 1.3 million children in England who come from the most disadvantaged families currently benefit from a free school lunch.

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[Coronavirus] ‘No excuses for slacking’ as councils work ‘as one team’ to fight virus

The prime minister has given his personal commitment to senior members of the sector that councils can be “safe in the knowledge” they will have what they need to tackle the coronavirus.

In a meeting yesterday between senior local government representatives and ministers including health secretary Matt Hancock and communities secretary Robert Jenrick, Boris Johnson gave his “personal commitment he will back us” according to John Fuller, chair of the District Councils Network (DCN). “That’s good enough for me,” he said.

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[Coronavirus] £3bn bed blocking coronavirus cash injection

Almost £3bn of the Government’s £5bn Covid-19 funding will go towards freeing up at least 15,000 English hospital beds by the end of next week, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.

It comes after the Local Government Association called for targets on delayed transfers of care, which reached record levels last month, to be relaxed amid the coronavirus crisis.

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Coronavirus: Care companies fear bankruptcy

Coronavirus has left companies which support older and disabled people in their own homes struggling to cope, says their professional association.

The UK Home Care Association says the firms need more protective equipment for staff and clearer guidance on protecting clients.

The virus has put care companies which were already financially vulnerable under additional pressure, says UKHCA.

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Ofsted slams county after care leavers found living in tents

Care leavers were discovered sleeping in tents on the streets while children suffering from chronic neglect and emotional abuse are being left with their families for too long, a damning Ofsted report on Devon CC’s children’s services has found.

Published on Tuesday, the report downgraded the county’s services from requires improvement to inadequate and said the council had repeatedly failed to address issues raised by the regulator over the past seven years.

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Coronavirus bill to suspend Care Act entitlements

Entitlements under the Care Act 2014 will be suspended so councils are not required to meet all adult social care needs and could opt to delay assessments to prioritise “the most urgent and serious” cases, under measures in the proposed emergency coronavirus bill.

A summary of the bill published yesterday includes wide ranging legislative changes aimed at giving public bodies the “tools and powers” to respond effectively to the outbreak.

The government said the proposed amendments to the Care Act would not remove councils’ duties of care to those at risk of serious neglect or harm, with an expectation they would continue to do all they can to meet needs.

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Fears for democracy amid widespread coronavirus meeting cancellations

Senior local government figures have raised the alarm over consequences for scrutiny and governance as growing numbers of councils cancel meetings.

In Hampshire, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases by local authority area with 69, Eastleigh BC has cancelled all meetings until May and New Forest DC has cancelled some meetings.

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Councils to be fully funded for coronavirus costs

Councils in England will be fully funded for implementing measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the chancellor has confirmed.

Speaking yesterday, Rishi Sunak said local authorities will be fully compensated for the new measures, with the devolved administrations receiving at least £3.5bn in additional funding.

Mr Sunak also unveiled a package of ‘unprecedented’ support for businesses with £330bn of guarantees.

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[Coronavirus] Schools in Wales all closing by Friday

All schools in Wales will close by Friday at the latest in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Welsh Government has announced.

The country's Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she was bringing forward the Easter break.

It comes as Scotland took similar steps with all schools and nurseries there closing from the end of the week and may not reopen before summer.

There is an estimated 200,000 cases of coronavirus across the globe.

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[Coronavirus] Government launches voucher scheme to cover free school meals during closures

The Government is to launch a voucher scheme to ensure children eligible for free school meals will continue to have access to hot food while schools shut down for the foreseeable future.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced in the Commons on Wednesday schools in England would close from Friday to all children except those of “key workers” and vulnerable children due to the coronavirus crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Call to lift benefits to help renters

A top benefit advice charity has called for action to protect people who rent their homes.

Turn2Us said universal credit should be increased to help renters who are affected by the coronavirus.

The charity also wants tenants to be shielded from having to return advance benefit payments.

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[Coronavirus] NHS staff 'at risk' over lack of protective gear

NHS staff say they are being put at risk during the coronavirus outbreak because of a lack of protective gear.

One doctor told the BBC that frontline healthcare workers felt like "cannon fodder" as they do not have access to equipment such as face masks.

Health workers also expressed concerns that not enough of them were being tested for the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Andy Burnham calls for volunteers to help councils support the vulnerable

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for the mobilisation of a people's army in the region to help councils support vulnerable people as the Covid-19 pandemic worsens.

The former Health Secretary has called for volunteers in the region of 2.8m people to sign up to support council officials in providing food, medicines and care for those in need.

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[Coronavirus] Treasury delays Implementation of IR35 tax until 2021

The government’s implementation of the controversial IR-35 tax rules has been postponed until April 2021, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Chief secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay announced the delay to Commons yesterday, less than a week after the Budget confirmed that tax was to go live next month.

"I can also this evening announce the government is postponing the reforms to the off-payroll working rules, IR35, from April 2020 to April 6, 2021”, Barclay said to Commons.

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[Coronavirus] Cratus creates coronavirus hotline

Cratus Communications has created a hotline service for council leaders and chief executives to help them through the Covid-19 crisis.

The hotline number has been created as a sounding board for advice, allowing them to discuss issues they are facing with Cratus’ team - many of whom have held leadership positions in local authorities.

Cratus will also ask its private sector clients to support councils by sharing their resources and expertise.

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Coronavirus: UK businesses feel impact of latest measures

Britons and UK businesses are feeling the impact of unprecedented coronavirus measures, as the chancellor prepares to unveil plans to help the economy.

Retailer Laura Ashley filed for administration as venues across the UK closed their doors, and airports warned they could shut down "within weeks".

It comes after the government outlined new advice to avoid unnecessary travel and contact with others.

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Coronavirus: Hotels and empty offices should be used to let homeless self-isolate, ministers told

The government has been urged to use vacant buildings such as hotels and offices to provide “safe spaces” for the homeless during the coronavirus crisis.

Campaigners said ministers should block-book hotel rooms to provide “field hospitals” for rough-sleepers to self-isolate as the disease spreads rapidly across the UK.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran suggested offices vacated by home-working staff could also be deployed to offer “a sanitised place to eat, drink water and use the toilet”.

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The need for a social care plan is more urgent than ever [opinion]

In Wednesday’s budget announcement, one word dominated – coronavirus. We are in a public health emergency, and resources rightly need to be spent dealing with it.

Unfortunately, the state of our social care, already at breaking point, will be made worse by the current pandemic. Coronavirus has the most severe impact on older and vulnerable groups and with 95 per cent of people living with dementia over 65, we need to consider the devastating impact this virus could have on them.

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Clean air for all: Lampposts to charge electric cars

An “electric avenue” has been developed where lampposts have been converted into chargers for battery-powered cars.

In what is thought to be the first of its kind, a street in the capital has been transformed into a hub for the vehicles to promote their use in residential areas. Twenty-four lampposts over a half-mile stretch of Sutherland Avenue in Maida Vale, northwest London, have been converted to contain chargepoints, allowing residents without driveways to power up electric vehicles overnight.

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Online political ads should be labelled, says Law Commission

Online political adverts should be labelled or “imprinted” to show who is paying for them, according to the Law Commission, which warns that there is a “very real risk of the electoral process losing credibility”.

The Law Commission’s review is aimed at modernising ballot rules and bringing them together in a single, consistent legislative framework. Other changes proposed include simplifying the nomination process.

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Public health gets above inflation rise but cuts ‘hit coronavirus capacity’

The public health grant will increase by 4.8% next year in a move government says is intended to cover the costs of wage increases for NHS staff working in organisations commissioned by councils.

The overall grant for 2020-21 was finally confirmed this morning as £3.28bn compared to £3.13bn this year. This is 3 percentage points above inflation which stood at 1.8% in January.

However, the grant is still 5.5% (£190m) lower than the overall allocation in 2015-16 of £3.47bn.

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Planning rules and audit deadline relaxed to support coronavirus effort

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has agreed to a string of measures designed to ease pressure on councils and allow them to focus their efforts on helping the most vulnerable through the coronavirus outbreak.

The government is also temporarily suspending routine Care Quality Commission inspections during the outbreak, and Ofsted will "look very favourably" on any requests to defer inspections because of coronavirus.

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Ministers mull legislation for remote council meetings

The government has announced it will now consider bringing forward legislation to allow council committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period.

It is also considering removing the requirement for annual council meetings to take place in person, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government announced following a teleconference meeting with more than 300 council leaders and leading figures from the sector and from Whitehall.

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Reported delay to spending review “unsurprising”, says CCN

A reported delay to the Treasury's Spending Review is “unsurprising” according to the County Councils Network.

Senior Treasury figures said the review could be pushed back to the end of the year to give the government more time to consider the impact of the crisis, The Telegraph reported.

The review will set department spending for public services and investment, covering resource budgets from 2021-22 to 2023-24 and capital budgets up to 2024-25.

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Public health grant to increase by £145m in 2020-21

Central government is to increase the public health grant by £145m to £3.3bn in 2020-21, a real term increase of 2.6% compared with 2019-20.

The total funding package handed down from central government to local government has increased from £3.1bn in 2019-20, to £3.3bn in 2020-21, according to figures released by the Department for Health and Social Care.

Funding from the grant is used for a variety of services including sexual health services, stop smoking campaigns and drug and alcohol treatment.

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Scottish economy faces 'permanent scarring' from coronavirus

Scotland should prepare for “permanent scarring” of its economy as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a leading think tank has warned.

The Scottish Government said this week that public events involving 500 or more people should be cancelled or postponed in order to protect the resilience of public services.

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Coronavirus: NHS England to cancel all non-urgent surgery to free up 30,000 beds

The head of NHS England hopes to stop the healthcare system becoming overwhelmed during a potential surge of COVID-19 cases.

The health service announced plans to cancel all routine surgery and send as many patients as possible home, with the aim of freeing up a third of the 100,000 hospital beds in England.

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Coronavirus: Chancellor unveils £350bn lifeline for economy

The government has unveiled a package of financial measures to shore up the economy against the coronavirus impact.

It includes £330bn in loans, £20bn in other aid, a business rates holiday, and grants for retailers and pubs. Help for airlines is also being considered.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told a press conference it was an "economic emergency. Never in peacetime have we faced an economic fight like this one."

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Firefighters told to cease ‘non-essential’ action amid fears over keeping “core emergency service” healthy

A number of fire and rescue services have already decided to take measures to restrict interaction between firefighters and the public.

Firefighters have been told to cease ‘non-essential’ action amid fears over keeping the “core emergency service” healthy for as long as possible.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which represents workers within the fire and rescue services across the UK, issued the warning despite what it deems as “little directive from central government”.

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Councils must not pay the price of the bailout this time round [opinion]

The 2008 bailout of the banks was followed by a decade of austerity, destroying council services. Rishi Sunak must not repeat George Osborne’s mistakes, writes LGC editor Nick Golding.

If councils had wanted one thing this year it was the end of austerity, with the comprehensive spending review signalling a rise in public sector spend after a decade of contraction.

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Sunak extends coronavirus business rates holiday

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the business rates holiday to all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector, irrespective of their rateable value.

The move came as part of a dramatic package of measures to shore up the economy as it reels from coronavirus, including the government underwriting £330bn of loan guarantees – something Mr Sunak described as "equivalent to 15% of our GDP".

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Gove to oversee public sector preparedness for coronavirus

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove is to chair a new implementation committee set up to support the government’s response to coronavirus.

The committee will oversee preparedness of the public sector, excluding the NHS, and critical national infrastructure.

It is one of four such committees announced by the government this afternoon, the chairs of which will attend a new daily C-19 meeting of ministers and officials which will monitor progress and refine measures agreed by the COBR committee chaired by the prime minister.

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Jenrick urges councils not to delay on coronavirus spending

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick this week urged council leaders not to put off decisions because of money in their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing more than 300 council leaders via teleconference, he insisted the Government will be ‘supporting you and ensuring the money flows to you’.

Responding to local government calls for the new £1bn hardship fund to be flexible, Mr Jenrick said: ‘We want to see this money flowing out of the door to the individuals who need it as quickly as possible.’

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Jenrick admits no science behind flooding threshold

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick has admitted there is no science behind a threshold that determines whether councils receive cash to cope with flooding.

Under existing criteria, the Government only provides property grants for flood resilience to council tax billing authorities where at least 25 properties have suffered damage.

Mr Jenrick is understood to be resisting councils’ appeals for more flexibility over funding for flood recovery, including looking again at the ‘unfair’ criteria.

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Coronavirus: Downing Street to give daily TV briefings on outbreak

The government is to hold daily televised press conferences to update the public on the fight against coronavirus, Downing Street has said.

From Monday, Boris Johnson or a senior minister will address the media to ensure people are informed about how to protect themselves.

It follows criticism of No 10 for an apparent lack of transparency over its plans to stem the spread of the virus.

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Social care coronavirus guidance urges ‘plans for mutual aid’

Councils have been urged to contact all adult social care providers in their areas, including ones they do not directly commission, to “map out” plans for the impact of coronavirus, under guidance published on Friday by Public Health England.

Three documents focused on the care homes, supported living and home care sectors, which are also aimed at clinical commissioning groups and care providers, outline measures that should be taken in various scenarios.

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Only 10% of councils meeting their pothole repair deadlines

Only one in 10 local authorities are meeting their own target times to fix potholes and other road defects, new research has revealed today.

Cycling UK found most councils set a three week target time to repair non-urgent potholes. However, no councils in Scotland or Wales responding to their freedom of information request achieved this, and only one in six English authorities met this target time.

North Tyneside Council repaired all 39,258 identified potholes on time between 2015-19, making it the most effective authority. It said Wakefield City Council was the worst performer, managing to fill only 13% of reported potholes on time.

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Council suspends all debt-related court action in wake of coronavirus

Sandwell Council said it will not take any court action for debt against residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Council said the announcement would help take pressure off people during a difficult time.

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Shapps announces £90m tech fund to make journeys ‘greener’

The Government has launched a multi-million pound fund to trial new technology aimed at making journeys ‘easier, smarter and greener’.

The £90m funding boost, which has been announced alongside a consultation on UK transport laws, will lead to trials of new transport innovation in three new ‘future transport zones’.

The zones will provide testing for experts, allowing them to work with a range of local bodies, such as councils, hospitals, airports and universities, to test innovative ways to transport people and goods.

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Six councils receive over £1m to ‘spearhead’ digital projects

Six councils across England will receive a share of £1.2m of funding to spearhead innovative digital projects to improve public services, the Government has announced.

Each council will receive up to £350,000 to push forward existing projects aimed at harnessing digital technology to create smarter ways to deliver public services such as housing repairs and the planning process.

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Tory MPs call for more funding for services to prevent rough sleeping

A group of 10 Conservative MPs have called for a move from a policy of ‘housing first’ to one of ‘prevention first’ that would see more funding go to services aimed at preventing homelessness.

In an essay collection published by the think tank Localis entitled ‘Valuing Housing, Improving lives’, the MPs attempt to rethink the social and economic role of housing over the next decade.

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Yorkshire council criticises Ofsted rating based on ‘short inspection visit’

A local authority in Yorkshire has said it is ‘disappointed’ by an Ofsted rating of its children’s social care services which concluded they were ‘inadequate’.

The inspectors said that since the last inspection in 2016 when East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s services were rated ‘good’, there had been a ‘marked deterioration’ in the quality of help and protection support for children in East Riding.

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Coronavirus: PM says everyone should avoid office, pubs and travelling

The PM has said everyone in the UK should avoid "non-essential" travel and contact with others to curb coronavirus - as the country's death toll hit 55.

Boris Johnson said people should work from home where possible as part of a range of stringent new measures.

Pregnant women, people over the age of 70 and those with certain health conditions should consider the advice "particularly important", he said.

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Birmingham City Council CFO resigns after chief executive snub

Birmingham City Council finance chief Clive Heaphy has resigned after his application for the vacant chief executive role was unsuccessful.

Heaphy joined the council in January 2018 after previously holding senior finance positions at HS2 and Brent Council.

In a statement to colleagues, Heaphy said: “Following my unsuccessful application to become chief executive, I have decided that it is no longer in mine or Birmingham’s interests for me to continue to work for the council.

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Northamptonshire predicts £119k budget surplus

Northamptonshire County Council has predicted a surplus of £119,000 on its 2019-20 budget.

The forecast, presented to a cabinet meeting, is based on income and expenditure up to the end of January 2020, and will see an underspend of £119,000 against the approved budget of £417.7m.

Most of the underspend is to be made up from a £2.7m reduction in adult social care costs, compared to last month’s estimates.

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Government plans to draft in Army to keep hospitals and supermarkets secure, escort food convoys and build tented field wards next to care homes to cope with crisis as deaths almost double in 24 hours

Ministers have drawn up plans to put troops on the streets to help deal with the coronavirus crisis after the number of deaths almost doubled within 24 hours.

With the death toll jumping from 11 to 21 and the number of confirmed UK cases leaping by almost 40 per cent, Downing Street accelerated plans to ban large public events and implement the self-isolation of entire households where any member has succumbed to the illness.

In a bid to 'shield' the most vulnerable, the Government is also expected to tell people over 70 to stay in strict isolation at home or in care homes for four months.

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Coronavirus: Supermarkets ask shoppers to be 'considerate' and stop stockpiling

Supermarkets are urging shoppers not to buy more than they need amid concern over coronavirus-linked stockpiling.

In a joint letter, UK retailers have reminded customers to be considerate in their shopping, so that others are not left without much-needed items.

"There is enough for everyone if we all work together," it adds.

It comes after some shops began rationing the sales of certain products to avoid them selling out completely.

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Bus cuts leave a million people without a regular service

More than a million people in Great Britain now live at least a mile from a bus stop with a regular service, BBC research suggests.

The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) said cuts to services had left some people "trapped in their homes".

Bus pass use by older and disabled people in England has fallen by almost a fifth in a decade.

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Calls for better support for homeless shelters and food banks amid coronavirus outbreak

Volunteers working in food banks and homeless shelters in the UK say they need more "guidance" and "support" as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

Those helping the vulnerable and homeless told ITV News they fear they will not be able to continue running services if restrictions - like an Italian-style lockdown - are brought in.

It comes as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK rose to more than 1,300, with 35 deaths from the virus.

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Coronavirus patients not self-isolating could be arrested as ministers plan police powers

Ministers are planning to give police the power to arrest people with coronavirus who are not self-isolating, the Health Secretary has confirmed.

Matt Hancock said "we will stop at nothing" in tackling the Covid-19 outbreak as he detailed a series of severe measures the Government is considering.

Bars, restaurants and shops other than supermarkets and pharmacies could be shut while over-70s will be asked in the coming weeks to stay indoors for up to four months, he said.

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Coronavirus: teaching union asks PM why schools are not being closed

The National Education Union – the largest of its kind in Europe – has written to the prime minister calling on him to clarify why he has not closed schools as part of the UK’s coronavirus strategy.

The letter underlines staff concerns about UK policy, which has been criticised for being out of step with other nations’ responses to the pandemic.

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Councils make urgent appeals for supplies of hand sanitiser and face masks amid coronavirus fears

Councils across England have begun appealing for supplies of hand sanitisers, face masks and body bags amid fears they will run out as public demand for them surges.

Local authorities have placed extra orders from their contractors to ensure that essential hygiene products are well stocked, as experts predict a rapid growth in Covid-19 cases over the coming months.

Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council has issued an urgent tender notice for suppliers to deliver foam sanitiser, surgical latex gloves, face masks with earloops and gel hand sanitiser.

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Local elections postponed for a year over coronavirus

The government has announced that May's local and mayoral elections in England will be postponed for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It comes after the Electoral Commission said on Thursday the polls should be delayed until the autumn to "mitigate" the impact of the virus.

