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News review - 20 May 2010

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LGC’s 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 STORIES

POLITICS

DCLG mandarins fear 40% spending cuts

A leaked Department for Communities & Local Government memo suggested councils could face cuts of 40%. The document also gave civil servants a list of words to win ministers over with, such as “families” and “progressive”. (LGCplus report)

Tory plan for mayors opposed by Lib Dems

Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrats in local government, said his party would campaign for a “no” vote in “just about all the 12 main cities” where the Conservatives had planned to hold referendums. (LGCplus report)

Interim report on polling day queues published today

The Electoral Commission will publish its interim report on the queues that formed outside polling stations on election night. Coverage of the review and the commission’s recommendations will be live on LGCplus.com from 2pm onwards.

FINANCE

Hampshire to cull libraries costs

Hampshire CC announced a restructuring of its libraries services after predicting a £1.3m overspend in 2010-11. The authority is reviewing areas, including manager numbers and mobile library services and says jobs cuts are “inevitable”. (LGCplus report)

Pension boss calls for ‘radical’ reforms

Local government workers may have to work longer, pay more and receive a smaller pension, London Pensions Fund Authority chair Anthony Mayer warned. “Realistic and practical ideas” for reform are needed if the local government pension scheme is not to “wither away”, he said. (LGCplus report)

HCA set out plans for £2m in savings

The Homes and Communities Agency is to cut jobs and close offices to save £2m. Central London staff are to move to Milton Keynes and corporate director posts are to be reduced from seven to three, the quango announced. (LGCplus report)

MANAGEMENT

Liverpool chief to retire early

Liverpool City Council chief executive Colin Hilton announced his early retirement in the wake of Labour’s local election victory. Council leader-elect Joe Anderson (Lab) has been critical of Mr Hilton in the past, including calling for his suspension in 2008. (LGCplus report)

SOCIAL SERVICES

Care applications hit new high

Demand for care applications showed an annual increase of 34% in the first three months of the year, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service said. The rise continues a pattern which began after media coverage of the Baby Peter tragedy. (LGCplus report)

Councils report surge in demand for foster places

Eighty-two per cent of councils have seen a rise in the number of children needing foster homes over the past year, research from the Fostering Network revealed. It added that 58% of councils were reporting increased difficulties in finding the right homes for children. (LGCplus report)

Call for clear social care reform plans ‘within a year’

  • King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham called for the new government to set out clear proposals for social care reform within a year. “The momentum established on social care reform must not be lost,” he said. (Community Care report)

HEALTH

Lansley ‘will not protect’ NHS from efficiency savings

  • New health secretary Andrew Lansley said the NHS would need to secure efficiency savings as well as controlling pay and prices. He told BBC’s Today programme that while “the real value of spending” would be “maintained and enhanced”, NHS inflation at 6 or 7% was not sustainable. (HSJ report - subscription)

EDUCATION

New chair for Blackburn/Bolton schools partnership

Former Blackburn with Darwen BC chief executive Phil Watson is to chair the schools partnership between his former council, Bolton MBC, Balfour Beatty and the government’s investment arm. Mr Watson has a background as an architect as well as experience at the top of local government.

HOUSING

Pickles orders review of mortgage help scheme

Communities secretary Eric Pickles ordered a review of the Mortgage Rescue Scheme after figures showed that it had only helped 458 households since its launch 15 months ago. (LGCplus report)

Shapps takes on housing minister role

Conservative Grant Shapps was appointed as the new housing minister in the Department for Communities & Local Government. He has consistently argued in favour of a “bottom up” approach to housing and planning. (LGCplus report)

PLANNING

Neill and Stunnell take junior DCLG posts

Conservative Bob Neill was appointed junior minister in the Department for Communities & Local Government, where he is expected to take responsibility for the planning brief. Mr Neill served as shadow planning minister from January 2009. (LGCplus report)

Planning reform causes concern

  • The property and planning industries have serious concerns about planning reforms likely to be implemented by the coalition government. These include abolishing regional spatial strategies and housing targets and introducing a right for third parties to appeal planning decisions (Property Week report - subscription).

Liverpool assessment commissioned

  • Councils on Merseyside commissioned consultants GVA Grimley to carry out an overview of development land needs and its supply in the Liverpool city region (Planningresource report - subscription).

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Ian Duncan Smith to lead welfare reform

  • New work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith will oversee the coalition government’s plans to end existing welfare-to-work schemes and create a single programme to help all unemployed people return to work (Regen report - subscription).

Poverty role for Frank Field

  • The new coalition government asked Labour’s former minister for welfare reform Frank Field to head a review on poverty (FT report - subscription).

TRANSPORT

Crossrail pledge

  • New transport secretary Philip Hammond has pledged the government’s commitment to the London east-west Crossrail scheme, but warned it was essential to keep costs as low as possible. However, he could not guarantee the route would be ready on time by 2017 (BBC report).

New junior transport minister

Theresa Villiers, who was Conservative shadow transport secretary, has been made minister of state in the Department for Transport.

ENVIRONMENT

Northants pays out in contamination case

  • Northamptonshire CC agreed to pay £6m in compensation to Rockingham Castle Estate in Corby for waste that contaminated nearby land (MRW report).

Lib Dem takes climate change role

Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne has been appointed secretary of state for energy and climate change in the new coalition government.

Spelman made environment secretary

Former Conservative shadow communities secretary Caroline Spelman has been made secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.

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