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News Review - 2 June 2011

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LGC’s comprehensive round-up of local government news.

(Click headlines for more)

THIS WEEK’S STORIES

POLITICS

Reports criticise councils’ ‘wild spending’

  • Councils face questions about their ‘wild’ spending following a Daily Telegraph report of tens of millions of pounds of expenditure on taxpayer-funded credit cards.

Hanningfield guilty of expenses fraud

  • Former Essex CC leader Lord Hanningfield was found guilty of six counts of expenses fraud. He had denied fraudulently claiming parliamentary expenses totalling nearly £14,000 between 2006 and 2009.

South Tyneside defends Twitter action

  • South Tyneside MBC defended its legal battle to unmask a blogger amid reports Twitter had handed British users’ details over to the local authority following a court order.

Council Control Map

The council control map 2011 included with last week’s LGC mistakenly depicted Labour controlled Wakefield as no overall control, and omitted mayors in Leicester City (Labour) and Tower Hamlets (independent). We apologise for this administrative error. An online map showing full and correct council control will be available shortly.

FINANCE

Osborne warned over cuts

  • The government’s deficit reduction plans may have to be slowed if growth figures continue to disappoint, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned.

Borrowing figure blow to deficit plans

  • Deficit reduction plans were in question after Office for National Statistics figures revealed April’s borrowing figures were the highest ever recorded for the month at £10bn, compared with £7.3bn for the previous year.

One-third cut for Scots inspections

  • Scotland’s councils will cut audit and inspection work by a third compared with 2010-11, the local government national scrutiny plan for 2011-12 revealed.

MANAGEMENT

Employers respond to Lord Hutton’s pensions review

  • Lord Hutton’s pension reforms could prove expensive for employers, the Local Government Group warned. GMB called for workforce programme board chair Sir Steve Bullock to be expelled from the union over the LGG response to some of the recommendations.

Parking attendants extend strike action

  • Southampton parking attendants extended their week-long strike in an attempt to force the city council’s leadership to the negotiating table. Refuse collectors will also strike for an extra day following their week-long strike last month.

Herts deal backed by councillors

Hertfordshire CC ratified new terms and conditions for staff after union members voted to accept the changes rather than strike. For an opinion article from Hertfordshire’s head of human resources Louise Tibbert, go to: LGCplus.com/5030140.article

Treasury pension plan

  • In our 19-26 May issue, the closing quote was mistakenly attributed to Local Government Association chairman Dame Margaret Eaton. Apologies: it should have been attributed to local government minister Bob Neill.

SOCIAL SERVICES

Adults with learning disabilities ‘lack support’

  • Pressures on council budgets and a lack of suitable social housing stock are jeopardising support for adults with learning disabilities, according to healthcare intelligence provider Laing & Buisson.

Councils pledge to help Southern Cross

  • The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services pledged that councils would help care-home operator Southern Cross bounce back from its financial difficulties.

EDUCATION

Record high truancy rates

  • Record numbers of pupils skipped lessons last autumn, official figures showed. The truancy rate rose to 1.04% for the autumn term 2010, compared with 0.93% in 2009. The hike was fuelled by rising numbers of primary school pupils missing school without permission.

HEALTH

LGA demands greater health powers

  • The Local Government Association renewed calls for council sign-off powers over GP commissioning plans as part of its response to the government’s ‘listening pause’ in its health reforms. Its response to the NHS Future Forum demanded council-led health and wellbeing boards have the ability to send back GP proposals that are not in line with their joint strategic needs assessments and health and wellbeing strategies.

Most councils meet personal budgets target

  • Most councils achieved their target to provide 30% of eligible people with personal budgets by April, according to the government’s former lead for the programme, Jeff Jerome.

CIVIL SOCIETY

Big Society adviser steps down

  • David Cameron’s Big Society agenda was dealt a fresh blow when key adviser Lord Wei announced he is to step down. His announcement came a day after the prime minister made a speech reaffirming his commitment to the policy.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Rural broadband scheme extended

  • Households across Devon and Somerset, Norfolk and Wiltshire will be able to access superfast broadband in the latest phase of a government scheme to connect rural homes and businesses.

Humber-wide LEP set to go ahead

  • A bid for Humber-wide local enterprise partnership was set to be given the green light after East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Hull City Council, North East Lincolnshire Council and North Lincolnshire Council presented their plan to ministers.

TRANSPORT

Plan road maintenance, councils told

  • Highway authorities should repair roads on a planned basis, not when the public or councillors raise concerns an Audit Commission report on highway maintenance found.

HOUSING

Housing scheme value in question

  • The Mortgage Rescue Scheme, a government scheme to help people avoid losing their homes, helped only 2,600 people compared with a target of 6,000. The cost of helping each household was also nearly three times higher than had been anticipated, the National Audit Office said.

ENVIRONMENT

Financial incentives for weekly bin collections

  • Councils are to be offered financial incentive to reinstate weekly bin collections. The measure will be included in the forthcoming waste review to be published by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
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