News round-up 1/6: MPs criticise procurement
Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Procurement and outsourcing
There should be fewer bookings made for five star hotels and a ban on alcohol purchases on government procurement cards, the Public Accounts Committee has advised. MPs discovered a Cabinet Office investigation found 99 cases of “inappropriate use” of the cards in Whitehall over the past three years, the Independent reports.
Rochdale MBC leader Colin Lambert has said vulnerable young people should no longer be sent across the country to privately-run children’s homes because their safety cannot be guaranteed. The Independent reports the town has 41 children’s home, with all but three privately owned and at least 18 owned by private equity, including one where a girl in Essex CC’s care was abused in a recent high profile sex abuse ring involving Asian taxi drivers and takeaway workers. The paper says around a third of the 65,000 children in care in England are looked after outside their home authority, with the situation most pronounced in the north-west where cheap property prices have attracted private sector providers.
The Times reports on the latest political wrangling ahead of the publication of the social care white paper. The paper says that the Department of Health wants the separate ‘progress report’ on funding to accept the recommendations of the Dilnot report in principle but that this is being resisted by the Treasury while Downing St is wavering.
With a handful of English cities now either using or moving to the elected mayoral model, the Times reports on a move by the genuinely powerful mayor of New York – Michael Bloomberg – to ban the serving of sugary drinks in large portions. The paper claims the move to prohibit the sale of any sweetened fizzy drinks, juices, teas and coffees in cups or bottles of more than one pint is the “boldest move yet” in his battle with the drinks.
The UK compares poorly internationally on the time taken to deliver public-private sector projects, according to the Financial Times. The average commissioning process in the UK takes nearly three years, compared to one year in Canada and 16 months in Australia, the paper reports.
Chancellor George Osborne has dropped the proposed cap on tax-free charitable donations, which the Financial Times reports is the third Budget U-turn in rapid succession. Mr Osborne said that he would exclude charitable donations from a limit on how much tax relief individuals can claim in a single year, after giving way to considerable pressure from the voluntary sector. The paper notes that the announcement comes just two days after the government had a similar change of heart by dropping plans to put VAT on caravans and hot pasties.
Meanwhile, The Times says the U-turn leaves the chancellor’s Budget “in shreds” with his credibility “damaged”.
The paper also reports on a number of other policies that have not been enacted, as revealed by departmental business plans. In particular, the deadline for rolling out universal credit could have been softened.
The Guardian reports that 51 complaints about racism at the Metropolitan police have been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in the past two months. It says London mayor Boris Johnson admitted there was “more to do” to tackle the issue.
The Daily Telegraph reports that one in 10 Treasury civil servants is “not up to the job.” It says Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the Treasury’s most senior civil servant, said he would “be very surprised” if less than 5% or 10% of his staff did not struggle to work at an acceptable level.
The Daily Telegraph reports that university applications have dropped by 50,000 “as growing numbers of students are put off by annual tuition fees of up to £9,000.” It says demand for degree courses throughout Britain is down by almost 9% in 12 months.