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New major road network and large local major schemes announced

The Government has announced the successful major road network (MRN) and Large Local Major (LLM) schemes proceeding to the next stage of development.

The Treasury's Budget document names 15 schemes that will be taken forward - calling them a 'second round' of projects, despite this being the first funding round for the MRN (2020-2025).

A handful of MRN schemes were previously announced by former transport secretary Chris Grayling in 2018; however these were not mentioned in the Budget.

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Edinburgh allocates £2bn for coronavirus fight

City of Edinburgh Council has allocated £2m of a £7.43m award from the Scottish Government’s recent budget to tackle impacts from the coronavirus outbreak.

The council announced the cash will be available to minimise the impact of the virus on its communities and council services, with an emphasis on health and social care funding.

Latest figures show that 60 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Scotland – up from 24 on Wednesday – with 11 in the NHS Lothian area in which Edinburgh sits.

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Changes to stop R&D tax credit fraud delayed by chancellor

The chancellor has delayed planned changes to a tax credit the government had previously identified as being subject to fraud.

Measures to cap the amount of research and development tax credits small businesses could claim were set to come into force in April, as announced in last year’s Budget.

But Rishi Sunak has put their implementation back a year, with the Treasury planning to "update the design" of the changes.

The government currently spends about £4.5bn on R&D tax credits, most of which goes to large companies, according to the National Audit Office.

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Interactive map to be created for council audits

The National Audit Office (NAO) is working on creating an interactive map helping members of the public find out the outcome of their council’s audit.

It is understood that interested parties would be able to use the map to find their council, with links directing them to auditor reports, letters and further information.

Reports by auditors are notoriously hard to find on council websites and the NAO is hopeful that its new tool will be ready to make 2019/20 audits easier to access.

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Jenrick 'deeply disappointed' in housing delivery under Khan

The number of homes being delivered in the capital under Sadiq Khan has been ‘deeply disappointing’, according to secretary of state for housing Robert Jenrick.

Mr Jenrick has written to the mayor of London calling for a revised London Plan that takes proactive steps to surpass the housing requirement in the Plan.

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Government debt to rise by £125bn by 2025

Public sector net debt is forecast to rise by £125bn or 4.6% of GDP, as government embarks on the largest spending increase since 1992, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The figures were revealed by the organisation in the OBR's economic and fiscal outlook, released alongside the Budget.

In the early years of the Budget, net debt is expected to be over 1% lower than previously forecast in March 2019, according to the OBR.

By 2023-24, net debt is expected to be 2.9 percentage points higher than the OBR's previous forecast in March 2019, rising to 75.6% of GDP.

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Coronavirus: PM set to escalate UK's response in a matter of hours

Boris Johnson is set to escalate the country's coronavirus response to the next phase - which could put the UK on the path to school closures, the cancellation of sporting events and people being made to work from home.

The prime minister will chair an emergency COBRA meeting on Thursday where he is expected to declare that the UK will switch from trying to contain COVID-19 to delaying its spread.

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Biggest boost in decade for affordable homes

More funding for affordable housing and accommodation for rough sleepers has been announced as part of a programme worth more than £12 billion.

The government has pledged to extend a key affordable housing programme for five years from 2021, when the present £9 billion investment ends, and to increase allocations from the fund by a third to £12.2 billion.

Rishi Sunak said that it would be “the largest cash investment in affordable housing in a decade”.

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Planning paper shows Thatcher’s ghost lives on in Johnson government

The industries nationalised on then prime minister Clem Attlee’s watch, like coal and steel, have been privatised, leaving the NHS as the main remnant of his administration’s reform programme.

Another is the Town and Country Planning Act, which continues to provide the framework for how land use is controlled, nearly three quarters of a century on from its passage in 1947.

This legislation established the green belt, which like the NHS, continues to exercise a powerful hold on the British imagination.

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Hancock: Social care to get ‘everything it needs’

Health secretary Matt Hancock has promised the government will ensure the adult social care system will get “everything that it needs” to respond to the coronavirus crisis, after a £5bn response fund was announced in the budget.

Mr Hancock said the government is working closely with the social care sector on preparations, with details of what further measures may be necessary expected following a COBRA meeting.

Mr Hancock said social care was at the “frontline” of the government’s response to coronavirus.

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Coronavirus: Plans for homeworking stepped up as concern grows over new burdens

There is increasing concern over whether authorities will be paid back for the additional expenses they are accruing as a result of having to accommodate coronavirus-stricken visitors to their areas, LGC has learnt.

And as the coronavirus crisis deepens, councils are putting plans in place to enable much of their workforce to operate from home, while facing increasing calls to postpone elections.

If somebody tests positive for coronavirus, in the event they do not have a home in the authority area to go into immediate quarantine, LGC understands the government is telling local authorities to provide accommodation for them.

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LGA chair self isolating after minister meeting

The chair of the Local Government Association James Jamieson (Con) has announced he is self isolating after attending a meeting with health minister Nadine Dorries, who has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Cllr Jamieson, who is leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, said he has taken the decision today following the meeting on Friday.

Ms Dorries announced she has tested positive for coronavirus.

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Jenrick outlines sweeping planning reforms

The government has announced a review of the way councils calculate their housing needs as part of a wider reform of the post-war planning system.

Robert Jenrick, the housing and communities secretary, unveiled the proposed shake-up - which would also see designated zones under which development is made easier and money back for applicants who win planning appeals - in the House of Commons this morning.

He told MPs that a planning white paper will be published in the spring to bring up to date the existing system, which he said “has failed to keep pace” and is “complex, out-of-date and fails to deliver enough homes where they are needed”.

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UK confirms digital services tax despite US threats

From April, the digital services tax will introduce a 2% levy on revenues of social media services, online marketplaces and search engines, and the Office of Budget Responsibility projects will raise £280m in its first year.

“Something has to be done, and until more comprehensive reform happens the government is going to continue to lose billions of pounds,” said George Turner, director of think-tank Taxwatch.

“The DST – imperfect as it might be – ensures that some of that money is not lost.”

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Budget 2020: Rishi Sunak's spending plans 'not as generous as they appear', says IFS

Austerity will remain in place for many of the country’s public services with spending levels by the end of this Parliament at nearly a fifth lower than when the Conservatives first came into power in 2010, a leading think tank has said.

An analysis of the Budget by the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned the Government’s current spending plans are “nothing like as generous as they appear”.

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UK interest rates cut in emergency move

The Bank of England has announced an emergency cut in interest rates to shore up the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Policymakers reduced rates from 0.75% to 0.25%, taking borrowing costs back down to the lowest level in history.

The Bank said it would also free up billions of pounds of extra lending power to help banks support firms.

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Budget 2020: Business rates suspended for shops and cafes

Tens of thousands of England's retail, leisure and hospitality firms will not pay any business rates in the coming year, the chancellor has announced. Companies with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for the tax holiday, Rishi Sunak said.

The measure applies to firms including shops, cinemas, restaurants and hotels.

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Two-mile tunnel underneath Stonehenge COULD go ahead as part of £27billion Budget masterplan to improve Britain's roads

A tunnel could be built under Stonehenge after plans were given the green light as part of a £27billion masterplan to improve the nation's roads.

For decades, motorists on the A303, which passes the stone circle, have endured severe congestion on the popular route to and from the South West.

Opponents have argued that plans for a 1.8mile (2.9km) tunnel to ease gridlock around the World Heritage Site could ruin the prehistoric archaeological surroundings.

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West Yorkshire £1.8bn devolution deal agreed

West Yorkshire is to get its own elected mayor, unlocking an expected £1.8bn in investment for the area, the Chancellor has confirmed in the Budget.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in the statement a "minded-to" agreement was reached after months of negotiations between council leaders and ministers.

The mayor will oversee policies such as transport and housing, working with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

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Budget 2020: £1bn fund to strip cladding from tall buildings

A £1bn fund to help strip combustible cladding from homes in privately owned tower blocks is “a huge step forward”, but likely to be too little and would still leave thousands of people in financial and safety limbo, leaseholders said.

The building safety fund goes beyond the £600m already set aside by the Treasury to remove the specific type of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding used on Grenfell Tower.

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Budget 2020: A "new era" for the country

New Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered his first Budget today, (Mar 11) less than a month after taking on the role.

Mr Sunak began the Budget speech by addressing the issue of coronavirus with a £30bn “fiscal stimulus”, stating the government is prepared to give the NHS “whatever resources it needs” to cope with Covid-19.

"Whether it's research for a vaccine, recruiting thousands of returning staff, or supporting our brilliant doctors and nurses. Whether it's millions of pounds or billions of pounds. Whatever it needs, whatever it costs, we stand behind our NHS."

Mr Sunak also committed to refunding small businesses with fewer than 250 staff for two weeks of sick payment, starting from day one rather than day four.

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Budget 2020: Mayoral authorities win big in transport

The Government has unveiled £4.2bn for urban transport as part of its spring budget giveaways.

The cash will be released from 2022-23 as part of five-year funding settlements for eight mayoral combined authorities, however, some authorities will have to put in place an elected mayor to win their share of the cash.

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Budget 2020: £27bn for national roads and £2.5bn for potholes

Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged an extra £2.5bn for local road maintenance in the Budget.

Councils will get an extra £500m a year from 2020/21 to 2024/25 through a new potholes fund.

The Treasury said the cash will 'fix up to 50 million potholes ... but will also be available for local authorities to undertake longer-term road resurfacing works to prevent potholes from appearing in the first place'.

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Budget 2020: Flood-hit areas to share £200m defence fund

Flood-hit areas will vie for £200m in funding to improve flood defences, the chancellor has announced in his Budget.

A £200m ‘place-based resilience programme’ has been announced that will go to 25 areas around the country, chosen based on criteria including ‘repeated significant flooding in the past’.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that overall investment in flood defences in England will total £5.2bn over the next six years, doubling spending and reducing national flood risk by up to 11% by protecting 336,000 homes and non-residential properties.

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‘Sustainable council finance – the Budget DOESN’T get it done’

Rishi Sunak’s first Budget showed the government is thinking big – but not necessarily thinking about the big problems councils face, writes LGC editor Nick Golding.

“People’s Budget from a People’s Government” delivered by Rishi Sunak confirms a fundamental shift in economic policy.

Restraint has gone, big spending is in. You couldn’t imagine the speech being delivered by the other chancellors of the past 12 months, the more fiscally conservative Sajid Javid or, in particular, Philip Hammond.

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Budget 2020: Sunak gambles on capital spending splurge

Despite volatility caused by coronavirus and a sluggish increase in the economy, the chancellor has decided to gamble that a big increase in capital spending will deliver higher growth and productivity by the next election.

Total departmental spending is expected to grow twice as fast as the economy over the three-year period of the Spending Review to 2024.

Day-to-day departmental spending is expected to grow at the fastest rate over a spending review period since Spending Review 2004.

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Social care funding gap inquiry launched by MPs

MPs have launched an inquiry to establish how much money the social care sector needs to avoid shortages.

The Health and Social Care Committee will look at how much extra money is needed from the Government over each of the next five years.

Members will also examine workforce shortages and what measures are needed to address these.

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Homelessness: Councils 'telling people to contact private landlords'

Councils are being forced to "leave homeless people on the streets" because of a chronic lack of affordable housing in their areas, Crisis has said.

The charity said its research showed more than a third of those asking their local authority for help saw their situation remain the same or worsen.

In some cases, the only help people were given was a list of potential private landlords for them to contact.

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Councils pile back into PWLB following coronavirus rate drop

Local authorities dived back into Public Works Loan Board borrowing this week after the interest rate on some loans dropped below 2% following the coronavirus outbreak.

Council borrowing from the government facility fell dramatically following the decision by the Treasury in October to add one percentage point to the rate.

But councils have been tempted back to the facility after rates – based on the price of government gilts – fell dramatically due to coronavirus fears.

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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson to hold emergency Cobra meeting

The meeting is expected to consider whether "social distancing" measures should be phased in. These could include banning of big events, closing schools and encouraging home working.

It comes after a man in his 60s became the UK's third death linked to the Covid-19 virus.

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The tax that hits struggling High Streets hardest

In the 1980s and 1990s, firms would have been fighting over the keys to 18-22 Victoria Street, a large, modern two-storey unit directly opposite the shopping centre. Not any more.

Until last month, the property had been rented to Topshop and Topman. But their owner, Sir Philip Green's Arcadia group, walked away when the lease came up for renewal. His shops have been struggling to keep up with the competition, and dozens, up and down the country, are being closed.

"We are having difficulty attracting any interest, never mind a national retailer," says Paul Moran, a ratings surveyor whose company, Mason Owen, is tasked with finding a new tenant.

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Labour challenge Chancellor to make up £27 billion social housing cash shortfall

labour has challenged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make up a £27 billion shortfall in social housing funding in Wendesday's budget.

If the Tories had maintained the level of investment in social homes when they came to power in 2010, there would be 200,000 more of these homes today, according to the party’s analysis.

Instead, the number of new, Government-funded homes for social rent has fallen by 30,000 a year.

The number of households renting from private landlords rising by more than a million over 10 years.

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Councils warn 3.6 million extra cars are damaging Britain’s roads

Council leaders have warned the number of extra cars being driven on the roads would cover the entire length of Britain’s coastline if lined up next to each other.

Figures show that 3.6 million additional cars were licensed between 2009 and 2019, an increase of 13%.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said that over the same time period, annual council spending on highways and road maintenance fell by 32% as a result of funding cuts and increased demand for other services.

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Home Office extends funding for EU Settlement Scheme

Local authorities will be allowed to bid for a share of £8m to help vulnerable people apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

The funding will enable councils to provide legal support, caseworker services or advice to those that are hardest to reach.

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PM welcomes £5.2bn flood fund and announces further £200m

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed a £5.2bn investment into flood defences during a visit to Bewdley in Worcestershire on Sunday (Mar 8).

The town, home to the River Severn, was badly hit by floods following the wettest February on record. And although the area of Bewdley is slowly getting over the devastation as the river levels continue to reduce, lasting damages continues to disrupt daily life.

The multi billion pound fund, set to be outlined in Wednesday’s Budget (Mar 11), will help to build 2,000 new flood and coastal defence schemes and protect 336,000 properties in the country.

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City threatened with 114 notice in budget row

Councillors at Peterborough City Council were last week told a section 114 notice would be issued the next day unless they reached an agreement on budget plans for next year, it has emerged.

Savings proposals for 2020-21 put forward by the Conservative group, which leads the council as a minority administration, were voted down at a meeting of full council on Wednesday.

Party leaders were then called into private talks in a bid to break the stalemate and told by officers a section 114 notice would be issued the following day if the budget proposals were not agreed.

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Environment Bill new burdens could cost districts £300m

District councils will be left out pocket by an average of £1.75m a year as a result of planned reforms to waste collection in the Environment Bill, the chair of the District Councils Network has warned.

The Environment Bill, which passed its second reading through Parliament at the end of last month, features a host of measures that require significant costs to be factored into councils’ revenue budgets, including mandatory food and garden waste collections and a rewuirement that all councils collect the same sets of materials.

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Tory MPs demand Chancellor kick starts a council house building boom in Wednesday’s Budget

TORY MPs today demanded Rishi Sunak uses his Budget to kick start a council house building boom to repay voters’ trust.

In a stinging letter to the Chancellor, 27 Tory MPs from across the party say the Government is failing to provide enough cheap houses.

The record collapse in the size of social housing stock has been “ignored for too many decades”, they also argue.

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Parents of sick babies to get extra £160 a week

Parents of newborn babies who fall ill will be given £160 a week on top of maternity and paternity pay in a budget windfall for families this week.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, will announce the change when he unveils the government’s economic plans on Wednesday, which will see upwards of £50bn poured into infrastructure projects over the next five years.

Under the plans, parents who need to take time off to care for a sick child will be able to claim the extra money for up to 12 weeks. The payments will help the families of the 40,000 babies born each year who have to spend more than a week in neonatal care.

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Top-speed broadband will reach even remotest parts of Britain, promises Chancellor

Billions of pounds is to be invested in next-generation broadband to deliver fibre broadband to the remotest parts of the country, Rishi Sunak has said.

The Chancellor also announced plans for a £1 billion deal with the mobile phone industry to improve 4G coverage significantly across the nation and bring to an end the curse of mobile "not spots" for millions.

The Conservatives pledged at the election to bring full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business in Britain within five years.

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Workers over 40 to be taxed 2.5% to fund cost of old-age care under plans being considered by Matt Hancock

All workers aged over 40 would have to pay a fixed levy to fund the cost of their care in old age under plans being studied by Boris Johnson.

The radical proposals are designed to end the nightmare of pensioners being forced to sell their homes to pay for social care.

Commons sources say it would be based on a German system where employees contribute 2.5 per cent of their wages.

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New budget rules for councils may hit special needs school spending

Campaigners have raised fears that children with special needs, such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, could lose out from new government rules that will prevent councils from subsidising education spending from other parts of their budgets.

The failure of government funding to match growing demand has led many councils to overspend on their education budgets and raid their reserves, with the situation particularly acute in special-needs education.

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LGA responds to CIPFA council tax research

This increase will cost councils an extra £220 million this year - this is to cover increased contract costs to home care and residential care providers.

Responding to research by CIPFA into council tax increases this year, Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said:

“Faced with ongoing funding pressures such as homelessness and looking after vulnerable children, councils continue to be left with little choice but to ask residents to pay more to help them try and protect their local services.''

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Councils face £6.5bn funding gap by 2025

Local services are facing a £6.5bn funding gap over the next five years, town hall chiefs have warned today.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said that while extra money has managed to halve the funding gap in 2020/21 compared to the year before, rising cost pressures and unprecedented demand will see the gap rise again significantly by 2025.

Adult social care services are facing the shortfall at £3.9bn - making up almost two thirds of the overall gap.

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Service reform needed to tackle persistent use of Spice within homeless population

Legislation has failed to reduce the use of Spice by homeless people, a new study has concluded.

Research from Manchester Metropolitan University has found that legislation such as banning the sale of ‘legal highs’ has failed to reduce its popularity within the homeless population due to its high potency and low price.

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Boris Johnson close to breaching 100-day promise on social care talks, warn councils

Next week’s Budget should be used to make urgent progress on the cross-party talk on adult social care which Boris Johnson promised within 100 days of the December election, local councils have said.

The budget falls just 10 days short of the prime minister’s self-imposed deadline, with no sign of the talks getting under way.

Council bosses warned that without a new settlement for social care, local services in England face a funding gap of almost £6.5bn by 2025.

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Matt Hancock asks MPs and peers for views on adult social care reform

Matt Hancock has written to MPs and peers, urging them to help secure a cross-party consensus on reform of the adult social care system, as the government commits to finding an answer to the ongoing problem.

In his letter, the health secretary says he is determined to find a sustainable solution to the problem of people being hit by large costs that are hard to plan for when their loved ones require social care.

The government has committed to the principle that nobody should be forced to sell their home to pay for care, saying that everybody accessing care must have safety and security.

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More than £100m allocated for local government Brexit preparations

Local government organisations have so far received £104m to prepare for EU Exit according to a new report by the National Audit Office, which criticises the government for showing a “limited picture” of overall EU Exit spending and putting “little information” in the public domain.

Between 2016-17 and 2019-20, the Treasury made £6.3bn of extra funding available to cover the costs of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal. Of this, £104 million was allocated to councils, ports, health authorities and other local organisations to support preparations according to 'The cost of EU Exit Preparations' report.

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MHCLG spent £85m preparing for EU Exit

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spent a total of £85m preparing for EU Exit up to the end of January this year, says a new report today from the National Audit Office (NAO).

The report on the cost of EU Exit preparations found that since June 2016 and the 31 January this year, local government organisations received £104m in funding to prepare for EU Exit.

