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News Review - 4 August 2011

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

(Click headlines for more)

THIS WEEK’S STORIES

POLITICS

Resident satisfaction continues to grow

  • Residents’ satisfaction with their council continued to increase following a low point in January, according to the monthly LGInsight survey. Initial findings from the July poll of 1,000 adults showed some 71% of respondents “satisfied” with their council.

Minister moots new council ‘right to bid’

  • Councils may be allowed to to bid to run central government services in a different way at the local level. Decentralisation minister Greg Clark said the government was minded to give councils a “right to make proposals to the government as to how things could be done differently”.

FINANCE

Whitehall saves £3.75bn

  • Government departments secured £3.75bn of savings from May 2010 to March 2011 following a review of expenditure and job cuts. The Cabinet Office said nearly £1.6bn of the savings had been delivered by better procurement and renegotiating contracts, while an equivalent of £300m had been saved on 2010-11 salary costs by reducing civil service headcount by more than 17,000.

Barclays ‘explores public sector investment’

  • Banking giant Barclays set up a £500m fund to invest in public sector projects such as schools and roads. According to a report in The Times, the fund could appeal to those seeking long-term investment opportunities that can be matched with 30- to 40-year liabilities.

Tory council teams up with Labour neighbour

  • Conservative-controlled East Hertfordshire DC approved a shared service deal with its Labour-run neighbour Stevenage BC in an effort to save more than £170,000 a year. The merged team will provide housing benefit, council tax and business rates services and benefit fraud investigations.

Councils ‘had no choice’ in cutting charities’ funding

  • Budget cuts meant councils had little alternative but to cut their funding to charities, the Local Government Association said. The LGA made the claim in response to research that claimed more than 2,000 charities were losing local authority funding.

MANAGEMENT

Chief hits back over Southampton comparison

  • Shropshire Council’s chief executive criticised a councillor for comparing the authority to strike-troubled Southampton City Council.Kim Ryley told Peter Phillips (Lib Dem) his comparison was “unfair”. Shropshire has issued dismissal and re-engagement notices as it seeks to impose a pay cut on staff.

Carlisle chief to stand down

  • Carlisle City Council’s chief executive Maggie Mooney is to take early retirement after seven years as town clerk and chief executive of the authority. For more people on the move.

SOCIAL SERVICES

More Castlebeck services raise concerns from CQC

  • Castlebeck Care Group was hit with new concerns from the Care Quality Commission weeks after it was forced to close its Winterbourne View facility following a BBC exposé of abuse. The watchdog said it had “serious concerns” about four more of the group’s services, while a further seven “did not fully comply with essential standards of quality and safety”.

Another director for Kent CC

  • Kent CC appointed Andrew Ireland as corporate director for families and social care, soon after hiring Patrick Leeson as corporate director for education, learning and skills.

Number of children adopted continues to decrease

  • The chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s expressed disappointment over official adoption statistics.Office for National Statistics figures showed that 4,472 children were adopted in 2010 - a decrease of 4.1%.

EDUCATION

County considers academy status for all schools

  • Lincolnshire CC could advise all of its maintained schools to become academies. The move follows fears about the viability of rural primaries.

Ofsted unveils plans for new unannounced inspections

  • Ofsted is proposing to make unannounced inspections of council child-protection services the norm as part of a new inspection framework. Inspectors would make full two-week inspections under the new system.

Walsall to terminate Serco schools ‘deal’

  • Walsall MBC is to terminate outsourcing giant Serco’s contract to run its schools. The move follows major shifts in government policy over councils’ education role.

HEALTH

NHS lags behind in social enterprise drive

  • The King’s Fund warned that a more competitive marketplace for healthcare providers posed “significant risks” for fledgling social enterprises. The thinktank said help was needed to develop the sector.

Health inequalities funding dips in deprived areas

  • Figures published by the Labour Party claimed cuts in health inequalities funding in some of England’s most deprived areas. Research this year by LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal showed a shift from 15% to 10% in the weighting given to an area’s health inequalities in the allocation formula for funding primary care trusts.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Brussels lifts block on renewal spending

  • The European Commission lifted a freeze on spending through six of England’s European-funded renewal programmes. The freeze had been imposed following accounting errors.

North-west tops fund bids

  • Nearly a third of the 492 bids submitted to the second round of the regional growth fund will affect the north-west of England, official figures showed.

Four enterprise zone sites confirmed

  • Ministers confirmed the specific location of new enterprise zones in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and Sheffield.

Manchester moots bid for green bank

  • Greater Manchester could bid to host the government’s Green Investment Bank in a move aimed at boosting the city region’s economy. The bank is due to be set up next April.

Boris appoints LEP chair

  • Boris Johnson appointed Harvey McGrath as the business chair of the London Enterprise Partnership. Mr McGrath, chair of the London Development Agency and Prudential plc, will co-chair the LEP with the mayor.

HOUSING

HRA transition outlined

  • Councils will be able to buy their way out of the housing finance system from next spring. The Department for Communities & Local Government set out the steps councils would need to take to leave the system.

TRANSPORT

Ministers reject calls for roadwork deposit system

  • Ministers rejected proposals to give councils more powers to recoup the cost of repairs to roads damaged by work carried out on behalf of utility companies.
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