News round-up 9/5: Academies overpaid
Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Errors in the Department for Education (DfE) have led to schools on the government’s academy programme being overpaid by £120m this academic year, reports the Financial Times. The paper’s investigation claims to have revealed that most of the overspending will be taken back from local authorities, leading to concerns that academies are being favoured over other state schools.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that teachers are threatening to strike over government plans to “pull struggling primary schools out of local authority control.” It says unions are balloting for industrial action at more than a dozen primaries over plans to turn schools into academies.
The Guardian leads with news that a package of measures to help families and children will be unveiled in today’s Queen’s Speech. New measures are expected to give parents more flexible leave conditions as well as a stronger commitment to family-friendly working hours.
Elsewhere, the Guardian examines the “balancing act” taking place between the competing policy areas of jobs, crime and the City.
The Financial Times reports that the Conservative minister in charge of guiding another measure likely to feature in the Queen’s Speech - House of Lords reform - has issued a warning on it. Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Strathclyde, told the paper that an elected upper chamber could become “aggressive”, delay important pieces of legislation and be more expensive to run than the current system.
Meanwhile, the Independent reports that deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has accepted that hope of Lords reform is receding amid the government’s desire to convince voters that it is prioritising economic growth.
Nine men were found guilty yesterday of grooming-related crimes against hundreds of girls in Britain’s children’s homes. The Times describes children’s homes as “powerless” to protect the vulnerable from predatory sex gangs, suggesting children have been the target for sexual exploitation for over two decades.
The Guardian reports that thousands of households have been incorrectly told that they are likely to see their welfare payments cut. The story says the Department for Work and Pensions sent letters to households that were exempt, including those with a child in receipt of disability living allowance.
Public sector pensions
A report by the Intergenerational Foundation has described public sector pensions as a ‘Ponzi scheme’, the Times reports, after finding more than 12,000 former state officials retired on pensions worth at least £50,000 a year. But Brian Strutton of the GMB union is quoted as saying that the average defined-benefit public sector pension is only £7,800.
Prime minister David Cameron and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg appeared together yesterday in Essex to “redefine” the government’s main priorities and stress” their “commitment to growth,” the Financial Times reports. Mr Cameron defended the coalition’s programme of spending cuts, calling them a drive for “efficiency”, rather than one for austerity.
The Times described the event as “a manful struggle to keep the magic alive”.
Elsewhere, in an interview with the Daily Mail, Mr Cameron complains of a “growing list” of things he wanted to do but could not because of the coalition setup. Mr Cameron insisted that his goal was to lead a Conservative-only government after the next general election.
The northern suburbs of Manchester are “Detroit UK,” writes Simon Jenkins in the Guardian. He says the scene on the road out of Manchester towards Rochdale “is one of utter devastation” where “mile upon mile of factories, garages, supermarkets and warehouses lie empty and for sale.” He writes that “recession has delivered the coup de grace to a quarter century of manufacturing decline” and that the government must pursue “smart growth” through “blood transfusion to the high street.”