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News review - 3 June 2010

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

THE WEEK’S STORIES

POLITICS

Cameron confirms city ‘champions’ plan

David Cameron has confirmed Conservative plans to scrap regional ministers and replace them with “city champions” as part of a push to grow the economies of the regions outside Greater London.

Region bid for RDA

The Birmingham city region is considering plans to take over responsibility for economic development and regeneration from the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands by forming a local enterprise partnership.

FINANCE

Pickles announces details of cuts in council grants

Communities secretary Eric Pickles was set to make an announcement to Parliament setting out the full details of which council grants will be affected by £1.2bn in cuts and which grants will no longer be ring-fenced as LGC went to press.

Pinpointing areas for RDA cuts proves tough task

Whitehall officials are struggling to identify how to allocate £270m in cuts to England’s regional development agencies as their in-year budgets are already around 90% contractually committed and breaking contracts could lead to further costs.

MANAGEMENT

Audit Commission chief’s salary blocked

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has vetoed Audit Commission plans to hand its next chief executive a £240,000 pay packet, according to the Conservatives.

Northamptonshire posts directors’ salary details

Northamptonshire CC has published salary details of all its directors and service heads as councils feel the pressure to lift the lid on spending.

End of directors for Brighton

Brighton & Hove CC is to abolish all six of its director posts and replace them with four “strategic director” roles as the authority embarks on a major reorganisation and moves towards a commissioning model.

Derbyshire eyes NHS merger

Health and local government employers in Derbyshire could establish shared roles as positions become vacant. Buildings could also be shared, although NHS Derbyshire County has emphasised that no formal plans are in place.

Europe backs councils in care home case

A ruling by the European Court of Human Rights has given councils the go-ahead to put their own financial health before the well-being of people in their care.

SOCIAL SERVICES

Call for resettlement plans

Ofsted warned poor co-ordination between councils jeopardised young people’s chances of success following their release from custody. The watchdog called for a national statutory plan for each young person as they moved through the criminal justice system.

Intervention powers ‘lacking’

Figures released by Action for Children revealed that 37% of social workers and police officers said they lacked the authority to intervene where they felt a child was being neglected. The charity said struggling families needed support at an earlier stage.

HEALTH

Cuts threaten integration

The NHS Confederation warned that government plans to slash NHS administration costs by a third could make it more difficult to deliver joint health and social services. The organisation said that merging primary care trusts would lead to different health and social care boundaries (reports Health Service Journal).

NHS Confederation change

Steve Barnett, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, is to leave his post on 17 June. The Confederation’s director of policy Nigel Edwards will act as interim chief executive until a permanent replacement is found (reports Health Service Journal).

EDUCATION

QCDA closure confirmed

The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) was asked to cease its curriculum development work “as soon and as far as is practicable” by education secretary Michael Gove after it was announced that the agency was to be abolished. In a letter to agency chair Chris Trinick, Mr Gove said the organisation’s functions would be delivered in a different way.

Councils still key

Education secretary Michael Gove assured council chief executives, directors of children’s services and leaders that local authorities were key to plans to improve education, following Local Government Association warnings that academy plans would lead to a two-tier service.

Scots review special needs

A revised code of practice on the relationship between councils and children with special educational needs was backed by Scottish MSPs. Minister for children and early years Adam Ingram said the new guidelines explained the duties placed on agencies to support children’s learning.

HOUSING

Healey angry at claims

Former housing minister John Healey said the government’s claim to be investing more in social housing than its predecessor is “either a serious mistake or a serious deception” (reports Inside Housing).

Zero-carbon commitment

The coalition government confirmed that from 2016 all new homes would be zero-carbon (reports Building).

PLANNING

Green light for London Tesco

Detailed planning permission has been granted to Tesco for a superstore and other related businesses in Bromley-by-Bow, (reports Regen.net).

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Pathways to Work poor

The flagship Pathways to Work has cost more than half a billion pounds but made only a “limited” impact in helping disabled people into work, claims a highly critical National Audit Office report.

Few jobs through jobs fund

Councils, charities and other organisations running job creation programmes through the government’s now defunct Future Job Fund have filled only about one- tenth of the jobs they promised to create six months into the programme, official figures revealed.

TRANSPORT

Crossrail business warning

London business chiefs warned ministers against scaling back the capital’s Crossrail east-west rail link. They said that having paid £3.5bn towards the scheme, any attempt by ministers to renege on an orginal pledge would cause serious problems among businesses (reports the Evening Standard).

DfT to review major projects

The Department for Transport is reviewing the business cases of all major transport schemes in England, as part of the government’s drive to cut public expenditure. Schemes to be reviewed will be those that have been estimated at more than £5m and have yet to secure final funding approval (reports Local Transport Today).

Local transport cuts revealed

The government announced that local transport funding would be cut by £309m this year. The figure is part of the DfT’s overall contribution of £683m to a £6.2bn programme of cuts to in-year spending to tackle the fiscal deficit.

ENVIRONMENT

Thermal waste disposal

Swindon BC unveiled plans to abandon using landfill to dispose of non-recyclable waste in favour of a thermal treatment plant that will also provide electricity (reports Letsrecycle.com).

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