News round-up 3/8: Broadband schemes suffer delays
Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
A key target in the rollout of superfast broadband is to be missed as the timetable for councils using the government procurement process for rural projects is set back three months at least. The Financial Times reveals the delay and says almost 30 of the 45 local authority and devolved areas in the UK have not yet begun procurement.
Today’s Independent reports that charities have reacted with “horror” as the government announced that Atos and Capita have won contracts to run a new work-capability assessment for disabled people. The government has suggested that half a million people could lose their benefits as part of the reforms, which affect working age disabled people from April next year. The paper says that the companies will assess disabled people for a benefit to help with their higher costs of living, the Personal Independence Allowance (PIP), which will replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). There have been “huge concerns” about Atos’s existing scheme, particularly with regard to the nature of the tests involved and accusations of highly-inaccurate decisions being taken. Chief executive of Parkinson’s UK Steve Ford described the news as “another bitter blow for sick and disabled people”, questioning how people with Parkinson’s could undergo an assessment which made judgements about their future ability to work.
Chief executive of Scope Richard Hawkes told the Guardian that, despite criticism, disabled people may find themselves having to go through “two deeply flawed assessments in the same month to get the essential financial support they need”.
Police and crime commissioners
Potential police and crime commissioners have been banned from using police images in their election material, the Times reports. Media will also be banned from attending ‘fact-finding visits’ to stations or neighbourhood officers under guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
House of Lords reform
Prime minister David Cameron will announce in coming days that reforms to the House of Lords have been shelved, in a decision which the Daily Telegraph says will cause a major rift in the coalition. The paper says that the move will lead to fears that the Liberal Democrats will scupper planned changes to parliamentary constituency boundaries. Downing Street reportedly feared that the debate over Lords reform would drag on for months and alienate the public at a time when the focus should be on the economy. However, a spokesman said that discussions were ongoing and that an announcement would be made “when they are completed”.
Predictions from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) indicate that the UK economy will shrink by half a per cent this year and grow 1.3%next year, the Guardian reports. These forecasts are significantly less than predictions made three months ago, which suggested zero growth this year and 2% the next.
Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins sparked a fierce debate on cycle safety by appearing to suggest that laws should be changed to encourage cyclists to wear helmets and stop using mobile phones or iPods, the Times reports. His comments were made in the aftermath of the death of 28-year-old web editor and community manager Daniel Harris who worked in local government.
Mayor of London
Rupert Murdoch is reportedly considering backing Mayor of London Boris Johnson to replace David Cameron as Conservative party leader, the Guardian says. Mr Murdoch will be one of Mr Johnson’s guests at the Olympics today, as part of what the Mayor has called his “gigantic schmoozathon” to “shamelessly” promote London to investors. Sources believe that Mr Murdoch remains sceptical of the prime minister and has been impressed with the Mayor’s performance. However, the paper says that Mr Johnson’s decision to invite the media tycoon to the games has amazed some of his rivals, given that investigations into alleged criminal activity at Mr Murdoch’s News International titles are ongoing.
Record number of schools are ditching GCSEs in favour of traditional exams, the Independent reports. There has been a 100% rise in the number of entries for the IGCSE pioneered by University of Cambridge International examinations.