News round-up 24/7: MPs urge gambling freedoms
Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Casinos should be able to relocate more easily while betting shops could be allowed more slot machines, MPs have said. The Commons culture committee has urged further deregulation of the gaming and betting industries in recognition of the “global” nature of gambling, according to the BBC.
The location of casinos and the number of fixed-odds terminals allowed in betting shops should be set by councils rather than ‘central diktat’, the MPs say. But the LGA denounced the plans with Clyde Loakes (Lab) of the association’s environment and housing board saying that increasing the number of slot machines in betting shops was “completely illogical” and “clearly not sensible”, according to the Daily Mail.
Council tax benefit
Polly Toynbee writes in the Guardian that council tax benefit reform is a repeat of the Thatcher government’s poll tax. In an article headlined “The poll tax is back from the dead – it’s Cameron localism” she writes that the reforms are “inefficient, bureaucratic, unjust and unworkable” and that “the wonder is that local authorities are so docile when they should be raising the roof.” She accuses the government of “devolving the axe and the blame, dumping on councils the responsibilities that belong to central government with no power to raise extra money.”
Leading scientists have argued that maths should be made a compulsory subject for everyone aged 16-18, the Independent says. Lord Rees of Trinity College, Cambridge is quoted as saying there is a need to ensure that “fewer people are bewildered and bamboozled by numbers”. An international league table produced in 2009 placed the UK 28th based on the mathematical skills of 15 year olds. The House of Lords select committee on Science and Technology has recommended that “drastic action” be taken, in order for young people to be able to compete in the global knowledge economy, the paper reports.
The price of electricity may have to double to underpin new nuclear reactors, according to the Financial Times. The paper says that companies will need a price of at least double the existing wholesale price to justify the investment needed in nuclear plants, stoking concerns that consumers could end up paying much of the cost of the government’s nuclear programme.
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to drop demands for a 25% cut in state subsidies for onshore wind-farms, reports the Independent. The Liberal Democrats have played down reports that the party would trade a reduction to the cut for a bigger role for gas in the energy market. However, Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns at the Friends of the Earth, argued that if the chancellor gets his way “Britain will be locked into expensive imports of dirty gas for decades to come”.
The Guardian leads with the story that the credibility of G4S has been called into further question today over its training process for detecting dangerous materials including IEDs. The paper reveals that recruits are only given 20 minutes training on how to use x-ray machines and are given repeated opportunities to pass the test. A G4S spokesman told the paper that “X-ray operators are given industry-standard time at the machines” and that “all screeners spend three-four hours in simulation”.
The Guardian reports that the Labour Party would lose support if Tony Blair were to return as its leader. The newspaper says Mr Blair “has been reported as saying that experience could make him a better prime minister the next time around” but acknowledges that this is “not likely to happen.” It says a Guardian/ICM poll shows the party’s standing would shrink by three points, from 39% to 36%, with Mr Blair as leader.