The report does not come to a value-for-money conclusion on government’s spend on preparing for EU Exit.

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Fears raised after Scottish government borrows £200m to balance budget

The Scottish Government is to press for greater borrowing powers to deal with the increasing fiscal risk arising from the devolution of tax and welfare powers, after it borrowed £200m to pay for next its 2020/21 budget.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes said she would use the government’s forthcoming medium term financial strategy – due on 21 May – to make the case for enhanced borrowing and reserve powers, arguing that existing levers are inadequate to manage the volatility inherent in the fiscal framework.

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Consultation on new business rates funding model expected in the summer

Whitehall officials and the Local Government Association are holding ongoing discussions on an alternative model of business rates retention under which councils would be compensated for the impact of appeals.

A consultation on this and other changes to the design of the move to further business rates retention is now expected to take place in the summer, according to a report to be presented next week to the LGA’s executive board.

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Council closes offices amid coronavirus scare

East Devon DC has closed its offices in Honiton to the public after a member of staff was identified as possibly having coronavirus.

The member of staff, who recently returned from a high risk country, has been displaying potential symptoms.

All members of staff were sent home on Friday and the majority will be able to continue working remotely.

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2 million over-55s live in dangerous homes, say charities

More than 2 million people aged over 55 live in homes that endanger their health, according to a report, with older homeowners who cannot afford to maintain their home most at risk.

Accidents and illnesses caused by dangerous homes cost the NHS £1.4bn a year, according to Home and Dry, a report by the Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair England based on analysis of the English Household Survey.

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Hot air from the Tube recycled to keep homes warm

More than 1,000 homes are being heated by warm air extracted from Tube tunnels in a pioneering scheme that could be replicated across the London Underground network.

A new energy centre on the site of the abandoned City Road Underground station, closed in 1922, is using a large fan to suck air via a six-storey shaft from the Northern Line. The air passes over a series of pipes to heat water that is pumped to 1,350 homes, a school and two leisure centres in Islington.

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Coronavirus could shut down parliament for months under emergency plans

Parliament could shut its doors for months under emergency government plans to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

It follows the UK's biggest day-on-day increase in cases, with 87 people now confirmed to have the disease.

MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee committee are due to question England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty on Thursday as to how well prepared the UK is to deal with the impact of a possible global pandemic.

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NHS long-term plan did not include workforce needed to deliver, says NAO

The £33.9bn NHS Long Term Plan did not include detailed plans to secure the workforce needed to deliver them, according to the National Audit Office.

Based on a review of two service areas, the NAO found that, at the time of drawing up the Long Term Plan, there were estimates of nurses required for mental health service commitments.

However it said: "It did not include detailed plans for how it would secure the nursing workforce required to deliver the commitments: it stated that a workforce plan would be published in 2019, as Health Education England budgets for workforce education and training beyond March 2020 were not yet agreed."

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Coronavirus will brutally expose the effect of a decade of public service cuts [opinion]

If there’s an epidemic on the scale Public Health England warns of, the government may not be able to keep its citizens safe.

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Government delays Budget infrastructure plan

The long-awaited National Infrastructure Strategy is to be further delayed, and not released next week as expected, the BBC understands.

The delay will allow the new chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to refocus the strategy, to reflect potentially larger resources available, and to incorporate the challenge of achieving "net zero" carbon emissions over the same 30-year timescale.

Treasury sources say the overall ambition to make investments to "level up" the regions that also help meet commitments on climate change, remains and will be reflected in next week's Budget.

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Flybe collapse hits council-owned airports

Council-owned airports across the country have been hit by the collapse of Flybe.

The airline entered administration this morning, ceasing trading and leading to the grounding of all flights.

It operated domestic flights between dozens of regional airports but encountered financial difficulties last year and, despite new ownership, narrowly avoided going under in January.

The Government is ‘urgently’ working to find other airlines to take over Flybe’s routes, which would offer a lifeline to airports that relied on the airline.

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Councils and teachers call for over £5bn of extra school funding

Local authorities, parents and teachers have joined forces to call on the Government to increase school funding by £5.5bn.

The Government pledged last year to increase school funding by £7.1bn over the next three years – a figure which fell short of the £12.6bn they estimated was needed to deliver a sustainable world class education for every child.

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Kier suffers £41m loss

Outsourcing specialist Kier has posted losses of more than £41m in the past six months.

Reporting its results for the second half of 2019, the firm suffered a loss before tax of £41m, but the figure has reduced from £45m compared to the same period in 2018.

Kier's net debt stands at £242.5m.

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People moves: MHCLG confirm interim permanent secretary

Jeremy Pocklington has been appointed interim permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, replacing Melanie Dawes who is now chief executive at Ofcom.

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Councils report 'huge overspends' on social care

More than eight out of ten councils overspent on children's social care in the last financial year, with nearly half (47%) spending more than their adult social care budget, new figures have shown.

Analysis by financial adviser Grant Thornton UK shows that council expenditure on social care has risen by an 'alarming' rate.

In 2018/19, 47% of councils overspent on their adult social care budget, a 7% increase compared to 2017/18. At the same time, 82% overspent against their children’s social care budget.

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Tackling ‘two-tier’ access to care in Central Bedfordshire [opinion]

During my career in social care and housing I have seen trends in how care services are delivered come and go. Councils who acted to divest themselves of in-house care provision have often had cause to regret it further down the line, and I consider that I have been fortunate in working within authorities that have retained significant direct provision of care services.

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The Tories say austerity is over: this budget will prove it isn’t [opinion]

The budget will at last define a government that has stayed tantalisingly opaque. Who are they really? What do they really mean to do? This budget arrives amid a battalion of crises: coronavirus, severe flood damage from climate crisis and our homemade Brexit fallout, with billions wiped off stock markets.

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Civil servant 'tried to kill herself after Priti Patel bullying'

A civil servant allegedly attempted to kill herself after being bullied by Priti Patel and later received a £25,000 payout, it has been claimed.

The BBC said it had seen legal correspondence claiming the woman had taken an overdose following the alleged incident in October 2015, when Ms Patel was employment minister.

The woman claimed that Ms Patel had shouted at the woman in her private office and told her to "get lost" and "get out of her face". Ms Patel denies the claims.

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This Budget needs to remember local government

Chancellor Rishi Sunak needs to increase funding for local government in his forthcoming Budget if the government is serious about it's aim of 'levelling-up' the UK economy, says Paul Dossett.

"The local government sector has seemed to be a forgotten and neglected element of public services in recent years.

Whilst the government’s increase to local government funding for 2020-21, announced in last year’s Spending Round, was welcome and indeed greatly needed, it only responded to in-year funding pressures.

It does not take into account some of the underlying pressures being faced by the sector long-term, in particular from demand-led services.

Social care continues to be the number one issue impacting councils’ finances in England, given the trilemma of shrinking budgets, an ageing population and rising costs..."

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Council warned of section 114 notice danger as reserves dry up

Low funding and dwindling reserves mean a local authority in Derbyshire risks considering an unbalanced budget by 2021-22, councillors have been warned.

Amber Valley Borough Council faces the prospect of a section 114 notice if it does not take action to redress its underlying budget deficit, its executive director of resources has warned councillors.

This would mean the authority would not be able to make new spending commitments while the notice was being considered, effectively ending non-essential expenditure during the process.

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The 'levelling up' agenda cannot overlook shire counties, says report

A new report today warned Government that counties are lagging behind other parts of the country.

The analysis by Grant Thornton for the County Councils’ Network (CCN) laid out the economic challenges facing shire counties ahead of the Budget.

Next week’s Budget is expected to focus on levelling up ‘red wall’ areas in the north and Midlands – but the report reveals that growth in county areas has lagged behind the rest of the country by 2.6% over the last five years.

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DCN chair slams district’s plan for ‘climate emergency’ tax hike

Concerns have been raised by the chair of the District Councils’ Network over Warwick DC’s plans to hold a referendum on increasing council tax to fund climate action, claiming there is an "asymmetry" to the question in a town with such a large student population.

Councillors in Warwick voted unanimously last week to hold a referendum on introducing a climate action fund precept, equivalent to a 34% council tax increase in 2020-21. This would increase council tax by the equivalent of just over £1 per week for a Band D househol

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Unitary’s children’s services leaps from requires improvement to outstanding

A West Midlands unitary has become only the second council ever to see its children’s services go from an Ofsted rating of requires improvement to one of outstanding in one go.

Telford & Wrekin Council was rated requires improvement four years ago with inspectors finding caseloads significantly above statutory guidance, variable quality of assessments and risks not always identified or responded to quickly enough.

Since then the council has invested in children’s services, including using profits from its commercial enterprises commercial enterprises like Nuplace lettings company and its solar farm.

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Dorset facing £16m overspend following ‘challenging year’

Dorset Council’s expected overspend for the financial year has grown to almost £16m.

A report to senior councillors said that the projected budget gap had reached £15.9m, up from £12.6m at the end of the first quarter.

Higher than expected demand for social care has been the main driver of the overspend, with the adults services directorate accounting for almost £5m and the children’s services directorate accounting for more than £8.5m.

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Lincolnshire council ‘delighted’ by £3.5m Grimsby investment

Grimsby will receive over £3.5m of Government funding, including £2.2m of new investment for the next phase of its landmark Town Deal.

In addition, the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has awarded £1.3m, provided through the Government’s local growth fund program.

The investment brings the total commitment of public and private funding to over £90m to deliver targets of over 8,000 new jobs and nearly 10,000 new homes in Grimsby through the UK’s first Town Deal.

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Jenrick voices support for East Midlands Combined Authority plans

District and borough councils in Leicestershire have announced they will be taking forward discussions about creating an East Midlands Combined Authority after the Government welcomed the idea.

The seven Leicestershire councils wrote to the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, in January in support of devolution and to make clear their willingness to work with the Government on its devolution framework.

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Coronavirus set to restrict chancellor’s Budget choices

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been warned he will have to reassess the plans his first Budget, in response to the economic disruption caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

According to The Times, the Office for Budget Responsibility will alter its forecasts to recognise the economic strain resulting from the outbreak.

An OBR source told the paper that it would take into account the latest information when it publishes its report alongside the government’s tax and spending plans.

The source added that Robert Chote, head of the OBR, would also address the threat of the virus to the government’s economic calculations.

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Warwick District Council gives green light to council tax referendum

Residents are to be given the chance to vote on a proposed 34.2% rise in Warwick District Council’s share of council tax.

If approved, the increase would amount to an increase of £57 per year per household for a Band D property to £223, £52 of this increase will put into a £3m annual ‘ring-fenced’ Climate Action Fund with the remaining £5 going towards the Council’s other services.

Spending plans for the extra income include reducing congestion, improving air quality, enhancing biodiversity and building more energy efficient homes and public buildings.

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To truly ‘level -up’ we need to power up counties

Today the County Councils Network releases a new report that speaks directly to the government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda; a programme that will be fleshed out further in next week’s Budget.

The origins of the need to level up are rooted in globalisation, exacerbated by the financial crash, and partly manifested in the Brexit vote. For those not living in London, or in the centre of the major cities, it is difficult to see the fruits of a global and increasingly technological and services economy, but easy to feel investment in their public services is insufficient.

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'My husband's care will cost me my £2m house'

Changes to social care funding, which would have eased the burden on squeezed family finances, could now be scrapped or delayed.

Older people qualify for support if they have less than £23,250 in assets. This was due to rise in April to £27,000 when the person’s house is not included and £118,000 when it is, as recommended by Sir Andrew Dilnot’s review in 2011.

But sources at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said changes to the means test would be part of Boris Johnson’s care funding plan, due to be published by the end of the year. The Prime Minister has promised no one will have to sell their home to pay for care.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak to snatch £3bn entrepreneurs’ tax relief to pay for the north

Businesses will be hit with a £3bn tax rise to pay for a budget spending spree in the north of England, it can be revealed.

Rishi Sunak, the new chancellor, will scrap entrepreneurs’ relief, which allows those who start a business to pay a preferential rate of tax, according to two sources familiar with the plans. The relief allows entrepreneurs to pay capital gains tax at 10% rather than the usual rate of 20% when they sell a business, up to a lifetime limit of £10m.

Sunak has decided to scrap it because it mostly benefits wealthy businessmen in the south of England. He will divert the cash to pay for nurses and police officers as well as building projects in the Midlands.

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Cash-starved councils face big bills after buying up shopping centres

Almost 150 miles and a three-hour drive separate Malvern Shopping Park, Worcestershire and Surrey County Council’s offices in Kingston.

Surrey’s £74m acquisition of the rather tired retail park in mid-2017 was among the most eyebrow-raising of a wave of deals by local authorities in the commercial property market.

“It was insane,” says an industry insider. “They bought it at the top of the market, rents are high, everyone knew there was going to be a dip in retail warehousing and they paid yesterday’s price for this big lump.

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County lines car thefts: Police chief says gangs target youngsters to steal luxury vehicles

Car theft gangs are using county lines recruitment tactics to groom youngsters into stealing high-value vehicles, a police chief has said.

Dave Thompson, Chief Constable for West Midlands Police, said cars are now easier than ever to steal because keyless technology has led to a "dramatic" increase in vehicle crime.

Criminals are turning to "exactly the same" strategies as those employed by county lines gangs to encourage children and teenagers to work for them, such as offering to buy food for their family, said Mr Thompson.

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Number of rough sleepers falls for second year in row

The number of people sleeping rough has fallen for a second consecutive year in a boost for efforts to eradicate the most visible form of homelessness within five years.

An annual tally by local authorities in England estimated that 4,266 people were sleeping rough on a single night last autumn, 9 per cent lower than in 2018. This significant drop followed a fall of 2 per cent a year earlier, from a peak of 4,751 people in 2017.

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Coronavirus: Shares face worst week since global financial crisis

Stock markets across the globe are suffering their worst week since the global financial crisis of 2008 as fears over the impact of the coronavirus continue to grip investors.

Markets in Europe fell sharply on Friday morning, with London's FTSE 100 index sinking more than 3%.

Asian markets saw more big falls, while in the US, the Dow Jones recorded its biggest daily points drop on Thursday.

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Social care 'cracks are turning into chasms' and system faces collapse in 2029, the Government is warned in an alarming report

The social care system could collapse by 2029 unless the Government intervenes to prevent a funding crisis and a shortage of beds, says a new study.

Action is needed or a 'tipping point' will be reached where older people are unable to afford care, councils lack funding to look after them, and care homes don't have enough room to meet demand, it warns.

The 'Elderly Care Crisis' report calls for an overhaul of funding, including raising the £23,250 wealth threshold at which financial support currently kicks in, to help elderly people struggling to pay massive care bills.

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County hopeful of ‘devo alternative’ growth deal

Hertfordshire CC is hopeful of soon securing a growth deal from the government, with leader David Williams (Con) telling LGC it could represent an alternative to mayoral combined authorities in what government officials describe as “unreformed” county areas in the south of England.

However Cllr Williams (pictured), who is also chair of the County Councils Network, told LGC Hertfordshire may be forced to pursue reorganisation and a mayoral devolution deal to prevent the area being “left behind” if the government decides this is the only option for areas seeking significant new powers and funding.

He said he was hopeful a growth deal would be agreed soon, with a potential announcement in the Budget next month, This follows regular discussions with Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government officials on funding for housing and infrastructure, similar to the £215m deal agreed with Oxfordshire councils last year.

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LGPS funds given discretion over employer exit payments

The government has unveiled measures giving Local Government Pension Scheme funds greater control over exit payments to employers leaving the scheme.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has announced amendments to regulations which require funds to pay exit credits where pension liabilities have been overfunded.

It said it was responding to concerns that some outsourced contractors were claiming exit payments on top of existing benefits from agreements designed to share pensions risk.

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PM announces extra £236m to end rough sleeping

An additional £236m in funding has been announced by the Prime Minister to help get rough sleepers off the street. A new independent advisor, Dame Louise Casey, has been appointed to lead an urgent review into the causes of homelessness. This will serve as a blueprint for action, for Government to deliver additional action to end rough sleeping.

Housing First style ‘move on’ accommodation for up to 6,000 vulnerable people on the streets will be made available through this new funding, giving stability and certainty on a more long-term basis.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ahead of a visit to a homeless charity: “It is simply unacceptable that we still have so many people sleeping on the streets, and I am absolutely determined to end rough sleeping once and for all."

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Maintaining performance - Social Care IMPOWER INDEX

We still don’t know how the Prime Minister intends to ‘fix’ social care, so being able to evidence current performance is vitally important for the sector. Without this, politicians could point at perceived or actual variability in the system as a reason not to substantially increase funding.

Most people working in the sector have a shared vision of what ‘good’ adult social care looks like – it involves greater levels of independence and control, so that people can live more fulfilled lives and remain in their homes and communities for longer.

What is less easy to find consensus on is how to measure and evidence the extent to which the sector is currently achieving this. In a complex system such as adult social care, focusing on a group of specific indicators is controversial – can numbers really reflect what is ‘good’ for any individual person? And can performance metrics understand and represent the importance of local variation?

Given this context, the IMPOWER INDEX uses publicly available data to evaluate council productivity, measured as outcome value per pound spent.

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District approves 34% ‘climate emergency’ tax hike

A Conservative run West Midlands district has unanimously approved plans to become the first local authority to hold a referendum on increasing council tax in order to raise funds for tackling climate change.

At Warwick DC's budget meeting yesterday (Wednesday), councillors from all parties backed a recommendation to vote in favour of holding a referendum on the introduction of a 'climate action fund' precept that would be equivalent to a 34% increase on council tax in 2020-21.

This would mean a rise of £57 a year for a band D property, which Warwick says is only equivalent to a 3% increase on residents' total council tax bill once Warwickshire CC and the police and crime commissioner precepts are taken into account.

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London boroughs’ joint chief to depart

Paul Martin is to step down as joint chief executive of Richmond upon Thames and Wandsworth LBC.

Mr Martin, who joined Wandsworth as chief executive in 2010 and took on the joint role at Richmond in 2016 under a shared staffing arrangement, said it was the “right time” for someone new to take the councils through their next stage of development.

The arrangement has delivered £60m efficiency savings across the two councils, enabling them to deliver better social care, cleaner streets and more leisure services, he added.

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Housing benefit reform a ‘false economy’

A new paper from economists at the University of Warwick has found that since 2011, for every pound the Government has saved in housing benefit, councils have been forced to spend 53p more on temporary housing.

The researchers also found the cuts have had ‘substantial’ human costs such as an increase in evictions, individual bankruptcies and homelessness.

They found that forced evictions in the private rented sector rose by 22% after the cuts were implemented, with the number of households living in council-provided temporary accommodation increasing by nearly 18%.

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Peterborough plans £7m repeat of controversial capital receipts treatment

Peterborough City Council has revealed plans to use £7m of capital receipts to help balance its in-year revenue budget and 2020/21 spending proposals – despite controversy surrounding similar moves in previous years.

Last year MHCLG investigated Peterborough’s use of capital receipts to offset its minimum revenue position (MRP) charge after questions were raised about the lawfulness of the practice.

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Gove outlines EU trade talk plan

- Statement from Michael Gove on the UK's future relationship with the EU

- Further statements on rough sleeping and child protection

- General debate on Welsh affairs later

- Lords meets for questions to ministers

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Budget 2020: Chancellor must raise taxes in first Budget, says IFS

The new chancellor must raise taxes in his first Budget or break the government's rules on borrowing, a leading economic think tank has warned.

Rishi Sunak is under pressure to increase spending on the NHS, social care and schools.

He has also inherited a fiscal target from his predecessor Sajid Javid to bring spending in to balance by 2022.

