News round-up 23/7: Desperate measures to find classrooms
Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Councils are drawing up plans to use empty shops and offices as school premises, to cope with a population surge, Sunday’s Observer reported. It said the problem was “acute” in London and other cities, where a combination of population growth and the movement of people into cheaper areas was “creating intense pressure in less wealthy boroughs.”
The Observer also reported on the poor condition of many primary schools. It highlighted St John’s Angell Town primary in Brixton, south London. The school’s head said it had “visible asbestos in the kitchen, water marks all over the walls and 100 leaks in the roof.”
The Daily Telegraph reports that “thousands of bright pupils are missing out on places at elite universities because of failure at secondary school,” according to the education watchdog the Office for Fair Access. It says children are failing to get into the most selective universities after being denied the chance to study foreign languages and separate sciences.
The latest Treasury accounts have shown that Whitehall departments spent £6bn less than expected this year, reports the Times. The paper says money put aside for three government departments that are responsible for pushing growth – the Departments for Transport, Energy & Climate Change and Business, Innovation & Skills – was left unused. The documents also showed the collapse in public sector spending on house building which has fallen from £4.4bn in 2010-11 to £2.7bn in 2011-12 and will fall to £757m by 2014-15.
Conservative chair of the energy and climate change select committee Tim Yeo has accused the chancellor of sacrificing green energy plans in order to appease Conservative backbenchers, today’s Guardian reports. The committee has criticised the government for making “damaging” changes to its draft Energy Bill, which would scrap the system of subsidies for large-scale renewable energy and encourage the use of nuclear power. Director of policy at RenewableUK Dr Gordon Edge warned that if reforms were not carried out correctly there would be “less diversity in the market, higher prices for consumers, over reliance on imported dirty fuels, and the potential of tens of thousands of low-carbon jobs lost”.
Meanwhile, chancellor George Osborne has offered to drop demands for bigger cuts to wind farm subsidies if the Liberal Democrats back down over “inflexible decarbonisation” targets, including recommendations from Mr Yeo’s committee that a 2030 carbon target is included in the bill, reports the Financial Times.
The Daily Telegraph says that MPs have warned that households will pay too much for their electricity bills because of the coalition’s “botched” energy reforms.
Olympic strike action
Ministers are considering implementing “Ronald Regan-style employment laws” that would give them the power to sack UK Border Agency staff who plan to strike on 26 July, says the Guardian. PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka said the planned action was a last resort and was about defending important services and the security of the country, the paper reports.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has said he would be prepared to take his party into a coalition with Labour after the next general election. Mr Clegg said he would do his “duty” if Labour won the most seats but fell short of a Commons majority.