LGC’s comprehensive round-up of local government news.
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THIS WEEK’S STORIES
- The LGA, in its response to the government’s Open Public Services white paper, called for a presumption in favour of decentralisation of services unless there was a “genuinely compelling reason not to do so”.
- Kent CC leader Paul Carter saw off a challenge for the leadership of the county’s Conservative group. Cllr Carter faced opposition from former finance member Nick Chard and Keith Ferrin. However, in a vote that was announced on Friday, Cllr Carter maintained the support of Kent’s Tories.
- Gloucestershire CC called in an independent investigator to look into its relations with the Cotswold Water Park Society, whose former chief executive was jailed earlier this year. Graham Garbutt will review the council’s financial relationship with the society, as well as its responses to police, Audit Commission and Local Government Ombudsman investigations.
- Birmingham City Council secured the best possible credit rating from agency Moody’s at AAA. Meanwhile rival agency Standard & Poor’s awarded the city the same rating as the US at AA+, the second best level.
- A study carried out for the Department for Communities & Local Government by FDI Consulting on the future of the Audit Commission’s in-house audit practice backed outsourcing its work as the most viable option.
- Bournemouth BC confirmed that it had suspended chief accountant Stephen Parker on full pay after he had emailed councillors prior to a cabinet meeting, warning them of his concerns about the council’s proposed outsourcing deal with troubled firm Mouchel.
- Public bodies in Wales face tough decisions as funding drops by 12.4% over the next four years, the country’s chief auditor warned. Local government can expect a 7% real terms drop in funding by 2013-14.
- Derek Myers, town clerk at Kensington & Chelsea RBC, was due to be ratified as chief executive of neighbouring Hammersmith & Fulham LBC on Wednesday evening in what will be England’s first upper-tier shared chief executive arrangement.
- Media outrage about public sector pay is “unfounded” according to Hay Group research. Its salary database showed senior public sector employees earned 33% less than private sector colleagues.
- More than a third of public sector workers believe cuts have left their department under-resourced, according to recruitment firm Badenoch & Clark’s quarterly survey of public sector workers. The research showed a quarter of staff had seen significant job cuts.
- Somerset CC warned that jobs would go in a change programme designed to save £20m. A ‘prompt sheet’ issued to managers stated “to be blunt, some services may stop, while some others will be carried out by organisations outside SCC”.
- Andrew Webster was appointed as the first ‘tri-borough’ director of adult social care, covering Westminster City Council, Hammersmith & Fulham LBC and Kensington & Chelsea RBC.
- The LGA called on ministers to allow young people classified as NEET - not in education employment or training - to do voluntary work at the same time as claiming benefits to boost their chances of gaining vital experience.
- Dilnot Commission member and former Kent CC director of social services Lord Norman Warner called for a dramatic shift of resources from hospitals to adult social care.
- A cross-sector collection of health professionals, senior local authority officers, and council leaders produced four key principles to underpin the success of health and wellbeing boards. The document was produced by the NHS Confederation in conjunction with Solace, the LGA, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Department of Health.
- The LGA formally called on ministers to hand councils the purse strings for academy schools - as well as responsibility for driving their improvement. It wants Michael Gove’s Department for Education to hand the funding responsibilities for academy schools to councils in areas where more than half of secondary schools have opted out of maintained status.
- Almost half of unitary and upper-tier local authorities feel they cannot monitor the finances of maintained schools effectively, according to a National Audit Office report. In a survey, 47% of councils said they lacked resources to effectively oversee the finances of local schools.
- Chief executives were asked to personally oversee the collection of evidence and data relating to the summer riots for the official panel investigating the disturbances. Chair of the independent Riots Communities and Victims Panel Darra Singh emphasised the importance of obtaining comparative data from councils.
- The high court overturned planning permission for an incinerator in Cornwall, ruling that communities secretary Eric Pickles was wrong to back the scheme without an appropriate impact assessment.
- Lincolnshire CC is to head up a new network aimed at sharing ideas on how councils can best promote “sustainable growth”, communities secretary Eric Pickles announced.
- The average private rent is unaffordable for most working families in more than half of local authorities in England, according to Shelter research. In 55% of councils, rents from private landlords were over a third of average take-home pay.