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Treasury plan for land value duty falls on stony ground

Businesses have poured scorn on a Treasury proposal to scrap business rates and replace them with a land value tax.

The proposal is an attempt to save struggling high streets and will be put forward as part of a fresh review of the business rates system to be announced by Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, in his first budget.

However, business groups and rates experts said that exploring a land value tax would delay an urgently needed overhaul of the £30 billion-a-year levy.

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Flood infrastructure funding increased by only £3m over decade

Central Government funding for existing flood infrastructure has only increased by £3m over the last decade, according to a new analysis.

The research found that while total expenditure has increased in real terms from £802m in 2009/10 to £870m in 2018/19, the majority of the increase has been in capital spending, while revenue spending has fluctuated from a low of £272m in 2013/14 to a high of £344m in 2017/18.

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Councils spend average of £2 per head on cycling infrastructure, study reveals

Local authorities have spent on average just £2 per head of population per year on cycling infrastructure over the last ten years, new research reveals.

The data showed that the average spend per head of population was £2.02 on average over ten years. In 2018/19 the average spend was £2.83 and the five-year average was £2.58.

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Structure review could take place ‘alongside’ North Yorks devo deal

A devolution deal for North Yorkshire has moved a step closer as a meeting has been timetabled next month for leaders to approve their list of asks from the government.

Before departing as Northern Powerhouse minister, Jake Berry held a remote meeting last month with local leaders in which he told them to conduct a review alongside a devolution deal of “how local government does its business”.

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Elphicke handed junior role at MHCLG

Natalie Elphicke has been appointed parliamentary private secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Her appointment comes after spending more than four years as chief executive of the Housing and Finance Institute – a not-for-profit that aims to help councils build more homes.

In her new role, Elphicke, who was elected as an MP for Dover and Deal in December, will now advise ministers within MHCLG.

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Political horse trading yields extra 20% funding for Scottish councils

The Scottish budget has passed its first parliamentary hurdle after the government struck a deal which saw extra funding secured for local authorities, policing and low carbon projects.

Councils were the chief beneficiaries of the agreement between the minority SNP government and the Scottish Greens, gaining a £95m funding boost as a result of budget negotiations between the parties.

The draft budget originally proposed an increase in revenue spending for councils of £494m, but negotiations with the Greens saw the figure raised to £589m – an increase of 19%.

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Rutland named strongest performer in adult social care index

Rutland CC has been named the strongest performer in adult social care using refined productivity metrics.

The council is among 11 unitaries, three London boroughs and one county on the top 15 list of councils providing above average outcomes despite having a below average per capita spend.

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Government to review Public Works Loan Board

A review of the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) is being carried out by the Government, a minister has revealed.

Local government minister Luke Hall said the Treasury and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government were working together on a review of the public sector lender. The review will cover ‘rates and flexibilities that local authorities have,’ Mr Hall told the House of Commons.

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Rishi Sunak to move Treasury officials north

Rishi Sunak, the new chancellor, will use his first budget to announce that parts of the Treasury will move to the north of England as he unveils the biggest spending giveaway since 2001.

A significant number of the Treasury’s 1,500 posts will be transferred to an “economic decision-making campus” in the north in an effort to show northern voters who switched to the Tories in December that the government is serious about their priorities.

The plan, Sunak’s first big move since he replaced Sajid Javid earlier this month, will see officials from key departments of the Treasury moved to the new hub. They will funnel billions of pounds of public money to infrastructure projects and listen to the needs of taxpayers and businesses in the region.

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Councils struggle with £3 billion budget hole for keeping children safe

Town halls have blown a £3billion hole in their budgets for keeping children safe over the past five years, they revealed today. Councils overspent as grants from Whitehall were slashed, according to the Local Government Association.

It called on the Government to use the forthcoming review of the children’s social care system to work with councils to understand why there has been a surge in demand for support.

More than 52,000 children are subject to child protection plans to keep them safe – a rise of 53% since 2009.

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Public back local tourism taxes

More than half of residents think councils should have the power to set a tourism levy, according to a new survey.

The poll, conducted for the Local Government Association (LGA), found 53% of people believe their local council should be able to charge tourists a small fee to pay for local services.

The LGA is calling on the Government to invite areas to become a tourist zone and pilot a local tourism levy. Its research found that a pound-per-night levy could raise between £238,000 and over £7m a year depending on the area.

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District plans referendum on 34% council tax hike

A West Midlands district could become the first council to hold a referendum on increasing council tax in a move intended to raise funds for its climate emergency plans.

At Warwick DC's budget meeting on Wednesday, councillors are being recommended to vote in favour of holding a referendum on the introduction of a 'climate action fund' precept, equivalent to a 34% increase on council tax in 2020-21. This would mean a rise of £57 a year for a band D property which Warwick says is only equivalent to a 3% increase on residents' total council tax bill once Warwickshire CC and the police and crime commissioner precepts are taken into account. Warwickshire last week approved a 3.99% increase on its share of the council tax bill.

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Burnham calls for Barnett formula for the regions

Andy Burnham has called for the introduction of an English equivalent to the Barnett Formula to boost investment in the English regions.

In a speech at conference in Newcastle on Friday, the Greater Manchester CA mayor urged a rethink of the long-established formula, which applies to public spending in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Under the formula, which has been in place for more than 40 years, any increases in spending on public services in England must be matched by proportionate additional funding for the devolved nations.

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Why a Mansion Tax Could Be a Conservative Winner [opinion]

Amid preparations for the U.K.’s first post-Brexit budget, there have been reports that the Conservative Party is considering an idea that many in Boris Johnson’s party regard as most un-Conservative: a so-called mansion tax. The reaction in the conservative press has been one of surprise and outrage, and it could well have been one of the issues of friction which led to Sajid Javid leaving the government. Indeed, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported at the weekend that Prime Minister Johnson had shelved the plan.

Yet the tax is hardly the attack on home ownership, or the wealthy, that it’s often portrayed to be. I might be expected to say that, since I proposed the idea at the 2010 general election and then repeatedly as business secretary in the subsequent coalition government. Perhaps its time has finally come.

Ignoring the emotive label, a “mansion” tax is essentially an adaptation of Britain’s current system of property taxes, known as council tax, which are levied to finance local government. The existing system is regressive, not merely in terms of income but in terms of wealth; that is, occupiers of more valuable properties pay a smaller proportion of the value of their asset than those whose homes are less valuable.

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Extra council tax bands call

Former Treasury chief secretary David Gauke has called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to add additional council tax bands in next month's Budget.

Speaking at a Resolution Foundation think-tank event, Mr Gauke, who held three different ministerial roles at the Treasury between 2010 and 2016, said: ‘Clearly there’s a strong case for ensuring a property tax system is more progressive and the case for additional bands is extremely strong.

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Households in England to face council tax rises, research says

Households in England face further council tax rises from April, according to research.

The County Councils Network said the majority of councils that run social care services would be raising council tax by the full amount allowed - 3.99%.

But it said councils faced a funding shortfall of £19bn over the next five years and it has called for more cash.

The government said councils would have access to £49.2bn next year, including £1.5bn for social care.

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Lancs leaders told to reorganise if they want devo

Whitehall officials have told Lancashire’s 12 district council leaders that they will have to restructure in order to form a mayoral combined authority with the county’s two unitaries and county council.

At a meeting this week between Lancashire’s 15 leaders and officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, LGC has learnt that the latter drew a series of red lines under plans to form a combined authority.

They said the mooted Lanchashire combined authority must have a mayor, and that the district councils cannot continue in their present form.

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Migration reform may tip social care ‘over the edge’

The government has been warned that its new post-Brexit immigration control regime risks pushing the social care sector “over the edge” by cutting off its supply of low income workers.

Home secretary Priti Patel has unveiled proposals for a ‘points based’ migration system, which is due to be implemented when the UK’s EU departure transition period finishes at the end of this year.

The new system replaces both the free movement regime that the UK currently operates with its former fellow EU member states and the point based regime that applies to the rest of the world.

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Think tank launches £3m fund to support community ‘wellbeing’

A health think tank yesterday launched a £3m fund to empower community sector organisations and the health and care sector to work together to boost the wellbeing of their communities.

The fund, launched by The King’s Fund in partnership with the National Lottery Community Fund, is designed to enable councils, the NHS, and the voluntary and community sector to develop new ways of working, which make the most of their combined capability to improve the health of their community.

In the first year of the ‘Healthy Communities Together’ programme each area will receive up to £50,000 and expert support to help them to collaborate and develop a plan to improve local people’s health and encourage their community to thrive.

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Somerset leader launches unitary bid

Somerset CC leader David Fothergill (Con) has kickstarted the process of transforming the county into a unitary by writing to Robert Jenrick.

In a letter, the county’s leader asked the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government for an invitation to submit a business case for a single unitary option for Somerset before Parliament’s summer recess.

Cllr Fothergill writes that setting up a unitary in the county, which currently contains four district councils, would save £25m per annum.

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Government funding could reduce the number of potholes by 25 per cent

Road users could be forced to contend with more than 650,000 potholes across the country by 2030, new research has warned.

A study predicts that Britain will see a 16 per cent increase in fractured tarmac in 10 years’ time if the Government fails to invest a promised £500 million per year. In its manifesto for the December general election, the Conservative party vowed to spend £2 billion on "the biggest ever pothole-filling programme" Britain has seen. The party pledged to "improve the quality of our roads" with a four-year programme of £500 million of funding each year.

If spending remains at its current level, the number of potholes reported on UK roads will surge from 561,000 in 2019 to 651,000 by 2030, research from Cebr and Zurich UK claims. If the Government does fulfil its manifesto pledge, the additional funds would help to reduce the number of potholes across the country by just over 25 per cent in the next decade. In the past year, 17 miles of potholes were reported to local authorities.

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Councils braced for mounting pressure on aslyum support system

Concern has been raised over councils' capacity to support child asylum seekers ahead of an expected surge later this year.

Kent CC’s corporate director for children, Matt Dunkley, said the number of asylum seekers arriving in the UK peaked in the run-up to previous Brexit deadlines for deals and he fears the same pattern could emerge as the end of the transition period approaches on December 31. He said: ‘Every time there was a deadline for a deal, the number of new arrivals went up. There isn’t the flex in the system to meet the demand that’s there.'

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Sean Anstee: Government needs to ‘level beyond’ as well as ‘level up

The government’s 'levelling up' agenda needs new measures for prosperity, wellbeing and inclusivity, writes the former Conservative leader of Trafford MBC.

Bold promises of ‘levelling up’ all parts of our United Kingdom accompanied the simple yet cut-through message to ‘Get Brexit Done’ that was continually echoed on the doorstep by both leave and remain voters.

Communities across the north and the Midlands have vested their trust in the Conservative party – many for the first time in their voting lives.

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Government announces financial support for flood-hit areas

The Government has announced councils in areas affected by recent flooding will receive grants to cover the cost of council tax and business rates reliefs.

Other measures include a Business Recovery Grant for those suffering from uninsurable losses, and funding of up to £5,000 to make homes and businesses more resilient to future flooding.

Local government secretary, Robert Jenrick, said: ‘Storms Dennis and Ciara have severely impacted a large number of households and businesses – and I recognise how destabilising this can be.

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Ofsted fears schools will 'squander' extra cash

A £14 billion boost in education spending due to be outlined in next month's budget risks being “squandered” by poorly managed schools, the head of Ofsted has warned.

Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, said that there is “clearly” room for improvement when it comes to school budgeting and that bad financial decisions can be “harmful” to children’s education as well as a waste of taxpayer funds.

The commentary was due to be published early next month alongside a piece of research by Ofsted on school funding. However, it was put online yesterday by accident before being quickly removed.

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Large employers fail to spend apprenticeship money

Employers are failing to use hundreds of millions of pounds that was intended for training apprentices, according to figures obtained by the BBC.

At least 55 of the largest employers in England have each released more than £1m back to the government which was meant to be spent on apprentices.

In total around 5,000 English employers relinquished more than £400m of funding raised by the apprenticeship levy in the first eight-month period when sums could expire.

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UK Budget date kept at 11 March

The government will not be changing the date of the Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced. It will go ahead as previously scheduled on 11 March.

There had been speculation that the Budget could be delayed after Mr Sunak replaced Sajid Javid following his resignation last week.

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North East unitaries set to pursue South of Tyne devo deal

Talks between Durham CC, Gateshead Council, South Tyneside MBC and Sunderland City Council are being held though their membership of the North East Combined Authority (NECA), with plans to approach ministers on the government’s requirements for a possible deal following the recent cabinet reshuffle.

Sunderland leader Graeme Miller (Lab) told LGC progress had been slowed by the general election last year but there was a determination among the four councils to reach agreement with government following other devolution deals in the region.

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Housing Secretary confirms new support for survivors of domestic violence

Councils are being given a boost (£16.6m)to provide essential, life-saving support in safe housing for survivors of domestic abuse and their children, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed today (17 February 2020).

Seventy-five projects across England will share over £16 million, helping up to 43,000 survivors have access to the help they need as they move towards a safe future, free from domestic abuse.

The new funding will enable victims and their children to stay safe, recover from the trauma, and access safe permanent rehousing where needed.

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Chief of flood hit council criticises slow government response

The chief of a council, which is experiencing its third major flooding incident in eight years, has told LGC that they are “simply unable to respond” at the level required after a decade of austerity.

The government activated the Bellwin scheme of emergency financial assistance for Calderdale MBC last week, as well as other areas in West Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire after Storm Ciara.

It has today activated the scheme for authorities in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, which have been affected by Storm Dennis over the weekend.

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Fall-out from suspected unitary cyber-attack enters second week

Redcar & Cleveland BC is still working to restore its online services as the fallout from a suspected cyber-attack on its IT systems enters a second week.

The council’s website has been down since 8 February and the council said it has limited capacity for phone calls and emails. Redcar & Cleveland added there is currently no evidence personal data “has been lost outside the council’s systems”.

Frontline services have so far been unaffected but "urgent matters" are being prioritised, a council spokesperson said.

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COP26: Climate summit policing bill estimated at £250m

The cost of policing the UN climate change conference in Glasgow later this year has now been estimated at £250m.

The "indicative" figure is detailed in a paper which will go before the Scottish Police Authority on Wednesday.

Last month, Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone told the SPA the event had taken £200m a year out of the core cost of policing. About 30,000 people, including 200 world leaders, are expected to attend COP26 from 9 to 20 November.

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Building 'resilience' won't stop traumatised social workers quitting

A healthy workforce is a fundamental prerequisite to ensure children and their families receive the best possible social work support. The positive effect of a stable and experienced workforce cannot be overestimated when one considers that inspectors say reduced staff turnover can lead to better quality services.

However, these aims have been frustrated as social workers leave the profession due to stress and burnout. Analysis of the children and family social work workforce in England published by the Department for Education in 2019 suggests workforce instability is an ongoing problem. Figures suggest 35% of social workers leave their local authority within two years, while 33% leave within five years. This means 68% of full-time equivalent children and family social workers were in service with their local authority for less than five years.

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Measures to prevent crime could begin as early as nursery, experts say

Persistently naughty children from primary school upwards and their parents should be given professional support to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour further down the line, experts said.

People who engage in antisocial behaviour throughout their lives tend to start acting out earlier on in childhood, which is when they should be given help, authors of a new study said.

Their research, launched on Monday, suggests that the brains of people who engage in lifelong antisocial behaviour may be smaller and structured differently to those without such a history.

MRI scans on adults aged 45 who had persistently engaged in stealing bullying, lying, aggression or violence throughout their lives revealed a thinner cortex and smaller surface area in certain brain regions.

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Budget may be delayed, says Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

The government's budget may be delayed, a cabinet minister has said. It had been set for 11 March, but the timetable was thrown into doubt after the surprise resignation of former Chancellor Sajid Javid on Thursday.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the date would be a matter for Mr Javid's replacement, Rishi Sunak. He told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme: "The guy's only been in place for a few days, let's give him a few days to decide on the date."

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It’s time to create a National Care Service for us all, says Susie Boniface [Opinion]

Politicians really do not want to talk about tax rises or end-of-life care. Instead they like to promise tax cuts, and pretend voters will live for ever.

Which is why our social care system runs on love. Carers UK says 600 people a day give up work to care for someone. A million care for more than one person. If you’re a woman over 50, you’re more likely to be a carer than anyone else – out of work, living on savings, and getting ill with stress.

Their commitment is worth about £132billion to the economy, according to the Carers Trust. Those aged over 80 provide an astonishing £23billion-worth of care. The Government spends just £16billion.

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Flood defences in England get 1% of infrastructure spending

Just over 1% of government infrastructure spending in England will go towards flood defences, analysis by BBC News has found.

Current figures show nearly £5bn is due to be spent on flood defences up until 2026, with a third of the money spent in London and the South East.

MPs in northern England said flood defence funding needed reallocating.

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Dementia sufferers dumped in hospitals after mass closures of day centres and respite care

Dementia sufferers are ending up dumped in Accident & Emergency departments following the closures of day centres for patients.

A Telegraph investigation has discovered that 32 of the services - which are designed to alleviate pressure on carers - have closed in three years, including 20 in the last year alone.

This has coincided with a sharp rise in the number of dementia patients being admitted to hospital via A&E, with an extra 100,000 such cases annually.

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Hell-on-Sea: how a drugs gang took over a sleepy Devon town

Dawlish on the south Devon coast is everything you might expect of a seaside resort in February. Yet this ostensibly sleepy West Country town was the nerve-centre of a violent gang from the north-east who over a decade built a brutal drug empire worth at least £1m while also preying on vulnerable young women who fell under their spell.

Earlier this month, 13 gang members – who were known locally as the Geordies, even though the core of the group originated from Sunderland – were sentenced collectively to 105 years after a four-month trial at Bristol crown court.

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Tories to reinstate all 3,000 bus routes axed in spending cuts, claims transport secretary

All 3,000 bus routes axed because of government spending cuts will be restored and passengers could soon be “calling one up on your app”, the transport secretary has claimed.

Grant Shapps made the audacious promise to reverse all the damage from the years of austerity, as he set out how the £5bn now pledged for buses would be spent.

“We ought to be not just bringing back lost routes, but also ensuring that the regularity is such that you see in London,” Mr Shapps argued.

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Boris Johnson vetoes mansion tax after backlash

Boris Johnson has shelved plans to impose a “mansion tax” on owners of expensive homes, following a major backlash among Conservative MPs and grassroots.

The Prime Minister is understood to have "cooled" on the idea of including a new "high value property tax" in next month's budget, having previously discussed the proposals with Sajid Javid, who quit as Chancellor last week.

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Tories have closed 1,300 family centres in last 10 years, figures reveal

More than one in three Sure Start centres have been axed under the Tories, it has emerged. Brutal cuts have seen 1,292 of the vital family centres shut since 2010, ministers admit.

Millions of parents rely on Sure Start, which offers clinics, and health and parenting support. At their peak in 2009/10, there were 3,600 centres, but Tory austerity slashed numbers by up to 85 per cent in some areas. In Staffs, 46 of 54 centres shut, and Oxfordshire lost 37 of its 45.

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Council tax set to soar by four per cent as the government struggles to fund social care - potentially costing families hundreds

Families are facing inflation-busting council tax rises this year thanks to the Tories’ failure to fund England’s creaking social care system. Up and down the country, town halls have started proposing increases of up to 4 per cent – the maximum allowed – piling huge pressure on household budgets.

One local authority, Rutland, wants to put up bills by £68 for the average Band D home. It means that families in the county’s most expensive Band H homes will pay £136 more.

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Ofcom Board appoints Dame Melanie Dawes as Chief Executive

The Ofcom Board has today announced the appointment of Dame Melanie Dawes as Chief Executive.

Dame Melanie has been Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government since 2015. She will take up her new position in early March.

