News round-up 24/5: Civil penalties for non voter registration
Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Anyone failing to register to vote could be eligible for a fine of up to £130, under government plans to reduce fraud and raise turnout in elections, The Daily Telegraph reports. The fines were unveiled as part of the introduction of individual voter registration at the second reading debate of the electoral registration and administration bill. The new system would see voters sign up to cast their ballots, rather than relying on the head of their household to fill in a form, detailing the number of voters in their property.
The Times reports that prime minister David Cameron is facing mounting pressure from Conservative councillors who believe Downing Street is increasingly out of touch with everyday issues. Mike Whitby, former leader of Birmingham City Council, said the petrol crisis, the abolition of the 50p tax rate and spending cuts meant many voters were abandoning the Conservative Party. Labour gained Birmingham Council from the Conservatives in local elections earlier this month. Meanwhile, Royston Smith, the former leader of Southampton City Council, which also fell to Labour this month, said: “We think he should be focusing more on the financial situation and getting the deficit down rather than worrying about voting systems or Lords reforms”.
Around 2,400 senior public servants are paid their salary off the government payroll, which may have led helped them avoid tax, chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander revealed yesterday, the Guardian reports. The news comes following a Whitehall review that revealed that 1,400 workers had been paid this way since the coalition came to power, with 70 being remunerated in this manner for over a decade.
The Daily Telegraph leads with news that welfare-to-work company A4e was part of a “multi-billion pound scandal” involving public money. Written evidence submitted to Parliament by a former chief auditor at A4e shows “systemic fraud” and the lack of a senior management response to address alleged abuses.
The Times claims that work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has set up a review into his £5bn Work Programme, after it failed to get enough sick and disabled people into jobs. Many organisations involved in the scheme to get 3.3m people off benefits are facing financial difficulties because they are getting fewer referrals than expected from lucrative clients
Business leaders have increased pressure on the government to weaken employment protection, as part of a plan to boost economic growth, the Guardian writes. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Institute of Directors (IoD) condemned what they saw as a gap between government rhetoric and proposals, published in the Enterprise Bill yesterday.
The Financial Times reports that the Bill, published by business secretary Vince Cable, will aim to make Britain “one of the most enterprise-friendly countries in the world.” Its publication comes alongside the announcement of £200m government-backed “growth accelerator programme”, aimed at coaching high potential companies to achieve rapid growth.
The Times quotes Dr Cable as saying he didn’t want to get “into a brawl” with Conservative party donor Adrian Beecroft who had described him as a “socialist” after the business secretary described his plans for ‘no-fault dismissals’ as “bonkers”. Many of Mr Beecroft’s proposals were right, Dr Cable said, “but we are not going to act on somebody’s anecdotes or somebody’s prejudices”.
The Independent carries a special report in to the private equity owners of a children’s care home at the centre of the Rochdale sex abuse scandal reporting that 3i, the owner at the time the abuse took place, has since sold the home to another private equity firm at a £20m loss. According to the paper, 3i charged Essex CC £250,000 a year to look after one of the abuse victims in a “solo” residential home with a staff of six and 24-hour care. The paper said the care sector had proved “an attractive investment” for private equity, partly because of “the guaranteed income from local authorities”, but children’s charities have expressed concern that their profit model does not suit caring for vulnerable people.