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News review - 8 October 2009

  • 1 Comment

LGC’s selection of this week’s must-read news items plus a 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 TOP STORIES

Councils surpass efficiency targets

Local government has surpassed its efficiency targets, recording £1.76bn worth of value-for-money savings for 2008-09, according to Department for Communities & Local Government figures. Councils were set a £1.5bn  target as part of the £4.9bn worth of savings to be made by 2010-11. Star performers were Hyndburn BC – targeted £832,000 but saved £3.86m, and Rochdale MBC – budgeted for £2.79m but returned £9m. Councils missing targets included Arun DC – aimed for £946,000 but returned £293,000, and Great Yarmouth BC – saved £312,000 against a £808,000 target.

Wirral ditches library closures

Wirral MBC has abandoned controversial plans to close 11 libraries in an effort to save £20m. The council’s leader, Steve Foulkes (Lab), revealed he would recommend the cabinet revoke the decision to close the libraries and invest in 13 new neighbourhood centres. With the government currently carrying out a review on the modernisation of library services, Cllr Foulkes said the council did not want to colour the debate nationwide.
LGC says: The stalling of this unofficial test case is a blow: as members are forced to make tough decisions nationwide about cutting services, all eyes were on Wirral.

Waste contract privacy bid rejected

Multinational waste management company Veolia has failed in its High Court attempt to prevent public disclosure of details of its £850m contract with Nottinghamshire CC. The judge held that the council was obliged, under a law based on “democratic accountability”, to give interested parties access to its statement of accounts, which included a summary of its dealings with the company.

Recession blamed for crime surge

A Local Government Association survey of more than 170 town halls in England and Wales found many reporting rises in crime. Half of the areas that responded reported rises in burglary rates. Vehicle crime and domestic violence were reported to be on the increase in a third of local authority areas. Around three-quarters of the respondents cited the recession as a “very or fairly significant factor” in commercial burglary, domestic burglary and vehicle crime.

POLITICS

Tory pledge public sector pay freeze (LGCplus report)

Junior minister to stand down (LGCplus report)

Lib Dems flatten Brown bounce (LGCplus report)

Chiefs’ pay has “got out of hand” (LGCplus report)

Byrne calls for more decentralisation (LGCplus report)

NLGN urges Tory clarity over funding (LGCplus report)

  • The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts has called for public services to be delivered by community-owned companies. (LGCplusreport)

FINANCE

Award of 2.1% for Welsh authorities (LGCplus report)

Labour’s Spending reviews criticised (LGCplus report)

Ministers pave way for more pay settlements (LGCplus report)

Equal pay support for Scottish councils (LGCplus report)

Pensions funds urged to sue to stem losses (LGCplus report)

COMMUNITY SAFETY

Notts street drinking ban dismissed (LGCplus report)

MANAGEMENT

Boston opts out of back-office merger (LGCplus report)

Edinburgh unions threaten strike action (The Scotsman report)

  • South Gloucestershire Council has announced plans to cut more than 300 jobs as part of £12m efficiency drive. (LGCplus report)

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Green Light for £1bn Reading Scheme (Guardian Public report)

West Midlands job strategy criticised (LGCplus report)

Stoke considers sale of regeneration stake (Regeneration & Renewal report)

  • The launch of the Infrastructure Planning Commission was warmly welcomed by both the British Chambers of Commerce and the CBI but criticised by the Conservatives, who pledge to abolish the quango. (LGCplus report)

HOUSING

Healey unveils £180m council house pot (LGCplus report)

SOCIAL SERVICES

Children’s services slammed in report (LGCplus report)

Child abuse survivors receive pay-out (LGCplus report)

Warning over Tory plans for elderly care (LGCplus report)

  • Carmarthenshire CC has been severely criticised by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Peter Tyndall, for failing to deal properly with a case of physical abuse at a day centre.
  • The departments for Children, Schools & Families and Communities & Local Government have announced a £15m fund for housing associations and local authorities to identify families causing problems within their local community.

Harringey recruits US social workers (LGCplus report)

ENVIRONMENT

Fly-tipping cases fall (LGCplus report)

 

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • Tony Roberts (Con), leader, Newark and Sherwood DC, writes:

    One would be more inspired by John Denham’s claim that the government’s drive for efficiency had delivered £1.7bn savings across local government (News Review, LGC, 8 October) if his own department could publish accurate figures.

    In Newark and Sherwood’s case, we saved more than £1.5m last year, a top-quartile performance and more than our target. But as the Department for Communities & Local Government has published the wrong target figure, they conclude we have underperformed. Errors like this simply confirm how distant central government is from what is actually happening.

    Local government will continue to outperform central government in efficiency, because life is more real here at the delivery-end of public services.

    It’s time a civil servant plucked up the courage to whisper in the ear of our latest communities secretary.

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