Dame Melanie has held senior roles across the Civil Service, working in partnership across the public and private sectors. She started her career as an economist and spent 15 years at the Treasury, including as Europe Director. She was Director General of the Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat at the Cabinet Office between 2011 and 2015, and prior to that she served on the Board of HMRC as Head of Business Tax.

In addition to her current Permanent Secretary role, Dame Melanie chairs the Civil Service People Board, leading workforce strategies across all government departments. She is also Civil Service champion for diversity and inclusion.

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Cabinet reshuffle: Sajid Javid resigns as chancellor; replaced by Rishi Sunak

Sajid Javid has shocked Westminster by quitting as chancellor in the middle of Boris Johnson's cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Javid rejected the prime minster's order to fire his team of aides, saying "no self-respecting minister" could accept such a condition. He has been replaced as chancellor by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak.

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Alarm bells over £6.6bn property spending spree

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) urged the Government to look at the framework under which councils buy property to generate income as a senior MP warned of local authorities ‘acting as investment bankers’.

The report recommended that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) should ‘review whether the current framework is still achieving its intended aims’ after finding that councils spent £6.6bn on commercial property from 2016/17 to 2018/19 - 14 times more than in the previous three years.

Spending was predominantly by district councils and local authorities in the south-east, with just 14% of councils accounting for 80% of the total.

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Record number of A&E 'trolley waits' reached in January, NHS say

More than 100,000 A&E patients in England waited for hours to be treated in hospitals in January, the highest number since records began, NHS figures show.

There were 100,578 patients waiting for more than four hours, of whom 2,846 were delayed for more than 12 hours from decision to admit to admission, according to performance statistics released by NHS England.

For both delays, this is the highest number of “trolley waits” since records began.

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Ombudsman reminds councils of care home ‘top-up fees’ duties

Top-up fees are the difference someone - often a relative - chooses to pay for a loved-one’s stay in a care home over and above the amount the council has agreed to pay.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s warning comes after two councils - Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Lincolnshire County Council - disputed some of the Ombudsman’s recommendations against them.

The Ombudsman found that Dudley council had been asking relatives to enter into an agreement with the care home to pay the amount as standard practice, rather than administer the funding itself and claim the money from the relatives.

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Major investment plans for Kirklees council approved

Major investment plans set out by Kirklees Council have been given the green light following budget approval.

Febuary 12 saw the Full Council vote to approve Kirklees Council’s Budget proposals for 2020-21. Included in the report are plans for regeneration, tackling climate change and achieving outstanding children’s services.

As well as working to deliver these three key areas of ambition over the next financial year, it will continue to deliver its daily statutory services for the people in the region within its newly approved budget.

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Edinburgh sets out £2.5bn housing-investment plans

Proposals to invest almost £2bn in delivering new council homes and close on £500m to upgrade existing social-housing and tenant services over the next decade are set to be agreed by City of Edinburgh Council.

The moves would see the delivery of around 10,000 new homes over the period and commitments to spend in the region of £20,000 per existing property on estate modernisation and energy-efficiency improvements.

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Economy beats gloomy forecasts to be third-fastest growing in G7

Britain had the third-fastest growing economy in the G7 group of advanced nations last year even though it stagnated in the final quarter.

Official figures show that the economy beat expectations to grow by 1.4 per cent last year. The UK outperformed France, Germany and Italy, which grew by 1.3 per cent, 0.5 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), growth picked up to 0.3 per cent in December alone. The annual 1.4 per cent growth rate meant that Britain was behind only the US and Canada, which posted growth of 2.2 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively.

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Equalities watchdog launches inquiry into pupil restraint in schools amid concerns from parents

Schools will be investigated by the equalities watchdog over their use of physical restraint following widespread concerns about the “traumatic” impact on children.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched a formal inquiry into how schools are monitoring and recording the use of restraint to ensure methods are used appropriately in classrooms.

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Families in the north have biggest council tax bills

Boris Johnson is facing calls to overhaul council tax after research found that homeowners in the north pay up to 30 times more than those in the south relative to the value of their property.

Analysis has found that 80 per cent of the most expensive Band D council tax rates are in the north or Midlands, while 84 per cent of the cheapest are in London and the southeast. There are no northern towns or cities in the cheapest 25 areas and only two in the Midlands.

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Government to pledge £5bn for bus services and cycling routes

The government is set to pledge £5bn over the next five years to improve bus and cycling services in England.

Boris Johnson will say the extra money will provide more frequent services and simpler, more affordable fares.

Chancellor Sajid Javid told the BBC these are the kind of "essential" investments that "people want to see".

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UK economy saw zero growth at the end of 2019

The UK economy saw no growth in the final three months of 2019, as manufacturing contracted for the third quarter in a row and the service sector slowed around the time of the election.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the car industry had seen a particularly weak quarter.

The ONS figures also showed the economy grew by 1.4% in 2019, marginally higher than the 1.3% rate in 2018.

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Bus funding: Where would it make the most difference?

Boris Johnson is pledging £5bn over five years to boost bus services and cycling in England and campaigners want it to restore "lost" routes in "disconnected" rural areas. Where would new bus funding make the most difference?

More than 4 billion journeys are made by bus every year in England, but the number has been in decline.

Transport campaigners blame this on cuts in funding, with local and central government support for bus services having declined by more than £800m, nearly 30%, over the past decade.

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HS2 gets go ahead despite cost ‘explosion’

The prime minister said that oversight of the scheme to this point has been poor and committed to selecting a minister to specifically oversee the rail link between London, the West Midlands, Leeds and Manchester.

Speaking in the commons on February 11 Johnson said: “Costs have exploded, but poor management to date has not detracted, in my view, from the fundamental value of the project.”

The projected cost stood at £56bn in 2015, but the independent Oakervee Review, contains analysis suggesting costs could soar to £106bn.

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Finance settlement pulled for new terror law

Local government minister Luke Hall tweeted: ‘Such swift action to protect the public means we will now hold the vote on the #localgov settlement as soon as possible after recess.

‘Confirming this funding as soon as possible remains a priority and we laid the final material in the House last week to help to give councils the certainty they need to deliver vital services.’

The Local Government Association had been fighting proposals to restrict council tax rises to 2% without the holding of a referendum, but the latest policy proposals in the final settlement are largely unchanged from earlier plans.

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Councils to receive share of £4.5m to roll out digital social care projects

Sixteen organisations that provide and commission adult social care services are to receive a share of £4.5m to enable them to roll out their local digital projects on a wider scale.

‘Bridging the technology gap between the NHS and social care is a central part of achieving a health and care service that is fit for the future,’ said health minister Nicola Blackwood.

‘This £4.5m investment will support local areas to improve information sharing across services, ensuring people avoid hospital unless absolutely necessary and helping everyone live independently for longer.’

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Shared service venture to create “finance academy” for managers

A back office shared services initiative run by three London councils is to create a “finance academy” to improve budget management and financial control.

The move is being made as part of a major improvement plan agreed in July last year for the OneSource partnership, which covers ICT, asset management, human resources and finance across the London Boroughs of Havering, Bexley and Newham.

A report to the council said the new academy would move the organisation to a model of continued professional development for all staff and improve finance support to council departments and members.

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UK’s cities and councils call for fiscal devolution

Councils in London and the UK's biggest regional cities have joined forces to ask the government to let them raise more money locally to compensate for a decade of cuts.

In their Budget submissions, co-ordinated for the first time, the 32 London boroughs and the 11-strong Core Cities group — that includes Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow — have asked for fiscal devolution. They want the right to introduce a tourism tax, borrow against future revenue and reforms to business rates and council tax.

A tourism levy set at £1 per person per night in a hotel would raise £41m annually in London and £30m across the core cities, according to the organisation.

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Sajid Javid is under pressure to fix unfair business rates system

Sajid Javid is under mounting pressure to announce a wholesale review of business rates in next month’s Budget.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, the director-general of the CBI, has written to the Chancellor demanding an overhaul of the hated tax on firms, including retailers and manufacturing companies.

She is meeting Mr Javid next Monday to discuss the Budget, which she described as ‘a momentous one’. The challenge, she added, was for Mr Javid to turn optimism into a ‘surge in investment’ across the country.

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Bus cuts turn rural areas into ‘transport deserts’

Bus route closures have left nearly a million Britons at risk of being cut off from basic services, research has found.

A study by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) found that 56 per cent of small towns in the southwest and northeast of England were “transport deserts” or on the verge of becoming one, with residents unable to get around without driving.

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Pooling of LGPS schemes has saved £155m in four years

The pooling of investment funds in the Local Government Pension Scheme has saved £155m since the method was introduced, estimates suggest.

Further savings are expected in the coming years following a shift to mandatory pooling announced in November 2015, according to Lord James Younger, parliamentary under-secretary for housing, communities and local government.

Responding to a parliamentary question on the effectiveness of the pooling of funds since 2015, Younger suggested the move saved £155m between November 2015 and March 2019, with further savings expected in future.

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LGA: £80m from PWLB rate hike should be given back to councils

The extra Treasury cash raised via the Public Work Loans Board 1% rate rise should be handed back to local government, council leaders have suggested.

In its 2020 Budget submission the Local Government Association estimated that the government could receive as much as £80m due to the rate hike and it should used to support the sector.

“The income received by the government from the rate rise must be reused in the form of additional funding for local government,” the LGA said.

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Auditors beg for extension to local council accounts deadline

Auditors have pleaded with the Government for more time to investigate council accounts as budget cuts and pressure on fees threaten to compound a crisis in local public finances.

The bosses of two leading accounting bodies called on Robert Jenrick, the Housing and Local Government Secretary, to extend by two months the July 31 deadline for councils to file their annual audited accounts, in a letter seen by the Sunday Telegraph.

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No 10 power grab for NHS sparks backlash over ‘turf war’

Boris Johnson has been accused of starting a “turf war” with NHS bosses as it was revealed he will use a new law to exert more control over the health service.

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief aide, believes that at present the law gives Sir Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, excessive freedom, making it hard for Downing Street to impose its will.

Legislation to be introduced this year will include powers for ministers to give orders to Sir Simon, who is meant to be operationally independent.

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Council tax bills could rise by £70 as ministers confirm 4 per cent hike from April

This would see the average Band D council tax bill going up from £1,750 in 2019/20 to £1,820 next year.

While families also face an extra £10 charge to pay for more cops in the area.

A spokesman for the Housing Department said: “This package strikes the right balance between supporting councils to address pressures, including through an extra £1.5 billion for social care, while protecting local residents from excessive council tax rises.

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Lisa Nandy promises to let councillors nominate Labour leadership candidates

Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy has promised to give the party’s local councillors a place at the shadow cabinet table if she succeeds Jeremy Corbyn.

In a swipe at the party’s “neglect” of its local government base under previous leaders, Ms Nandy said she would end the “bizarre” situation where unions and affiliated organisations - but not councillors - are able to nominate candidates for the leadership.

In a speech in the totemic constituency of Bassetlaw - lost to the Tories for the first time since 1929 in December’s election- she also vowed to give councils more economic clout by transferring £12 billion of funding from Local Enterprise Partnerships to local authorities.

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DfE schools funding clarification sparks treasurer unease

The government’s move to prevent the use of general funds to address rising overspends on the dedicated schools grant has raised concerns among section 151 officers and auditors some councils could be left to set "imprudent" budgets.

In the response to its consultation on "clarifying the ring-fenced status of the DSG", the Department for Education said it would change regulations to ensure councils do not use general funds to pay off cumulative dedicated schools grant (DSG) overspends to prevent any impact in investment in other services.

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Almost 2,000 frail and elderly people are refused home help every day because they do not qualify for social care, new figures suggest

Councils have changed the rules for care at home by raising the thresholds of sickness or disability they must meet to receive free help. Once, moderate disability was enough qualification. Now only those with serious health and mobility issues are given free home care.

In nearly half, councils tell people they do not qualify for help but refer them on to other services. These include paid-for care companies and charities such as Age UK itself. The report said 1.5million over-65s have at least one essential activity for which they are denied help.

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Councils receive 4.4% increase in finance settlement

The communities secretary has published the final one-year local government finance settlement which he said will provide certainty for councils.

Robert Jenrick said the package of £49.2bn in 2020-21, up from £46.2bn last year, represents a 4.4% increase and the largest year-on-year real terms increase in a decade.

“This settlement acts as the foundation for a robust and resilient future for local government finance, delivering on calls for certainty and stability from local government,” he said.

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Government’s £170m bus boost a ‘drop in the ocean’

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced today that £170m is being given to make bus journeys “greener, easier and more reliable”. It is part of a £200m package set aside to overhaul bus services.

Councils have also been invited to compete to be the UK’s first all-electric bus town, for which they will receive £50m - part of the £170m - to pay for a new fleet of electric buses.

But Unite’s national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said that the money was an “absolute drop in the ocean, compared to what has been cut from bus services”.

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Gwynne calls for Government to scrap fair funding review

Mr Gwynne warned the ‘so-called fair funding formula’ could tip councils ‘over the edge’ and said the Government should ‘ensure that local authorities are properly funded through a fairer system that properly takes account of deprivation, need and differing council tax bases’.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Gwynne said: ‘Several councils are edging ever closer to the cliff edge and the number that will drop over that cliff edge is very much dependent on the actions of this Government.

'If they [the Government] honour their word and put resources into the local communities that need them most, hopefully we can avoid more Northamptonshires.

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Cumbria devo proposal sparks county fear of ‘super districts’

Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry’s proposal that councils in Cumbria form two unitaries in order to win a devolution deal has sent shockwaves through county councils amid concerns that government rules on reorganisation are shifting.

During talks on devolution earlier this week Mr Berry(pictured) is reported to have told leaders of the county’s seven councils that a combined authority would need to encompass at least two upper tier authorities, which would mean breaking Cumbria up into unitaries.

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‘Chancellor has little chance of achieving economic growth goal’

GDP is expected to grow by about 1.5% in 2020 and 2021, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NEISR) said today in a review of the UK economy’s prospects.

As Sajid Javid is planning to ‘level up’ income levels in the March Budget he would significantly have to boost productivity to come near to achieving his growth aim, the think-tank observed. Investment and productivity growth are forecast to pick up only gradually, the NEISR added.

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Councils in crisis with more tax rises and service cuts due

Council tax payers in England face near universal rises on top of increased fees and charges to pay for what in many cases will be reduced levels of local services, according to a survey of local authorities.

It reveals that 97% of local authorities will put council tax up again in April to cope with a growing financial crisis, and the same proportion will raise charges for services such as parking, garden waste disposal and aspects of social care.

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County warns of ‘predatory’ loan offers following PWLB rate rise

A county council has warned of “predatory” lenders circling the local government sector in the wake of the government’s decision to raise the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) interest rate.

The stark assessment came in Worcestershire County Council’s treasury management strategy which went before councillors at the authority last week.

The council’s TMS outlines a strategy of external borrowing aimed at replenishing some of the reserves and cash balances which it has used to support capital borrowing since 2008.

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Short-term fixes leaving NHS financially unstable

The National Audit Office highlighted that NHS commissioners “failed to balance their books again” with a £150m deficit in the last financial year, in a report released today.

Health service trusts reported a combined deficit of £827m, the NAO showed. However, commissioners and trusts ended 2018-19 with a combined surplus of £89m, the watchdog pointed out, in its eight report on the financial sustainability of the NHS.

But the watchdog added: “As in previous years, overspends by trusts and CCGs were offset by an NHS England underspend.”

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Unions’ claim rejected as staff offered 2% pay deal

Unions have rejected a pay offer of 2% for council staff, describing it as “more than disappointing”.

The National Employers, which negotiate staff pay on behalf of 350 councils, submitted the offer affecting more than £1m workers to unions today.

The unions Unison, GMB and Unite all called for a 10% rise for council staff in 2020-21 last July and immediately rejected the offer.

In a joint statement, the unions have called on National Employers to reconsider the offer so talks can continue as soon as possible.

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Ministers must heed local productivity gaps

Ministerial efforts to reduce the regional productivity gap must recognise the imbalances at local level within regions, government advisers have warned.

A report from the Industrial Strategy Council says that in some regions successful cities and other areas have enjoyed relative economic success and productivity gains while neighbouring areas – particularly coastal or rural communities to lag behind.

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Northants targets £23m savings

Northamptonshire CC has published its draft budget for 2020/2021, amid concerns over children's services and roads maintenance. The council will hand over to two new unitary authorities in April 2021 in a countywide reorganisation of local government.

The budget incorporates £22.9m savings and a council tax increase of 3.99%, including a 2% social care precept.

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Temporary accommodation industry worth £1.1bn

An investigation has revealed that councils are spending £1.1bn on temporary accommodation every year, with 86% going to private landlords or companies.

Housing charity Shelter found that the amount of money being paid to private accommodation providers has nearly doubled in the past five years, from £490m in 2013/14 to £939m in 2018/19.

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Commission calls on government to devolve skills

Education, business and local government leaders from the Future-Ready Skills Commission have called on the government to “ensure that opportunity is more equally spread throughout the country”, following a meeting last week.

The commissioners highlighted an interim report they published in November last year, which identified 10 priorities that needed to be addressed to create a devolved skills system.

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Business rates blow

Plans to use business rates to fund local government have been dealt a major blow by a survey that finds wavering confidence in the policy.

This year’s annual local government finance survey by The MJ and LGiU think-tank found more than three-quarters (77%) were either not at all confident or not very confident in 100% business rates retention as a mechanism to fund the sector.

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Apprentice levy ‘failing small firms’

Reforms to vocational training are failing young people and small and medium companies, according to a poll by the Federation of Small Businesses.

The apprenticeship levy has made it harder to access entry-level training and is not providing enough support for smaller companies, its critics say.

More than one in four small companies that employ apprentices say that changes introduced three years ago have been counterproductive.

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English schools buying in mental health support has 'almost doubled' in three years

The number of schools in England buying in professional mental health support for pupils has nearly doubled in three years, as prompt access to NHS services for those children most in need continues to be a problem, a new survey has found.

In 2016 more than a third (36%) of schools surveyed provided school-based support for students’ emotional and mental wellbeing. By 2019 66% of school leaders said they were commissioning their own professional support for pupils, including school-based counsellors.

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Glitch delays business rates relief for hundreds of companies

Hundreds of companies due to receive business rates relief will have their discount delayed because of a problem with local councils’ IT software.

Last year the government announced an initiative to revive the high street by cutting rates for businesses with properties that have a rateable value of less than £51,000.

A total of 75 local authorities have been told by their software provider, Civica, that changes to bills cannot be made until after the new financial year.

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Adult Care crisis deepens as providers 'run out of options'

The number of care providers cutting support for vulnerable adults has doubled in the last year because of financial pressures, a charity has said.

Research by Hft, which supports adults with learning disabilities, suggested 20% of the 80 providers surveyed had offered care to fewer people in order to balance the books or meet rising wage bills.

And a third of those questioned had cut staff, while almost half had shut parts of their organisation.

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Universal credit rollout delayed again - to 2024

Full rollout of universal credit, the government's flagship welfare reform, is being delayed again, adding £500m to its overall cost, the BBC has learned.

Officials say not enough people are moving to the benefit as they are "scared" to move to universal credit.

The system was meant to be fully live by April 2017, but the new delay will push it back to September 2024.

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UK regional productivity gap widest in a century

Regional differences in UK productivity are at their highest level for over a century and will be difficult to solve, the government’s industrial strategy council said on Tuesday, as it urged ministers to apply policy “consistently” in future.

The report comes as Boris Johnson has made “levelling up” economic performance across the UK a central aim of his Conservative government after winning December’s general election largely thanks to a surge of support in England’s north and Midlands in areas that have badly lagged the more prosperous south east.

