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News review - 17 December 2009

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LGC’s selection of this week’s must-read news items plus a comprehensive round-up of news from all local government’s service areas and disciplines.
NOTE: Click on the headlines for more on the stories.

THE WEEK’S TOP STORIES

Legal threat over Iceland Creditor status decision

Councils have threatened a legal challenge over a decision not to make local authorities priority creditors on the recovery of investments in a failed Icelandic bank. The winding-up board of Glitnir Bank, in which councils have deposits of £217m, has specified the claims as “general unsecured”. But without “priority” status, authorities are likely to get back 25-30% of deposits, rather than 100%

Local Government Association chairman Margaret Eaton said: “The LGA will not hesitate to take the legal action necessary to protect the deposits of councils and council tax payers.” (LGCplus report)

Late accounts come under fire

The Audit Commission has rapped Birmingham City Council, Brentwood BC and Ashfield and Wycombe DCs for failing to have their 2008-09 accounts audited eight months after the end of the financial year. Hertfordshire and West Sussex CCs, Arun and Bromsgrove DCs, Eastbourne BC and Oxford City Council were also criticised in a letter to communities secretary John Denham for having qualified audit opinions by the deadline. (Public Finance report)

Commission chief executive Steve Bundred said the watchdog has been concerned “about the quality and timeliness of financial reporting by local government”.

Befordshire to cut management costs by a fifth

Central Bedfordshire Council is to reduce its management overheads by a fifth by cutting one of its directorates. Assistant director and head of service posts will also be restructured. The unitary council, created in April, has published draft budget proposals to be agreed early next year. Chief executive Richard Carr told LGC he was looking into “collapsing the business transformation and corporate services departments into one”. (LGCplus report)

LGC says: New unitaries facing a tough combination of transition costs and the recession will be under increasing pressure to make savings.

Report calls for changes in public sector structure

The public sector’s organisational shape must change if budget reductions are not to result in staff being asked to do more, or less being delivered, business advisory firm Deloitte has warned. It argues in a report that traditional cost-cutting may prove unsustainable and damage quality. Deloitte urges the government and the public sector to review each area and reshape structures and organisations accordingly.

It says: “The result will be the removal of duplication and layers of management superfluous to front-line delivery and also the merging of numerous public bodies.” (LGCplus report)

POLITICS

Labour poll boost after Darling’s PBR (LGCplus report)

New Welsh local government minister (LGCplus report)

LGIU & CPSP agree partnership (LGCplus report)

FINANCE

Public sector efficiency saves £1.4bn (LGCplus report)

Mouchel snubs take-over approach by VT (LGCplus report)

Gas contract for public services (LGCplus report)

Commission launches fresh Shetlands probe (LGCplus report)

MANAGEMENT

Councils unveil biggest management merger (LGCplus report)

Glasgow considers cutting 600 jobs (LGCplus report)

SOCIAL SERVICES

CIH warns over housing investment (LGCplus report)

Greater social care co-operation urged (LGCplus report)

Shoesmith condemns ‘mistakes’ in Baby P appeal (LGCplus report)

Welsh Government ‘should join up care’

The Welsh Assembly Government should help health and local government organisations join up their information systems across health and social care, the auditor general for Wales, Jeremy Coleman, has said.

WORKFORCE

Registrar loses council discrimination appeal (LGCplus report)

HOUSING

HCA upbeat about housing programme (LGCplus report)

Healey points to the end of home ownership (LGCplus report)

Councils receive £24m rented accommodation boost (LGCplus report)

EDUCATION

TECHNOLOGY

Oneplace debut clocks 54,000 visitors (LGCplus report)

ENVIRONMENT

Heathrow escapes aviation cut call (LGCplus report)

TRANSPORT

Authorities to get power over buses (LGCplus report)

Council commitment after airport closure (LGCplus report)

Accidents cut by 20mph speed zones (LGCplus report)

Opening of Busway scheme delayed (LGCplus report)

Businesses drop workplace levy court challenge (LGCplus report)

LGA rejects ‘scaremongering’ AA salt claims (LGCplus report)

PLANNING

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Manchester launches spend analysis tool (LGCplus report)

WASTE

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