News round-up 17/8: Gove in playing field bother
Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
School playing fields
Education secretary Michael Gove overruled internal advice from his own independent experts to force through the sale of school playing fields, the Daily Telegraph reports. The paper says documents show that Mr Gove ignored advice from the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel and approved sell-offs five times in the past 15 months. The number of sales agreed by the education secretary is also far higher than the amount admitted by the government earlier this month.
Speaking on the Today Programme, David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s children and young person’s board, said that the vast majority of schools have sufficient space for recreational activities. Mr Simmonds called for the decision-making process concerning playing fields to be open and transparent so parents can prevent a trend towards selling-off space. He added that local councils make proposals on playing fields based on school closures and mergers. Or, in the most extreme cases, schools sell playing fields to fund repairs and improvements on other areas of the school estate, he said.
After yesterday’s news that the government could be set for a dramatic U-turn in endorsing Andrew Dilnot’s proposals for a cap on individuals’ care costs, the Guardian reports that the Department of Health has dismissed a paper written by Conservative MP John Redwood which calls on the government to abandon the Dilnot proposals as “misleading and inaccurate.” Mr Redwood claims the costs of the proposals are “quite high and do not offer value for money.”
A long-awaited review of the private rented housing market will next week urge ministers to drop the requirement for developers to include “affordable homes” in their schemes in exchange for a guarantee that the properties will be let rather than sold, the Financial Times reports. The review, by Sir Adrian Montague, chairman of private equity firm 3i, was commissioned to find ways to encourage institutional investors to increase their involvement in the private rented sector.
Following news that private rents have hit a record high, housing minister Grant Shapps told the Today programme there has been a housing crisis for a number of decades in the United Kingdom. It is “ridiculously expensive” for people to buy homes in the UK, he said, adding that initiatives such as the new buy guarantee scheme will help people get on to the property ladder. Mr Shapps stressed that there has been an 8% increase in the number of new homes built in the last year and that a huge amount of money is being dedicated to building new homes. He maintained that the only solution to the problem is to build new homes, adding that the government has reformed the planning system and invested money in house building projects to meet that end. He stressed that this situation will not be resolved overnight.
The National Housing Federation’s David Orr said that there are not enough new homes to rent and buy, and that as a result prices across the board have increased. House prices have doubled over the last ten years whereas salaries have only increase by a third, he explained. Mr Orr argued that the situation is getting worse as house prices have not come down during this period of recession. In order to address a shortage of supply, 250,000 to 300,000 new homes are required per year, he stated.
Labour candidate and Local Government Information Unit thinktank chief Andy Sawford looks well set in the race to replace departing Conservative MP Louise Mensch, the Guardian reports. A poll of 1,500 voters found that 52% backed Labour, 37% the Conservatives and 7% the Liberal Democrats.