The Industrial Strategy Council, headed by Andy Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England, concluded there was no single reason for places becoming successful or left-behind, but differences were entrenched and regional rankings of success rarely changed.

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Scale of children’s funding gap revealed

The cost to councils of meeting demand in children’s social care has more than quadrupled to £7.2bn since 2010-11 as dedicated government funding has halved, according to new analysis shared exclusively with LGC.

Nationally spending on children’s social care and services for young people has increased from £7.1bn in 2010-11 to an expected £10bn next year to meet demand, the analysis by the Association of North East Councils shows (see graph below).

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Borough seeking unitary status sparks spending row

A row over council spending has broken out between a county council and a borough authority that is seeking unitary status.

The leader of Basildon BC’s Labour administration, Cllr Gavin Callaghan, wrote to his Conservative counterpart at Essex CC raising ‘serious concerns’ that the borough was ‘not being prioritised’.

It came a day after Basildon councillors voted in favour of preparing a business case for unitary status.

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County offered devo deal with reorganisation and outsourced care services

Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry has offered councils in Cumbria a devolution deal if they agree to reorganise into two unitaries and form a mayoral combined authority, LGC has been told.

Mr Berry met with the leaders and chief executives of Cumbria’s six district councils and county council yesterday. In a briefing on the discussions, Cumbria CC leader Stewart Young (Lab) told LGC Mr Berry believed a new mayoral combined authority to cover the whole of Cumbria could pass the parliamentary approval process in time for elections for the two new councils and a mayor in May 2021.

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Motorbike firm which said UK would thrive outside of EU goes into administration

A firm which once claimed that UK was better prepared for Brexit than the 'media has us believe' has gone into administration in the same week the UK left the European Union.

In September 2018 Norton Motorcycles owner Stuart Garner claimed he had no fears about Brexit, and said that it would be a "huge opportunity" to negotiate trade deals around the globe.

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Mets set to benefit overall from funding review

Metropolitan districts are set to benefit from the government's fair funding review overall, expert analysis obtained by LGC suggests, contrary to recent claims that they would lose as more affluent county council areas gained.

Research released by the Local Government Association last week showed that under the adult social care element of reforms to how council funding is calculated, metropolitan districts would receive the biggest reductions and county councils would benefit the most.

This drew criticism from Labour, with leader of the party's LGA group Nick Forbes saying the figures confirmed “worst fears” of a “funding stitch up” for councils in areas with higher levels of deprivation under the fair funding review.

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Departmental savings of 5% will be hard to find

Asking ministers to find departmental savings worth 5% was not unexpected or unprecedented, but it may be difficult to achieve and is unlikely to free up enough money to meet the government’s other priorities, argues Nick Davies of the Institute for Government.

The figure is in line with IfG predictions. Published last November, it is calculated that unprotected spending would need to fall 5.3% between 2020/21 and 2023/24 if the government were to stick to its existing plans for overall spending and meet its commitments to protected areas – the NHS, schools, defence and overseas aid.

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Ministers told to make cuts to pay for ‘radical agenda’

Sajid Javid, the chancellor, has ordered cabinet ministers to draw up cuts of up to 5 per cent from their budgets.

The Treasury wants to free up money to spend on other priorities, such as the NHS. A government source said: “This isn’t about cuts for their own sake, it’s about living within our means and prioritising what we do spend on our radical agenda: levelling up the country.”

Not every department will be expected to make every cut suggested. This month Boris Johnson told his cabinet that it was “time for the slaughtering of sacred cows” and to cull pet projects supported by his predecessors, Theresa May and David Cameron.

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Tories will write minimum school funding into law

A guarantee will be put into law that all schools in England receive minimum funding in future.

All secondary schools will get £5,000 per pupil and all primary schools £3,730 per pupil, rising to £4,000 next year under legislation laid before parliament yesterday.

Local authorities will be required by law to make sure every school receives the full minimum level of funding. Previously local authorities had more powers to allocate the money and some schools fell below these minimum levels per pupil.

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Majority of councils overspend on homelessness as pressure mounts

Nearly 70% of councils in England spent more than planned on homelessness support last year due to shortages of affordable housing and insufficient housing benefits, according to analysis.

Research by the Local Government Association found that 69.3% of councils in England overspent on their homelessness budgets by more than a quarter (27.7%) - rising from a planned spend of £502.7m to an actual spend of £642.3m in 2018-19.

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Kent beefs up support for pension fund following Woodford losses

Kent CC is increasing support for its pension committee when making investment decisions and monitoring its holdings following its loss of at least £60m on a controversial fund that is being wound up.

The pension fund had put £260m into the Woodford Equity Income Fund, but its investment has been trapped since June 2019 when the fund was suspended after the council sought to withdraw its investment because of growing concerns about its liquidity.

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E-scooters on UK roads set for the green light

Electric scooters will be legalised on roads and cycle lanes for the first time under government plans to encourage green transport.

Ministers are expected to launch a consultation next month on how to regulate e-scooters and ensure safety.

The consultation will be followed by trials in cities, with a potential nationwide introduction if they are successful.

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Immigration salary threshold should drop by £4,400, says committee

The government should drop the salary threshold for immigrants by more than £4,000, a committee has advised.Skilled migrants from outside the EU currently need to have a job offer with a minimum salary of £30,000.

But the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said it should fall to £25,600 for all workers to help recruit teachers and skilled NHS staff. The MAC also said the government's proposal for a points-based immigration system would reduce economic growth.

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Housing waiting list rises again as 17,000 social homes lost

More than 1.15 million households were waiting for a social home in England on 1 April 2019, a rise of 4% on the previous year, according to newly released government figures.

Only 8% of the 4.1 million social rent properties in England were let to new tenants during the year.

Generally, a higher proportion of stock was newly let in northern England than in the south. In many areas in and around London, less than 4% of social housing stock were newly let in 2018-19. This compared to 14.6% in Darlington BC and Medway Council and 14.3% in Burnley BC, the three three local authority areas that saw the highest level of turnover in 2018-19.

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Funding boost for rough sleepers initiative

The government has announced a 30% boost to its rough sleeping programme.

Councils will share £112m in the latest round of the Rough Sleeping Initiative fund, which now combines the Rough Sleeping Initiative and the Rapid Rehousing Pathway into a single pot. Together these were worth around £87m in 2019-20.

The announcement comes on top of the pledge of more than £260m for homelessness services that was announced in December, which LGC understands was made up of about £23m of new money.

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Auditors in fees increase warning

Auditors have warned a number of councils that their audit fees for 2019/20 could be more than one-fifth higher than they were expecting.

It comes after the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) regulator raised the threshold of what it assesses as a good quality audit following recent, high-profile company failures that were also attributed to audit performance.

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English councils set to miss carbon emission targets

Many councils in England don’t know how much energy they use, a new survey reveals. The findings make it “inconceivable” that they will become carbon neutral within 30 years, as the government has mandated.

According to the survey, 43% of councils – 93 of the 214 local authorities that responded to a freedom of information request from electrical contractors’ trade body ECA – do not measure the energy they use in council-owned buildings or know how much carbon they produce.

ECA energy adviser Luke Osborne said the findings were “highly concerning”. Without immediate changes, “it is inconceivable that councils are going to become carbon neutral in less than 30 years”, he said.

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Labour councils set to lose under new funding formula

The new formula “dramatically downgrades” the importance of deprivation in assessing need in favour of per head funding, the Local Government Association’s Labour Group has claimed.

Analysis of LGA figures by its Labour group found that metropolitan boroughs are due to lose almost £300m in adult social care funding under the formula, the vast majority of which (£250m) will be handed to shire counties.

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NAO to probe one-off Government funding pots

The National Audit Office (NAO) is to probe the effect of the Government’s shift towards one-off and short-term funding initiatives.

Announcing a new inquiry, the NAO suggested forcing councils to apply for funding streams outside the main local government financial settlement and to then report back on how it has been used could ‘undermine strategic planning and create risks to value for money’.

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Small music venues to get 50% reduction in business rates

The government has committed to reducing business rates for small and medium-sized music venues in England and Wales for the first time. The 50% reduction available to smaller retailers will be extended to 230 small and medium-sized music venues with a rateable value below £51,000. Independent cinemas will also benefit from the reduction.

The Music Venue Trust estimates that the move will save each site an average of £7,500 a year, and release more than £1.7m back into the grassroots live music sector. Music Venue Trust strategic director Beverley Whitrick said it was a “much needed and long overdue boost”.

Nathan Clark of the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds said he was overjoyed by the news. “This reduction of business rates supports an ability to reinvest, helping new and emerging artists, create accessible events, and further support a vibrant, but financially strained environment for the wider community.”

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Former 'red wall' areas could lose millions in council funding review

A reallocation of council funding could redirect hundreds of millions of pounds from so-called left-behind communities in the north of England to the leafy southern shires, analysis has found, leaving many newly Conservative voting “red wall” areas facing fresh cuts to local services.

Under a review of the local authority funding formula, £320m a year could be shifted out of councils in England’s most deprived areas while Tory-controlled shire councils mainly in the south-east gain £300m.

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Grenfell Tower inquiry member Benita Mehra resigns

Ms Mehra, an engineer, had been appointed to replace academic Prof Nabeel Hamdi as an expert panellist for the second phase of the inquiry.

Victims' families had raised concerns to the prime minister about her former role as a past president of the Women's Engineering Society, which received funding from the Arconic Foundation for an apprentice conference.

Arconic supplied the cladding on the outside of the west London tower block, which caught fire on 14 June 2017, claiming 72 lives.

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County lines gangs using Breaking Bad-style motorhomes as drug-dealing bases

County lines gangs are using motorhomes and caravans as drug-dealing bases – just like in the TV series Breaking Bad.

Dealers buy or rent them through internet sites such as Gumtree. They park up in remote spots or at touring sites and use them as mini drugs factories, preparing £10 bags of cocaine and heroin.

We found one dealer from Liverpool who hired an old touring caravan with an accomplice before parking up in north Wales to supply addicts in seaside resorts.

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Government urged to fund upgrades to outdated council leisure facilities

Local authority leisure services are in desperate need of investment with nearly a quarter now almost 20 years old, council leaders have said.

Figures from Sport England shared with the Local Government Association show that up to 63% of sports halls and swimming pools are more than 10 years old while nearly a quarter have not been refurbished in more than 20 years.

The LGA noted that central government funding for leisure infrastructure fell by more than a third in the last decade and urged the government to introduce a £500m funding pot for councils in the upcoming Budget.

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Thousands of pubs will see £1,000 slashed off business rates in reforms aimed at saving the High Street

Thousands of pubs will see £1,000 slashed off business rates in Government reforms aimed at saving the high street.

Chancellor Sajid Javid said that as many as 18,000 small boozers would benefit from the new 'pubs relief', which will be introduced from April.

It comes after calls from pub companies to ease the burden of business rates on sites facing other heavy cost increases.

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County lines drug gangs must be tackled nationally

If you thought the cynical exploitation of children by criminals was confined to Victorian times and the pages of Oliver Twist, the new government should have shattered that illusion.

Last week Boris Johnson, the prime minister, said he would lead a new cabinet committee to tackle serious violence, with a focus on county lines drugs operations.

Criminals groom children and vulnerable adults with drugs and alcohol or promises of status and wealth, and then force them to carry drugs across the country. They often use terrifying threats, violence and sexual abuse, against the victims and their loved ones.

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UK borrowing falls ahead of March Budget

UK public sector borrowing was less than expected in December 2019, official figures have shown.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, UK borrowing was £4.8bn last month - £0.2bn less than December 2018 and less than expected.

Borrowing in the current financial year-to-date was £54.6n - £4bn more than in the same period last year.

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NHS pledges elderly rapid response community teams

Rapid response teams of nurses, physios and care staff are to be on hand within two hours to help sick older people at home in England under new plans.

The community crisis teams will be officially piloted in seven areas this year, with the plan to roll out the model across the country by 2023. Several places have already introduced similar teams and reduced A&E demand.

But unions warned staff shortages would be a major obstacle to the plan put forward by NHS England and ministers.

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Police settlement ‘biggest in a decade’

The Home Office has unveiled a £1.1bn funding package for policing in 2020-21 but has been criticised for “unsustainable, short-term thinking”.

Police and crime commissioners in England have been given flexibility to increase funding locally by raising the council tax referendum limit to £10 for a typical property, bringing maximum potential funding to £15.2bn.

The settlement is an almost 10% increase in core grant provided to the forces last year, the government said.

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Care home costs leap to £34,000 a year in the biggest jump for nearly a decade, new figures reveal

Care home fees hit an annual average of £34,000 last year – the biggest jump in nearly a decade, according to latest figures.

The price of a place for the frail and vulnerable in England rose by 4.7 per cent in the year to last March, the greatest increase since 2010. The rise is more than three times the level of inflation.

The squeeze on the elderly and their families emerged amid growing pressure on Boris Johnson and ministers to deliver on their promise to build a cross-party consensus for social care reform.

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Cipfa resilience index: cause for concern?

23 JANUARY 2020 BY SARAH CALKIN

LGC looks at what Cipfa’s resilience index can and can’t tell us about the financial health of councils.

In December the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy finally published its financial resilience index, which it said identified potential risks to financial sustainability at around 10% of councils.

However, Cipfa has not named them publicly (or even privately to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government) and the design of the index deliberately makes it difficult to produce a league table.

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Lack of care for dementia sufferers saw war heroine 'abandoned' in hospital

Britain’s social care crisis has resulted in a surge in dementia patients ending up in A&E and left stranded in hospital for months.

The Alzheimer’s Society says NHS figures show the number of people with the condition being admitted to casualty has increased by around a third in five years to 380,000.

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Government to ‘name and shame’ owners of blocks with dangerous cladding

In a statement to the House of Commons on January 20, Jenrick said changes to building regulations after the Grenfell Tower fire have been “unacceptably slow” as he unveiled a raft plans to overhaul the system.

He added: “Inaction must have consequences. From next month, I will name those responsible for building where remediation has not started and remove them from the public list when it has.

The announcement comes after the latest official data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government revealed there are still 315 high-rise buildings in England with Grenfell-style cladding.

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Seven fixes for local government grant funding to tackle the North-South divide

If the prime minister wishes to rebalance the relationship between North and South, he might want to start with local government spending, argues Graham Chapman, councillor at Nottingham City Council.

This has not happened simply as a result of the aggregate cuts to local government. It has occurred as a result of the distribution of these cuts, which implies it might have been deliberate. The top 50 council losers are populated by inner London authorities, yes, but also by poorer urban authorities in the North and the Midlands.

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Health watchdog reinspects care homes following inaccurate inspection reports

The health watchdog has decided to reinspect a number of services after finding that almost 40 inspection reports into care and nursing homes contained duplicate material.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found during an audit that there was “duplicate material” in 78 reports, with identical quotations from patients or sections of evidence pasted into reports on different institutions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shopping centre owner Intu seeks emergency cash

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

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

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

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

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How the Labour leadership candidates stack up on local government

20 JANUARY 2020 BY JESSICA HILL

Labour's five leadership hopefuls have been keen to demonstrate how they would create a plan for a fairer, greener and happier Britain if they are voted in as the party’s next leader.

Jeremy Corbyn is stepping down after Labour's defeat in December's general election, its fourth election defeat in a row, and his successor is due to be announced on 4 April.

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Tory manifesto author backs NHS-style social care funding

One of the authors of the 2019 Conservative manifesto has backed moving funding for adult social care to a national level because funding pressures on councils has deterred them from expanding provision of care and retirement homes.

Robert Colville, chief executive of the influential centre-right think tank Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), told Health Service Journal funding social care from central government via a system similar to the NHS tariff, with local government retaining responsibility for delivering care and assessing needs, “could help” address the current crisis.

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Cost of placing homeless people in B&Bs has risen by more than £20m

Home for Denise and her children is one cramped room in a bed and breakfast. Most of the space is taken up by the three beds they share between the six of them - the floor is littered with toys and clothes.

The floor of the room is littered with clothes and toys, they have a small en suite bathroom but there is limited access to a tiny kitchen which is shared with around 30 other people.

They have been living like this for more than five months. This is the reality of life for thousands of people forced to live in bed and breakfasts after finding themselves homeless and on long waiting lists for council housing.

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Universal Credit's regional divide exposed as 52% of Liverpool families worse off

Universal Credit creates “a complex mix of winners and losers” depending on where claimants live, a study has revealed.

The research by the Resolution Foundation found some regions fare much worse than others. Laura Gardiner, research director, said: “ Universal Credit is now set to be marginally more generous than the benefits it is replacing.

“But this average hides a complex mix of winners and losers, with families in some areas of the UK faring particularly badly.”

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Boris Johnson sends the House of Lords up north

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

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

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Local buses clocking lowest mileage in decades

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

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

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Brexit: Price rises warning after chancellor vows EU rules divergence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lift-off for bonds agency as Lancashire agrees first deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Councils losing £250m a year through business rates avoidance

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

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

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

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Empty business rates relief 'costs £1bn'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Work to start on devolution deal for South Yorkshire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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20% spike in pothole-related breakdowns

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

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

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

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Fall in inflation raises prospects of interest rate cut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Care firm's leadership criticised by Care Quality Commission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boris backtracks on cross-party social care solution

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

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

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

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

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

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Government lifts four-year freeze on Local Housing Allowance

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

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

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

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

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Commercial income could be excluded from council funding calculations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unitary leadership ordered to seek support over children’s failure

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

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

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

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Roundtable: Making NHS-council collaboration work

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

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

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

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South west launches growth alliance to rival Northern Powerhouse

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

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

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

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UK GDP: Pound slips on unexpectedly weak growth figures

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

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

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Crimes next to primary schools go up sharply

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

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

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Families sending relatives with dementia to Thailand for care

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

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

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

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Councils under huge pressure as number of children in care soars

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

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

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

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Housing-benefit errors 'making families homeless'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ministry creates new hub to oversee Towns Fund

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

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

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County’s unitary call ignites reorganisation row

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

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

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

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Quarter of minimum wage workers underpaid, says study

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

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

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

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Ofsted seeks judgement-free approach to 'stuck schools'

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

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

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

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MPs reject Labour's call to reinstate child refugee pledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scottish fury at ‘unprecedented’ Budget delay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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'Infrastructure revolution' in March Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Voters tell Boris Johnson they prefer public services to tax cuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sir Nicholas Serota

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

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

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

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Charity calls for more adopters

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

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

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

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Poor white boys are underdogs of the education system

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

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

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

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Foster agencies add pressure on UK to take child refugees

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

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

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

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

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

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York wants private cars banned in three years

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

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

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

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Rise in families seeking help for youngsters with special needs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boris Johnson warned to act Immediately to end social care crisis

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

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

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Hedge funds bet against recovery on high street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Revealed: thousands of children in care placed in unregulated homes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thousands of children in care over 100 miles away from family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boris Johnson announces extra money to tackle homelessness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Devon town councillor calls for babysitting allowance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bank of England keeps interest rates on hold

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

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

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

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

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Government promises to engage with sector in business rates review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brexit bill to rule out extension to transition period

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

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

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

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Bus travel hits record low amid 3.3% fares rise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Incoming London fire chief to prioritise rebuilding trust of Grenfell community

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

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

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

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Jenrick’s re-appointment confirmed

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

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

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

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Sector remains ‘lukewarm’ about ‘crude’ resilience index

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

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

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Whitehall silence as Gwynne calls for provisional settlement

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

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

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

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Oxford City Council announces £19m climate change emergency budget

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

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

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

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Former West Sussex leader and chief dispute blame as direction issued

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

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

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

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

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

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Shropshire faces £51m funding gap over five years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Abuse of politicians ‘undermining democracy’

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

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

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

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What does business want from Boris Johnson?

