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News round-up 16/5: Survey finds fall in funded home care

Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government

Social care

The number of elderly and disabled people having their home care services fully paid for by councils has fallen by 11% in England in the past two years, with services becoming increasingly inaccessible for most people, the Guardian writes. Responses from 120 English councils to Freedom of Information requests sent by the Labour party revealed wide disparities in price for care between different areas, with an average £13 hourly charge that was unaffordable for many.

Speaking on the Today Programme, shadow care minister Liz Kendall said she hoped a cross-party consensus could be found on implementing the proposals from the Dilnot Commission as a starting point toward delivering a fairer system. Rob Jarrett (Green), cabinet member for adult social care on Brighton & Hove City Council, said that the cost of care in Brighton was high was because the council had maintained its care provision and provided the “high end “of the service.

 

Council investments

The Times reports that councils have been taking millions of pounds out of Santander because of fears about the weakening Spanish economy. John Simmonds, described as Kent CC’s “chief executive”, yesterday met representatives from the bank after it withdrew £3m following the Spanish government introduced measures to shore up the banking sector. Arlingclose, an investment adviser to councils said deposits in Santander UK had fallen from £600m to £400m since 2010.

 

Civil service reform

A new scheme beginning this autumn will see policy development outsourced to private companies as part of the government’s efforts to shrink the civil service, the Times reveals today. Departments would commission consultants or think tanks to draw up policy and test it, instead of using civil servants. The proposal is part of a wider package of reforms that are causing tension between ministerial advisers and the civil service. Last week, Steve Hilton, the prime minister’s outgoing strategy adviser clashed with Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the civil service, over staff numbers and performance in Whitehall. Mr Hilton is said to have stormed out of a meeting over Sir Bob’s resistance to cutting staff beyond the 20% already announced and introducing fixed-term contracts.

 

Welfare Benefits

Prime minister David Cameron is proposing a crackdown on housing benefits in a confidential policy paper presented by his policy guru Steve Hilton, the Daily Telegraph reveals today. The policy suggestions include changes to the universal credit to move people off benefits into full-time work, as well as measures to encourage particularly single mothers to return to work.

Meanwhile, the Independent reports that Liberal Democrat MPs are demanding a U-turn over government plans to reduce state benefits paid to blind people by replacing the current Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from next April.

 

Labour Reshuffle

The appointment of Jon Cruddas as head of the Labour Policy Review by party leader Ed Miliband is described by the Guardian as “a gamble”, as he is seen as being more left-wing than many of his contemporaries. Mr Cruddas replaces Liam Byrne, who will remain as shadow work and pensions secretary, despite calls within the party to remove him from the Labour frontbench altogether, the Guardian writes.

Elsewhere, the Independent reports that the reshuffle has been met by cheers from Labour grassroots and MPs, with the appointment of Mr Cruddas balanced by giving Labour peer Lord Adonis a complementary role as an adviser on industrial policy.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that prime minister David Cameron’s grip on the Conservative Party will be put to the test today as the elections for the influential backbench 1922 Committee take place.

 

Work Scheme Fraud

A report by National Audit Office (NAO) has found that the fraudulent claims by companies administering back-to-work schemes had still not been returned to the government, with the Department for Work & Pensions criticised for ‘not doing enough’, the Guardian reports. Furthermore, the NAO report said that half of the fraudulent activity happened under Labour’s New Deal programmes ending in 2011 and that the new Work Programme scheme had addressed the main weaknesses of the previous programmes.

Elsewhere, the Times reports that the government has ended a contract with the welfare-to-work company A4e, currently facing fraud allegations. Employment minister Chris Grayling explained that the contract was terminated due to “significant weaknesses in A4e’s internal controls”, the Independent writes.

 

Energy

The Financial Times reports that foreign secretary William Hague has warned David Cameron that the UK’s green technology companies and exports were being undermined by the failure of ministers to make a convincing case for low-carbon growth.

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