News round-up 1/10: Cabinet split over council tax
Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
The Sunday Telegraph reports on splits within the cabinet over plans to levy extra council tax on high-value homes. A group of senior Tories, consisting of communities secretary Eric Pickles, party chairman Grant Shapps, justice secretary Chris Grayling and defence secretary Philip Hammond are understood to fear that chancellor George Osborne could bow to Liberal Democrat demands to add new council tax bands for homes worth £1m or more. The group believes such a move would disproportionately hit middle- and upper-income voters in Tory-controlled parts of south-east England.
Labour is preparing for radical reform of public-sector spending including a shake-up of the way social care is funded, according to the Independent on Sunday. Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves has announced four reviews into public-sector efficiency beginning immediately which aim to save hundreds of millions of pounds a year. One of the reviews will look into the possibility of shared budgets between the NHS and local authorities which would allow elderly people to be looked after at home rather than be sent to hospital unnecessarily. The plan could mean councils could use NHS funding to pay for social care at home, the paper reports.
Local government could have a role in the identification and turnaround of failing schools and in school-place planning according to shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg. In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Twigg said it was not possible for the Department for Education to be responsible for all schools under the current academy structure. Saying that 24,000 schools around the country could not be “reliant on Ofsted”, Mr Twigg believes – the paper claims – that “a new, effective middle tier” is required “to identify failure in schools and give a voice to the local community, including parents, probably through a local government mechanism”. This would not involve councils “running” schools, he insisted but potentially taking powers from the government around the commissioning of extra school places.
The government is to unveil blueprints for a new generation of “shrunken schools”, and has told builders that they will be about 15% smaller than those built during Labour’s time in government, the Guardian says. Tougher space standards will be introduced to help reduce costs in the coalition government’s delayed programme to replace the country’s most run-down schools, the paper says. However, concerns have been raised that the squeeze could cause congestion and potential discipline and bullying problems. NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney has warned of potential discipline issues due to shrinking of school space, while NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates says that the government’s ideology is “taking precedence over common sense and decent educational provision for children and young people.”
Ed Balls will call today for an imminent £3bn Treasury windfall to be spent on new housing rather than reducing the national debt, the Times reports. The shadow chancellor will urge George Osborne to build 100,000 affordable homes from the proceeds of the sale of the 4G mobile phone spectrum, insisting that the stalled economy requires an urgent stimulus.