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News Review - 20 October 2011

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

(Click headlines for more)

THIS WEEK’S STORIES

POLITICS

LGA calls for more services to be decentralised

  • 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 leader keeps support of fellow Conservatives

  • 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 calls in independent investigator

  • 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.

FINANCE

Birmingham’s financial status matches that of US

  • 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.

Outsourcing ‘best option’ for local audits, report argues

  • 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.

Council suspends officer over Mouchel warning

  • 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.

Welsh public bodies warned of scale of cutbacks

  • 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.

MANAGEMENT

Myers set to start twin-borough role

  • 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.

Pay outrage ‘unjustified’

  • 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.

Staff fear impact of cuts on resources, survey finds

  • 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.

Jobs warning at Somerset

  • 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”.

SOCIAL SERVICES

First tri-borough social care director appointed

  • 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.

LGA calls for rule change on NEETs

  • 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.

HEALTH

Peer blames hospitals for social care cash woes

  • 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.

Sector agrees health and wellbeing board plan

  • 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.

EDUCATION

LGA calls for academy funding role

  • 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.

Half of councils ‘cannot monitor school finances’

  • 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.

COMMUNITY SAFETY

Singh calls for riot evidence

  • 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.

ENVIRONMENT

Pickles waste decision overturned

  • 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.

HOUSING

Lincs to head up ‘sustainable growth’ network

  • 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.

Private rent unaffordable for working families

  • 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.
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