News round-up 22/10: More and more on housing benefit
Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
The Guardian reports that the number of working households forced to rely on housing benefit since the onset of the economic crisis is 2008 has doubled, according to a report by the National Housing Federation. With private rents rising faster than wages, the report states that over a million earners will be reliant on housing benefit by the time of the next election.
Speaking on the Today Programme, housing minister Mark Prisk argued that years of low levels of house building had led to the “systemic failure of a dysfunctional market.” He said more homes needed to be built to deliver more affordable housing, particularly for the private rented sector. He stressed that the government was providing loan guarantees to help build more homes for the private rented sector, and added that public and private money was also being provided to deliver more affordable homes. Mr Prisk wanted the rented market to grow and for local authorities to sell idle public land that would enable more house building. He suggested that delivering more affordable housing would allow first time buyers to exit the private rented sector and buy their own homes.
The FT says the government’s £100m plan to deliver superfast broadband has been delivered a blow after BT and Virgin Media challenged a European Commission ruling on state aid funding. The project, which would see ten cities enjoy broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, is the first and only attempt to introduce a state-backed superfast digital network. But BT and Virgin argue the scheme would use public money to set up a rival to their own commercial networks in areas already well covered.
Police commissioners and crime
Electoral campaigners fear turnout for the police and crime commissioner elections will be so low it will undermine the poll’s legitimacy. The Electoral Reform Society predict 18.5% of voters will vote and has criticised ministers’ refusal to fund mail shots introducing the local candidates, the Financial Times reports.
Meanwhile, the Independent reports that Lincolnshire candidate Mervyn Barrett has received funding by a right-wing US thinktank committed to the privatisation of public services. The publicity storm resulted in the resignation of his entire campaign team, the paper reports.
Prime minister David Cameron will use a major speech on law and order today to re-position his party as “tough but intelligent” on crime, the Independent reports. Mr Cameron is expected to call for a common sense approach to crime that focuses on prevention and retribution in a move designed to revive the Conservative’s relationship with the police after the Andrew Mitchell affair.
Councils have been accused of leaving elderly and disabled people to fend for themselves after research by the Independent revealed the vast majority have abandoned support for all but the most severely disabled. Based on Freedom of Information responses from 85 councils the paper found 3.5% provided support to people with ‘critical’ needs, 81% ‘substantial’, 14% ‘moderate’ and 1% low. The number providing help to those with ‘moderate’ needs was set to fall to 11% next year, the paper reported. David Rogers, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said it was no surprise given the funding cuts and demographic pressures faced by local authorities.
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