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

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

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General election 2019: Hart gets Welsh post in government reshuffle

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

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

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

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

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Zero-emission street to ban petrol and diesel vehicles

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

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

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

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Shaw to replace Elvery at West Sussex

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

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

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OBR deficit prediction ‘sobering warning’ for new government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How the parties’ manifestos compare on local government funding

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

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Reserves grow at county a year on from s114 threat

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

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

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

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Analysis: English councils ramp up charges for services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Labour promises to spend £10bn on free personal care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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General election 2019: Labour pledges more help for smaller firms

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

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

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

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Blue badge fraud up 18%, say official figures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Could 'slow shopping' revive the high street?

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

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

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

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Poor children lose out on exercise, research suggests

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

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

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

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£845k in charity grants supporting disabled people in London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tories announce £4.2bn public transport fund for combined authorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rise in outstanding business rates challenges ‘creating bottleneck’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tory plans would further squeeze councils’ budgets, says IFS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Parts of England 'have higher mortality rates than Turkey'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UK inequality 'among worst of developed countries'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Promises for councils in ‘£135bn’ Labour manifesto

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

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

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

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

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Charity demands action on social care

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

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

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

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Councils’ income from business rates rises 5%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Clean air for all: Hedges can halve pollution in playgrounds

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

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

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

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Council service spending grows by 1.9%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guidance recommends sale of risky investment properties

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

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

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

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Fielding suggests return to revenue support grant

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

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

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

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Housebuilding data shows dearth of homes for affordable renting

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

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

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Councils’ income from business rates rises 5%

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

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

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

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PF and CIPFA to monitor election spending promises

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

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

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

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Data reveals the 20 UK cities with declining high streets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why more people are talking about the issue of social care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Children’s services budgets blown as spend continues to rise

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

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

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

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Surge in number of council tax fraud cases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Public sector leaders call for more joined-up working

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inflation falls to three-year low as energy prices fall

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

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

Energy regulator Ofgem lowered price caps last month.

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

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

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

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

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UK wage growth slows as unemployment falls

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

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

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

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Severe flooding becomes election campaign issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cancellations of NHS child mental health sessions jump 25%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Slavery offences soar as county lines are targeted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Government activates Bellwin scheme to support local communities hit by flooding

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

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

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GDP monthly estimate, UK: September 2019

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

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Commissioner details ‘disturbing narratives’ in West Sussex

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

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

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Care home operators accused of extracting 'disguised' profits

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

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

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Tories and Labour announce spending plans

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

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

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Council finance settlement timing “up to new government”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Councils asked to avoid using schools as polling stations

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

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

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

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Ofcom selects Melanie Dawes as chief executive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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None of pledged starter homes built, says watchdog

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

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

But legislation to take the project forward was never passed.

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Care review for thousands of patients with learning disabilities and autism

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

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

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

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Public health cuts have ‘hit poor hardest’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Care children sexually abused or exploited while missing from homes

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

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

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

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Benefits freeze to end in 2020, government confirms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chancellor announces £250m ‘infrastructure revolution’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Single tier fear reignited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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High streets in danger as planning applications from retailers plummet

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

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

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

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

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Councils pessimistic about impact of Brexit

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

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

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

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City could become first in UK to completely ban diesel cars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Local government sector guide to tackling loneliness launched

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Northamptonshire Council 'failed' grandmother by demanding £11k

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pace of fracking slower than anticipated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ten new towns to bolster regions after Brexit

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

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

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

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Overhaul exclusions to beat knife crime, say MPs

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

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

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Brexit: EU considers extension as MPs mull election

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

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

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

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Error found in UK public finances, official statistics body admits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Javid writes to new treasury committee chair to announce Budget cancelled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First council built care home in decades opens in Liverpool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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'Unlawful practices and buck passing' over special needs

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

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

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

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High Street: How many UK shops have closed?

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

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

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

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Funding cuts take toll on support for visually impaired pupils

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

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

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

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Airbnb probed by UK tax authorities

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

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

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

"Some of these matters may result in litigation."

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UK government borrowing up by a fifth over past six months

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

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

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

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Business rates reform key, says Labour business chairman Rachel Reeves

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

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

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

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

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Powys council plans to open children's care home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boris Johnson Confirms Agreed Brexit Deal

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

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Chanceller urged to scrap inflationary business rate rise

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

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

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

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Pension tax relief to cost public purse nearly £40bn

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

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

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

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Free schools ‘not helping disadvantaged pupils’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Troubled fund shut down leaving Kent council waiting for repayments

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

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

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

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

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

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

But with MPs deadlocked over Brexit, few at Westminster believe a general election will be long in coming – and the Conservatives hope the policies will form the basis of their campaign.

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Labour's nationalisation price tag would start at £196bn, CBI says

Labour's nationalisation plans would cost at least £196bn, according to the Confederation of British Industry.

The employers' group said the up-front cost of taking control of the water and energy utilities, train firms and Royal Mail was equivalent to all income tax paid by UK citizens in a year.

It was the combined total of the £141bn health budget, and the £61bn spent on education, analysis by the CBI said.

A Labour Party spokesman said it was "incoherent scaremongering" by the CBI.

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Chancellor Sajid Javid reveals date of next Budget

"This will be the first Budget after leaving the EU. I will be setting out our plan to shape the economy for the future and triggering the start of our infrastructure revolution," Sajid Javid said.

"This is the right and responsible thing to do - we must get on with governing," he added.

Mr Javid has already announced the biggest increase in day-to-day spending in 15 years, promising to raise public spending by more than £13bn.

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County publishes business case for single unitary

The current two-tier model of local government in the area covered by Leicestershire CC is unsustainable and a single unitary council would deliver net savings of £30m a year and protect services, according to a business case published by the county council.

The report published on Friday says that while additional funding announced in the 2018 budget improved the finances of most councils, “this is simply a delay to further financial crisis as the funding is temporary and no solution to service demand pressures is forthcoming”.

It adds the latest financial forecasts found Leicestershire will only be able to balance its budget for the next two years after making £200m of savings since 2010.

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Families in England hit by 70% cut in school uniform grant

Financial aid for uniforms has fallen by more than 70% across England since 2010. More than 80% of cash-strapped local councils now offer no assistance, blaming years of cuts.

Data collected through the Freedom of Information Act reveals for the first time that the “school uniform grant”, introduced in 1980, has been dramatically scaled back in England over the past decade. While the Department for Education (DfE) still advertises the grant, it is left to struggling councils to find the resources to pay it out.

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Revealed: the private landlords profiting from England’s housing crisis

Private companies have been accused of profiting from England’s deepening housing crisis after an Observer investigation found homeless families crammed into squalid hostels, crime-ridden tower blocks and rundown estates.

Freedom of information responses from councils in England’s top-50 homeless blackspots reveal that the 156 largest private providers of temporary accommodation collected more than £215m in the last financial year. On average these firms received £10,000 of public money for each booking.

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NHS sets out to tackle homelessness crisis

Homelessness has become so endemic in Britain that the NHS is launching specialist services for rough sleepers in seven of the worst-hit areas.

Despite repeated pledges by consecutive governments to tackle the housing crisis, about 320,000 people are homeless.

The problem is so acute that rough sleepers will be offered health advice and direct access to mental health care and GPs.

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How councils 'ignoring the law' on social care forces families apart

Families are at risk of being needlessly torn apart and making long journeys to visit loved ones due to the underfunding of the care system.

Councils will fund care for those with little cash, or whose assets have already been swallowed up by care home fees, but few will pay the full cost of charges in the areas they operate.

The law requires local authorities to draw up a personalised budget for each claimant of support for care fees, and this should take into account the charges in the local area.

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Government accused of wrecking plans to build more social housing

The government has been accused of “trashing” plans to build more social housing across the UK after it imposed a shock interest rate rise on cheap Treasury loans.

Councils reacted with frustration to the one percentage point increase on public works loan board (PWLB) finance, which was imposed “out of the blue” this week, warning it could delay or scupper housebuilding and regeneration schemes.

The LGA estimates the rate rise will add about £70m to financing costs for all new loans to English councils, a change that will scupper housebuilding projects already on the edge of viability. The Treasury said the new PWLB rates still worked out cheaper than commercial loans.

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Thousands of pensioners could be homeless in next 10 years due to soaring rent costs

Thousands of people could face becoming homeless in retirement over the next decade, experts warn. Research has revealed that around 25% of private renters aged 65 and over worry about becoming homeless and 67% of 55 to 64-year-olds who rent privately say they will not be able to afford rent on a suitable home when they retire, unless they get housing benefit.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of charity Shelter, which carried out the research, said: “At worst, in the next decade we could see a generation of older renters at risk of homelessness.

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South east seeks rail fare freeze to help double economy

South east councils have called for a freeze on rail fares and a new Thames crossing to allow the region’s economy to grow while reducing car use.

A draft strategy from the newly-created Transport for the South East (TfSE) has gone to public consultation ahead of a final version expected next spring. The body, which counts 16 councils as members, is currently consulting on proposals for becoming a statutory sub-national transport body.

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Modular homes endorsed by Prince William to be built by charity to 'end youth homelessness'

Hundreds of modular homes will be built by a youth homelessness charity with capped rent in the first scheme of its kind aiming to “end homelessness”.

Centrepoint, is announcing its multi-million-pound scheme - billed as its “most ambitious programme to date” - to help young homeless people aged 16 to 25.

The charity, whose patron is Prince William, is announcing in The Telegraph a project to offer a “pro-active solution to help young people help themselves by giving them a job and a home” following an interview with its chief executive, Seyi Obakin OBE.

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Queen's Speech: What is it and why is it important?

The government has suspended Parliament to allow a Queen's Speech to take place.

For a government to lose the vote that follows the speech would be highly unusual. But it is possible and could have serious consequences.

So, what exactly is the Queen's Speech and what would happen if MPs rejected it?

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CIPFA proposals to 'revolutionise financial reporting'

Launching a set of discussion papers, the institute said it wanted to explore how financial reporting could be improved and whether accounts could be ‘made scalable through differential reporting frameworks’.

It said the discussion papers were ‘poised to fundamentally alter local government financial reporting in the UK’.

The papers argue that the length and complexity of accounts produced by councils often make them ‘impenetrable’, as well as being time-consuming tasks which place ‘considerable strain on what are now leaner finance teams’.

They claim the issue is ‘particularly acute for smaller authorities’.

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Extinction Rebellion could disrupt Queen opening Parliament

The Extinction Rebellion protest could force the Queen to abandon carriage trip to open Parliament, police have suggested.

Officers have told those leading the demonstration that state opening cannot take place if they are camped on the streets as Scotland Yard admitted that they have “contingency plans”.

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No-deal Brexit would push borrowing above £100bn, IFS warns

A no-deal Brexit would see government borrowing rise to almost £100bn a year and overall debt reaching levels not seen since the 1960s, a leading economic think-tank has warned.

Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) predicted a mini-boom in public spending, funded by the extra borrowing, to help soften the blow if the UK crashes out of Europe without a deal.

But the boom would likely be followed by bust as the government struggles to cope with the consequences of a smaller economy and higher debt on its funding of public services, the IFS said.

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Boris Johnson’s spending spree threatens to leave no cash for tax cuts

Boris Johnson is planning to spend as much on public services as Jeremy Corbyn promised at the last election and cannot afford the tax cuts he pledged in the Tory leadership campaign, a think tank has warned.

The prime minister’s proposed spending spree would mean Sajid Javid, the chancellor, overshooting the government’s borrowing limit by £5 billion in 2020-21, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which said that the government was “adrift without any fiscal anchor”.

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NHS bosses warn of social care timebomb

Nine in ten NHS bosses are worried that not enough money is being poured into social care, a survey reveals today.

Nearly half – 46 per cent – said they were very concerned about the lack of such investment in their area. Only 2 per cent were confident that their local council was putting in enough funding to meet care needs. The survey, by NHS Providers which represents hospital, ambulance and community trusts, was completed by 131 NHS chief executives and chairmen.

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Brexit casts its shadow over budgets

Its latest Green Budget, produced annually before the real Budget, does not buck the trend. It predicts the deficit will bust the Government’s 2% fiscal target next year and total public sector debt is at an historic high, that even a benign no-deal Brexit will double the deficit to 4%, and that this fails to include extra health and care costs (estimated to be an extra 2% of GDP every decade).

Had there been no referendum the economy would be now £55-£66bn larger than it is and as a result the UK ‘has missed out on a bout of global growth since 2016.’ Local authority treasurers would be advised not to get too excited about the extra cash pledged to them in chancellor Sajid Javid’s recent Spending Round for fear of what might be round the corner.

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Living wage boost would benefit hundreds of thousands of council staff

The two biggest political parties have committed to increasing the National Living Wage, which currently stands at £8.21 per hour for those over 25, £7.70 for those aged 21–24 and £6.15 for ages 18-20.

At the Conservative party conference last month, chancellor Sajid Javid pledged to increase the National Living Wage to £10.50 within the next five years and lower the age threshold from 25 to 21.

Labour has previously promised to raise the wage to £10 in 2020 and reduce the age to 18.

Although the national agreement ‘Green Book’ covering 1.4m workers sets minimum pay at £9 a hour, the Living Wage Foundation campaign found earlier this year that 389,000 council workers and 249,000 outsourced employees are earning less than this.

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Fuller: Counties also under threat if devo push has unitary focus

Councils at all levels could be under threat if the government plans to frame its devolution push around the creation of unitary councils, the chair of the District Councils’ Network has said.

Speaking at a Conservative conference fringe event last week, housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick said two-tier local government does not feel like it has a long-term future, and the mayoral model in conjunction with unitary councils is strongly preferred by government when considering devolution deals.

This came after a devolution white paper was announced by chancellor Sajid Javid on Monday.

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Leaked Brexit planning memo offers no new guidance for departing EU

Brexit planners say they have been left frustrated and despairing after receiving a confidential eight-page memo from Whitehall that gives no new details or specific guidance about how the UK is preparing for its departure from the EU.

The document, leaked to the Guardian, states the “UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October whatever the circumstances”, but acknowledges there is still a mountain to climb to prepare people and businesses for a potential no-deal Brexit.

Though time is running short, the memo makes clear that the government is not yet ready to share its latest “reasonable worst case scenarios” – which help local emergency planners to focus their resources.

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More than three million Brits struggling to pay basic bills like council tax

More than three million people are struggling to pay council tax and other essentials bills, a new study reveals.

Over the past year almost 1.6million households have fallen behind with council tax payments, nearly one million are in rent arrears, while over one million are behind on water bills.

The report from the Universities of Birmingham and Lincoln shows poverty is rising for all groups, even those in work, as six in ten people in the poorest fifth of the population are deep in debt.

More than eight million of those living in poverty have at least one person in paid employment in their family. The research highlights a worrying trend as more than two million people were contacted by bailiffs in 2018.

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Consultation opens on local government finance settlement

Consultation on the local government finance settlement for 2020/21 has been opened by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

The Government has hailed it as ‘the biggest year-on-year real terms increase in funding for almost a decade’ with a core spending power rise of £2.9bn, or 4.3%, to £49.1bn.

As announced in the Spending Round, the Government is proposing to provide grant funding of £1bn for social care, with freedoms to levy a 2% adult care precept. While no further business rates retention pilots will run in 2020/21, the Government has proposed to continue to pay off negative RSG in full.

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Climate change targets ‘unlikely to be met’ without funding, council chiefs say

National climate change targets are ‘unlikely to be met’ unless local authorities are given long-term funding and more powers, council chiefs say.

The Local Government Association (LGA) issued the warning after the charity Friends of the Earth said that councils were doing ‘far too little’ to tackle climate change.

The charity has assessed local authorities in order to determine which are the greenest and which should do more to alleviate the impact of the climate crisis.

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Queen’s Speech ‘must give councils greater fiscal freedom’

The Queen’s Speech should be used to reinvigorate the devolution agenda, local government leaders have said. Speakers at a Local Government Association fringe event at the Conservative Party conference said Whitehall must “let go” of powers and give councils greater fiscal freedom.

Izzi Seccombe, leader of the LGA Conservative group, said yesterday: “We are asking that devolution should be back on the agenda quite firmly…Whitehall must trust us and let us fly.”

“I want to see Whitehall let go,” she added.

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‘Councils should be reduced in size to make savings’

Reducing the number of councillors in local government could make savings, a conference panel has said. Local government must try to “end the conveyer belt of entitlement” that exists in the sector, councillors at a Conservative Party conference fringe event have said.

The event, held by the Taxpayers’ Alliance campaign group, discussed the need to reduce the size of councils to make savings. Andrew Kennedy, a councillor from Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council said that downsizing “does produce savings but it also improves the quality of councillors”.

The sector has been “dredging the bottom of what is already a shallow pool of talent”, and must “scrape the barnacles off the boat”, he claimed.

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Auditors get tough new rules after high?profile collapses

The accounting watchdog, which has been criticised for a number of high-profile corporate failures, is to force auditors to apply more rigorous checks when assessing whether companies have the resources to continue operating.

The Financial Reporting Council has published a new set of rules for auditors when deciding whether a business is a “going concern “ and able to trade for another 12 months. Audit firms will have to test “more robustly” the evidence provided by managers to demonstrate a company’s viability.

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Tories tot up cost of free social care

Free social care is being considered by No 10 as the Conservatives look for ways to match Labour on helping the elderly.

Four options are under discussion in Downing Street to make good on Boris Johnson’s promise to fix a crumbling social care system “once and for all”.

Possibilities include a comprehensive offer that makes elderly care free at the point of use, as well as less expensive alternatives such as reverting to the coalition policy of a lifetime cap on care costs.

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Javid announces white paper as devo ‘regains its Bojo’

Chancellor Sajid Javid has promised to publish a white paper on further devolution in England.

Speaking at the Conservative party conference today, Mr Javid said too many people “feel power is distant to them, be it in Brussels or Westminster”.

He said: “I can announce today we will bring forward a white paper on further devolution in England, giving more local areas more local powers to drive investments in the infrastructure and services they know they need.

“We already have four brilliant Conservative mayors. Let’s have one in Manchester too.”

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Government takes the first steps in a bus revolution?

New low-fare, high-frequency ‘Superbus’ networks, Britain’s first all-electric bus town, better information for passengers, and contactless payment on every city bus was announced on 30 September 2019 by the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, in a major package of new measures to boost buses.

The package, worth £220 million in the first year, will see many cuts to services reversed. It will create ‘express lanes’ for buses in the West Midlands and elsewhere. It will invest in new ways of providing more frequent public transport in the countryside and other places where conventional buses have dwindled or disappeared. And new apps will also be developed that draw together information on bus routes, fares, and timetables from different bus operators across England into one place.

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Javid announces £4.3bn Brexit 'funding guarantee'

Chancellor Sajid Javid has outlined plans to distribute £4.3bn if the UK leaves the EU without a Brexit deal.

The ‘Brexit guarantee funding’ aims to protect charities, universities and businesses from the loss of EU grants. This figure will rise to £16.6bn by 2029, Mr Javid said.

Mr Javid said: ‘We’re working tirelessly to get a deal with our EU friends and partners, and our preference remains to leave with a deal, but we will do everything possible to ensure we are prepared for Brexit on 31st October, whatever the circumstances.

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No-deal Brexit 'still risk to NHS and care sector'

The National Audit Office praised the government for the "enormous amount of work" that had been done but said there were still "significant" gaps.

The extra shipping capacity government was buying to bring medicines into ports other than Dover may not be completely ready by 31 October. The government has arranged the stockpiling of supplies for the NHS.

But for the care sector, which is fragmented in that it relies on 24,000 companies to provide services, no central arrangement has been made to stockpile equipment and supplies, such as syringes and needles, most of which come from or via the EU.

