News round-up 2/8: Economic news disappoints
Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Economy and the Olympics
British manufacturers suffered their worst month for more than three years, according to figures for July, the Financial Times reports. Figures suggest that slowing global growth is hampering the UK’s attempt to exit recession.
Meanwhile, data also showed poor retail sales and a fall in the Nationwide house price index, underlining the fragile state of the domestic economy.
The Independent reports that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted that the “upheaval” from the London Games has deterred tourists from visiting the capital. However, the government has refused to downgrade Mr Cameron’s estimate that the games will generate £130bn for the UK economy.
But shop vacancy rates have risen to 14.6% in June, the highest level on record, reports the Financial Times in a piece which focuses on struggling high streets. Data from the Local Data Company shows shops are becoming vacant at the fastest rate in Forest Gate, one stop away from the Olympics and the new Westfield shopping centre, while Margate in Kent has the highest vacancy rate. Matthew Hopkinson, director of the research firm, said the government did not fully recognise the scale of the problem, which would be hard to fix through the Mary Portas pilot scheme which has offered £100,000 a piece to 27 town centres.
Council tax benefit
Local government minister Bob Neill defended the government’s plans to localise council tax benefit. Speaking to BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, he said councils would have “the ability to design schemes which reflect circumstances in their area”. Labour peer Baroness Hollis said the arrangement would be “deeply unfair” and based on “a lottery of where you live”.
Police and crime commissioners
The joint leader of the far-right group the English Defence League is to stand for election as the police commissioner for Bedfordshire, one of the anti-Muslim organisation’s strongholds, the Independent reports.
Education secretary Michael Gove has been urged against bringing back O-Level exams, as it has been suggested the move could separate England from the world’s best schools systems, and could result in the country missing out on developments in exam technology, the Times reports. Education expert, Sir Michael Barber said that trying to replicate O-levels would not raise standards in the way many hoped, and instead pressed Mr Gove to ensure that GCSE exams kept pace with the leading global standards, seen in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Residents under the flight path of Heathrow Airport could be offered thousands of pounds in compensation if a future government gives the go-ahead to a third runway at the airport, the Independent reports. The payments are being put forward as one suggestion to appease the anger of communities who would be worst affected by noise following any expansion at the Airport.