News round-up 6/8: Labour slams Pickles over benefits
Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Council tax benefit
Shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn has accused his counterpart Eric Pickles of “planning a £450m council tax bombshell” through reform of council tax benefit. With councils beginning to consult on local schemes, Labour has claimed that millions of low-income families face rising council tax bills from next year, under new proposals, the Times reports. Labour-run Manchester City Council plans to charge poor families, who pay nothing at the moment, at least 15% of their council tax bill while Conservative-run Barnet LBC has said no one of working age is likely to continue to receive 100% support under its new system.
Andy Sawford, the director of the Local Government Information Unit thinktank, will face a by-election earlier than anticipated after Corby and East Northamptonshire MP Louise Mensch announced her resignation from Parliament for family reasons. Mr Sawford has been selected as the Labour candidate for the constituency. High-flier Ms Mench wrote to prime minister David Cameron informing him she’d been unable to strike a balance between performing her duties as an MP and her duties as mother, the Times reports.
Following a golden weekend for Britain’s Olympians in London 2012, the Financial Times reports that the chair of the London Organising Committee has called for the continuation of funding for top athletes and local sports clubs to raise participation. Lord Coe yesterday warned that the government should not to squander a “limited opportunity” to build on Olympic success. The £235m programme designed to prepare top athletes for the Games ends in 2013.
The liberalisation of gambling laws under the last Labour government was a mistake and has ruined people’s lives, according to Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, the Guardian reports. Ms Harman has called for a reversal of the Gambling Act, which allowed betting shops to proliferate in poor areas, with many operating high stakes roulette tables.
An investigation by the Observer into the accounts of Thames Water has found that the company has been paying dividends running into billions of pounds to its shareholders whilst asking bill payers to stump up billions to fund the £3.6bn Thames Tunnel – dubbed the ‘Super Sewer’ – which has sparked complaints from London boroughs along the river.
Meanwhile, the chairman of stricken engineering firm Mouchel could pocket almost as much as the company’s shareholders from a rescue deal that will wipe out their investment. Under a deal to restructure the company’s debt, the firm will delist from the stock market and will be 80% owned by the banks that are its main lenders, the Sunday Times reports.
Ministers will be given formal input into the annual appraisal of their civil servants, affecting grade and pay, as part of an effort to clarify the accountability of officials to the government, the Guardian reports. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude says that ministers were enraged by the passive resistance from some civil servants in declining to challenge government policy, but then refusing to implement them.
London’s state schools are now the best in the country, according to an analysis carried out by the Financial Times. Having analysed exam results from 3.5m children, the paper claims that children from the capital’s poorest boroughs out-performed those from more affluent areas of the country.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is expected to try and restore the direction of the coalition today by denying splits with chancellor George Osborne over green energy, the Guardian reports. As he addresses a green business summit in London today, Mr Clegg will aim to reassure business leaders that the government is united behind its long-term renewable energy targets by insisting that apparent disputes are perfectly normal.
The Independent reports that Labour has established its biggest lead in the opinion polls since the general election, amid economic woes and deepening tensions within the coalition. According to the latest poll conducted for the paper, Labour’s support rose to 42% last month, 9 points ahead of the Conservatives on 33%. The Liberal Democrats remained on 11%.
Housing and construction
Student housing schemes remain popular with developers, the Times reports. About £800m has been invested in the sector during the first half of the year according to consultants CBRE.