And there was no clear evidence the care sector was ready, the NAO said. The report raises concerns the sector has not received enough government support.

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Number of empty shops in UK at highest level for five years

Britain’s high streets, shopping centres and retail parks have been left with the highest number of empty outlets in five years as chains have taken a battering from rising costs and low consumer confidence.

Nearly 12% of shopping locations were empty in the first half of 2019, up 0.6% compared to the same period last year, according to research from Local Data Company’s (LDC) review of 3,000 retail centres.

More than 25,700 outlets closed their doors, the highest level since LDC began tracking the market in 2010. That was offset by 22,115 openings, the highest level since 2015.

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IFS: Johnson’s tax plans will cost economy billions

The prime minister’s plans to cut revenue received from National Insurance contributions and higher income tax would cost billions a year, a think-tank has said.

Boris Johnson has said he wants to raise the threshold for the top income tax rate from £50,000 to £80,000, which would cost £8bn a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The prime minister has not specified how much he wishes to raise the NICs threshold to, but if it was raised to match the current income tax personal allowance of £12,500 it would cost would cost the economy £17bn a year, the IFS calculated.

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Social care for smokers costing councils £720m a year

Smoking-related social care is costing local authorities £720m a year, new research has revealed.

A new report, published by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), found smokers need social care ten years earlier than those who have never smoked.

It found 670,000 people over 50 have care needs related to smoking, with 45% having unmet care needs.

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England's most deprived areas named as Jaywick and Blackpool

Eight of the 10 most deprived neighbourhoods in England are in Blackpool, according to new statistics. Seaside village Jaywick, in Essex, has been named the most deprived area overall for the third time in a row since 2010.

Blackpool took the next eight slots while Middlesbrough had the largest share of the most deprived areas. Government officials ranked 32,844 neighbourhoods. The MHCLG's Index of Multiple Deprivation looked at levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment.

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Youth services ‘decimated by 69 per cent’ in less than a decade amid surge in knife crime, figures show

Spending on youth services in England has been decimated by 69 per cent in a decade and is set to reach its lowest point in a generation next year, new figures show.

Campaigners have issued fresh warnings that austerity is pushing more children and young people into street violence after an analysis of figures revealed average spend on youth services per local authority plummeted from £7.79m in 2010 to a planned expenditure of just £2.45m next year.

Nearly a third of local councils have planned cuts that would see their spending on youth services decline by 80 per cent since 2010-11, while the vast majority of local authorities (83 per cent) are set to cut their funding in half over a nine-year period, the data shows.

Knife crime has meanwhile surged, with 43,516 offences reported to police last year across England and Wales – excluding Greater Manchester Police, which records data differently – marking the highest since comparable records began in 2011.

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Time is running out for councils to receive EU replacement fund, LGA warns

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for the Government to urgently publish its final plans for the replacement of the EU funding after Brexit.

With the Brexit deadline fast approaching, local councils are reportedly not able to secure vital investments into their local economies without fund certainty

The LGA, which represents councils across England and Wales, is keen to move forward with plans and says that councils are ambitious for their communities and local growth, creating jobs, supporting businesses and boosting the national economy.

In July 2018, the Government announced the EU funding’s replacement, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), but councils are still waiting for details the all-important life-line for their local economies.

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Boris Johnson reveals £5bn broadband bonanza

Boris Johnson is poised to reveal a broadband subsidy of as much as £5bn in an attempt to deliver his pledge of a complete national upgrade in just a few years.

The massive cheque is likely to be unveiled at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week, according to industry and Westminster sources, who last night cautioned that the schedule could still change.

The taxpayer funding will be aimed at the most sparsely populated rural areas, many of them Tory heartlands.

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UK ‘needs £128bn’ to solve the housing crisis

As many as 8.4 million – one in seven people - of all generations and in all regions of England are living in unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable accommodation, the National Housing Federation has claimed.

The NHF along with Shelter, Crisis, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have urged the government to spend £12.8bn every year for the next decade to tackle the housing shortfall. NHF’s first ever State of the Nation briefing estimates that over the next 10 years the country needs 340,000 new homes a year including 145,000 social homes.

The government’s current target is to build an average of 300,000 new homes each year by the mid 2020s. But only 220,000 new homes were built in 2017-18.

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Minister confirms creation of Northamptonshire unitary authorities

The Government has confirmed that the legislation allowing for the creation of two unitary authorities in Northamptonshire will be in Parliament this autumn.

The eight existing councils in the county will be dissolved and replaced by two new councils, one for North Northamptonshire and one for West Northamptonshire.

The former local government secretary James Brokenshire had originally envisaged the new councils being fully operational from 1 April 2020 but it was announced in May that they would not be established until April 2021.

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Council to 'terminate' care company

Scottish Borders councillors will be asked to agree to shut down its care company next week.

A review of SB Cares, which is responsible for the majority of the council’s adult care services, found it had fallen short of savings targets agreed when it had been established in 2014 and concerns have been raised about the quality of care.

It was estimated in 2014 that transferring the services to an arm’s-length external organisation (ALEO) would generate £5.6m for the council in savings and surpluses over five years. However, SB Cares has fallen short of its target by £822,000, according to a review carried out by chief financial officer David Robertson.

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Peterborough City Council to tackle homelessness with its own housing company

eterborough City Council to ask for cabinet approval to set up their own Housing Revenue Account (HRA), enabling the council to provide hundreds of new homes over the coming decades to help solve the city's homelessness crisis.

The council has reported a 56% increase in households declaring themselves as homeless only the past year alone. It’s a problem felt country-wide but with Peterborough’s position as the fifth-fastest growing city in England it’s seeming more and more desperate.

The number of families in B&B accommodation has been reduced down from 146 in September 2018 to 73 this month.

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Government announces over £10 million for 5 more coastal communities

The cash boost will support coastal projects in Cumbria, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Kent and Suffolk to create jobs, boost tourism, improve transport and protect much-loved coastal heritage sites.

The fund helps to develop and improve local attractions, create jobs and promote socio-economic growth.

The Coastal Communities Fund projects announced today are forecast to support nearly 1,000 jobs and attract up to £7.9 million in additional investment from public and private sector sources.

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Where not to live if you want a good care home

High concentrations of substandard care homes in some areas leave families with no choice but to accept an under-performing home for older and disabled relatives, an analysis suggests.

In each local authority area the IPPR, which worked with research group Future Care Capital, mapped the proportion of care home places rated as inadequate or requiring improvement by the Care Quality Commission.

Overall, 23% of the 456,000 beds were in settings that fell into one of the two categories.

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Johnson ignores LGA social care deadline

The Local Government Association (LGA) has issued a fresh warning after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ignored its deadline for publishing a paper on social care’s future.

At the LGA’s annual conference in Bournemouth earlier this year, council leaders demanded that a Green Paper be published before Parliament went into recess earlier this month.

The LGA gave the Government 10 weeks to publish a Green Paper outlining future funding options and possible solutions to the crisis before the start of the party conferences.

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Think-tank calls for more local taxes

There appear to be ‘few’ legislative barriers to bringing in new local taxes as long as the money raised went towards local authority expenditure, think-tank IPPR Scotland has said.

The IPPR said a local inheritance tax could raise up to £300m of additional money while a low pay levy could bring in up to £600m a year in revenues by charging employers for those workers earning up to £8,632 a year, who are currently not subject to National Insurance.

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Minister handed Brexit cash demand in Portsmouth

Portsmouth has demanded more funds to cover Brexit costs during a ministerial visit.

Leader of the city council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, handed a letter to transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris when he visited the port as part of the Government’s Get Ready for Brexit publicity campaign.

The letter said the Government’s Brexit grant to Portsmouth left a shortfall of £844,000 on the costs of Portsmouth's traffic management programme and pointed out that, when put into action, it will incur running costs of £93,000 per week.

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Liverpool ‘in crisis’ over £57.6m funding gap

Liverpool City Council is to hold an emergency meeting today after it emerged it is facing a £57.6m budget gap in 2020-21 and is running out of reserves.

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson has described the council's financial position as as worst crisis the city has faced since the World War Two.

The meeting of full council at 5pm will discuss a joint motion put forward by members of the majority Labour group, the Liberal Democrat opposition and Green and Liberal councillors which calls for urgent meeting with the Treasury to discuss the council's "perilous" financial position.

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[Opinion] The Treasury needs to take a place-based view

For local government, the Institute for Government’s (IfG) latest broadside this week about Whitehall will come as no surprise. In a nutshell, the IfG says the way the Treasury manages public spending is inefficient with too little regard to what effect taxpayers’ largesse is happening on the ground. Despite almost a decade of austerity, public money is still being wasted and much of this is due to the Government.

The IfG study, The Treasury’s Responsibility for the Results of Public Spending, in particular focuses on four areas which concern local government, namely poor accountability, Whitehall silos, lack of certainty over spending settlements and a focus on departments rather than outcomes on the ground.

Of the first, examples include school exclusions where costs are shunted elsewhere such as into the criminal justice system or education where councils are held responsible for school places but have no control over academies.

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Call for views on the financial reporting of local authorities

The Government has called on council workers to give their views to an independent review on the quality of the financial reporting of local authorities in England.

The review, launched in July, will look into the effectiveness of local authority financial reporting and the audit regime, and will examine whether the information provided by councils helps scrutiny by taxpayers and the press.

Led by the former president of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Sir Tony Redmond, the review is now encouraging practitioners who work in the local government sector, the audit community, and others, to submit their response to an open set of questions.

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Call for views on the financial reporting of local authorities

The Government has called on council workers to give their views to an independent review on the quality of the financial reporting of local authorities in England.

The review, launched in July, will look into the effectiveness of local authority financial reporting and the audit regime, and will examine whether the information provided by councils helps scrutiny by taxpayers and the press.

Led by the former president of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Sir Tony Redmond, the review is now encouraging practitioners who work in the local government sector, the audit community, and others, to submit their response to an open set of questions.

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Why audit needs auditing

Growing concerns about the quality of audit lead to support for Sir Tony's Redmond's review.

There are reports of auditors so fresh faced they look like they have just left school and others not understanding the basics of local government finance such as council tax. Meanwhile, the country’s auditor in chief has suggested too many of his colleagues are sitting on the fence. As the 2018-19 accounts season closes, at least for councils at which accounts were signed off by the 31 July deadline, there is a clear case for examining how the audit system is working.

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Research reveals councils' top Brexit risks

The economic repercussions of Brexit dominate the risks foreseen by councils, according to new research. Shortages of labour and skills in the local economy is the most common threat feared by councils, the research found.

The People’s Vote campaign group, which advocates a second referendum on the UK’s EU membership, analysed the Brexit risk registers of from 63 local authorities obtained via Freedom of Information requests.

Possible economic damage was viewed as a risk by 78% of the respondents, including Bristol City Council, which has concerns about the impact on trade, investment, business confidence and key sectors.

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‘Wasteful’ Treasury slammed for impact on services

There is "much cause for concern" in how the Treasury's approach affects public services, analysis by a leading think tank has found. Local Government interviewees voiced concerns that the government’s evidence-gathering is lacking, and that departments not understand "comprehensively what money was spent or which results were being achieved on the ground".

They told researchers that MHCLG collected information on “many, contradictory” forms, but added there was no sign that government seeks to understand the impact of public spending on its declared goals.

Interviewees said the Treasury’s approach to managing results often overlooked the way that initiatives by different departments might overlap or have unexpected consequences in particular places, such as metropolitan or county areas.

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Councils spend £1bn on shopping centres

Councils have committed more than £1bn between 2016 and 2020 by investing in local shopping centres, a study has revealed.

Research by retail property specialists Revo and advisers Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) found direct investment by councils now accounted for one-fifth of all transactions involving shopping centre property.

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Positive results found for axed project

A report has revealed a since-scrapped Essex CC initiative led to a dramatic drop in children needing to go into care or custody.

The report by the University of Oxford’s Rees Centre highlighted the impact of multi-systemic therapy (MST) in helping keep young people out of care. Evaluation of the initiative, which was delivered over five years via a £3.1m social impact bond (SIB), showed that 91% of the cohort of more than 300 young people had social care provision in the two years before receiving MST and only 55% in the year after.

Essex said it led to a reduction of over 96,000 days spent in care by young people and saved £17.9m. Despite the positive results, the county decided not to continue with the programme, citing budget pressures.

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Legal action threatens council income

North Yorkshire CC could lose annual income of £300,000 from home-to-school transport amid a legal threat from a disability rights campaigner.

Like councils across the country, North Yorkshire provides a free service for eligible pupils and then allows the families of pupils who do not qualify to buy up surplus seats.

Buses used for the free service do not need to accommodate wheelchairs but the campaigner is believed to be arguing that where the council sells spare seats the bus must be wheelchair accessible.

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Stinging criticism over ministry's double rates error

Labour has launched a scathing attack as the Government continues to drag its heels over resolving repeated errors in the business rates formula.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) wrote to all business rate pilot authorities in May asking them to contact it by June 21 if they believed they were entitled to ‘special payments’ following an error by officials.

MHCLG made the error despite commissioning former Valuation Office Agency chief executive Andrew Hudson to carry out a review into the department’s oversight of the business rates system in 2018 – weeks after an identical error led to a £37m overpayment.

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‘Armchair auditors’ frustrated by attempts at accounts scrutiny

Local authorities are refusing to let the public access key information on how their money is being spent, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found.

The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 (LAAA) gives citizens and journalists the right to inspect the accounts and related documents of councils, police, fire and other local authorities, and to object to them if they believe something is amiss. It is an especially important right at a time when public bodies are under unprecedented financial pressure, writes the Bureau's Gareth Davies.

However, when Bureau journalists and volunteers attempted to exercise that right, some authorities refused to release or heavily redacted the information. There was often little evidence that the public interest had been considered and no way of challenging the decision short of a costly court battle.

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'Care crisis': Sent-away children are 'easy victims'

Local authorities are unwittingly becoming "recruiting sergeants" for drugs gangs, by sending thousands of children in care to live outside their home area, according to a report. These children were "easy victims for predators", Ann Coffey MP told the BBC's Newsnight programme.

She said the government must "slash the number" of sent-away children. The government said it was gathering evidence "to better understand" how out-of-area placements were used.

The report shows a 77% rise in the number of children in England being placed in care homes outside their home council area - from 2,250 children in 2012 to 3,990 in 2018. Two-thirds (64%) of children in children's homes and 41% of all looked after children in England live out of area.

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Providers: No-deal ‘could lead to social care statutory duty failure’

The government’s Yellowhammer document shows that a no-deal Brexit could mean councils will be unable to fulfil their statutory responsibilities to vulnerable adults, a leading representative of independent care providers has warned.

Chief executive of Care England Martin Green said that the document outlining worst case scenarios after a no-deal exit from the European Union, such as care providers going bust, was realistic, writes Tom de Castella.

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Chief executives demand 10% pay rise

The trade union for council chief executives has demanded a 10% pay rise – the same claim submitted by other local government staff.

It comes amid estimates from the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives (ALACE) that its members have ‘seen a very significant real terms reduction in pay over the last 10 years, amounting to 30% or more’.

ALACE said it did not believe that chief executives should receive ‘less generous treatment than other staff’.

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Council PWLB borrowing hits record level in August

Borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board hit another recent record high in August, with councils taking £1.983bn in loans. The figure pips March’s figure of £1.93bn, a spree fuelled by councils swapping short term debt for longer term borrowing due to the low rates on offer.

August’s total is largest amount borrowed in a single month since March 2012, when councils took more than £12bn in advance of the introduction of the housing revenue account self-financing system.

The bumper month of PWLB activity pushes the statutory body’s liabilities even closer to the current cap of £85bn. In July, Room151 reported that figures in the PWLB’s 2018/19 accounts showed liabilities of £78.34bn, up from £70.88bn the year before – driven by a 76.9% increase in new loans advanced to councils and other bodies in the 12 months.

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Somerset auditors recognise improved finances

Somerset CC’s improved finances have been recognised by auditors, according to a report.

Auditors have given the council a ‘qualified except for’ rating for 2018/19 – an improvement on 2017/18’s ‘adverse’ value for money conclusion.

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Number of households in temporary residence highest since 2007

The number of households living in temporary accommodation in England is at its highest level in more than a decade and the number of households considered newly homeless rose by by more than 3,000 in three months, government statistics show.

A total of 84,740 households were in bed and breakfasts, hostels and other temporary accommodation at the end of March this year, including 126,020 children, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said. It is the highest number of such households since mid-2007 and compares with a low of 48,010 in 2010.

Between January and March this year, 32,740 households were initially assessed as being homeless, up 11.2% from 29,430 in the previous quarter.

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Spending Review saves council from depleting reserves

Shropshire Council says last week’s Spending Review has rescued it from exhausting its reserves this year.

A report from external auditors going before councillors this week says the authority faces a 2020/21 financial gap of £12.4m with the complete eradication of its reserves over the financial year.

However, the council said the report by Grant Thornton predated the Spending Review and that it now expects to deliver a balanced budget for the year and retain up to £17m in reserves

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Retailers call for action as high street store closures soar

Retailers and unions are calling for urgent government action to help struggling high streets as new data shows the number of shops, pubs and restaurants lying empty is rising at the fastest pace in nearly a decade.

About 16 stores closed their doors every day in the first half of 2019 while only nine opened, resulting in a net decline of 1,234 chain stores on Britain’s top 500 high streets according to analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and high street analysts the Local Data Company (LDC).

The decline, which does not include independent shops, was faster than the net 1,123 closures during the same period last year – after just 222 in 2017 – and is the highest recorded since LDC began monitoring high streets in 2010.

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Cash-strapped councils struggling to support SEND children, auditors warn

Auditors have warned that local authorities are coming under growing financial pressure as the demand for supporting school pupils with the greatest needs rises.

A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that councils are increasingly overspending their budgets for children with special educational needs (SEND).

In 2017-18, 81.3% of councils overspent compared with 47.3% in 2013-14. The NAO says this is primarily driven by a 20% increase in the number of pupils attending special schools instead of mainstream education.

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Peterborough capital receipts episode prompts prudential framework review

The government is to consider changes to the prudential framework covering local authority finances to prevent a repeat of the controversy over Peterborough City Council’s use of capital receipts.

In March, an article on the Huffington Post website raised the question of whether the authority had acted illegally by using capital receipts to offset its annual minimum revenue provision (MRP) charge rather than the total amount of borrowing.

The department this week announced it would not take any further action against the authority but said it would be taking a close look at the wording of the current rules.

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Tory conference: Government confirms £25bn for road upgrades

The Conservative Party is attempting to focus attention on its spending pledges for an "infrastructure revolution", on the second day of its party conference.

Chancellor Sajid Javid has promised £25bn for England's roads as well as £5bn for ultrafast broadband in some of the UK's "hardest to reach parts".

It comes as the start of the conference was overshadowed by questions about leader Boris Johnson's private life.

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Major Review into Support for Children with Special Educational Needs

Five years on from reforms introduced to better support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), the review aims to improve the services available to families who need support, equip staff in schools and colleges to respond effectively to their needs as well as ending the ‘postcode lottery’ they often face.

The review comes a week after the government announced a major funding boost of £700m in 2020-21 for pupils with the most complex needs, delivering on the Prime Minister’s pledge to ensure every pupil can access the education that is right for them.

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Britain has biggest primary school classes in the developed world, report finds

Britain has the biggest primary school classes in the developed world, a new report has revealed.

State primary schools in the UK now have an average of 28 pupils, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) latest Education at a Glance study.

This is the first year that Britain has been ranked as having the highest number of pupils per class – joint with Chile – out of all the OECD countries.

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Government pledges £62m flood funding for communities in England

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

COMMENT

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