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News round-up 10/4: London infrastructure fund planned

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Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government

Infrastructure

The Financial Times writes that London’s councils are in talks to establish a “pooled pension fund” for London in an effort to reduce administrative costs and divert over £2bn towards local infrastructure projects. The proposals, modelled on Canada’s Ontario Pension Board, could see the creation of a new entity with up to £30bn of assets.

 

Mayors and police commissioners

Labour MPs could be barred from standing in mayoral, and possibly police commissioners’ elections, according to the Guardian. The party’s shock defeat in Bradford West means senior shadow cabinet members are keen to prevent another wave of by elections that will drain the party’s financial resources and possibly threaten safe Labour seats, the paper says. The calls are understood to have the support of Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, and figures in the Labour Whip’s office.

The Guardian reports that Respect is targeting Bradford in the local elections, putting forward 12 candidates and hoping to oust leader Ian Greenwood (Lab), but also notes the party has failed to capitalise on past gains elsewhere in Yorkshire or Manchester. The paper also says initial indications show the Liberal Democrats are not fielding as many candidates as they did in the comparable local elections in 2008.

 

Mayoral Election

Homeless charities have voiced concern that Mayor of London Boris Johnson has “skimmed off” over £5m of government funding aimed at helping rough sleepers, according to the Guardian. The cash has reportedly gone missing from Mr Johnson’s budget for rough sleepers, which is completely underwritten by Whitehall, and repeated efforts by charities have failed to win assurances that it will be restored.

The Times reports that voters in outer London appear likely to back Boris Johnson for Mayor of London, according to a Populous focus group. The newspaper reports that residents in a key suburban borough defended his privileged background, work ethic and his affairs, while Ken Livingstone was described as “slimy, dishonest and damaged”.

 

Planning reform

A report from the Institute for Economic Affairs called for an even more radical localism agenda to be pushed through the planning system that would see councils made solely reliant on local taxes in order to encourage them to grant more planning permissions as a way of enlarging their tax bases, the Times reports.

 

Trading standards

Which?, Britain’s largest consumer watchdog, said plans to hand powers for enforcing all consumer law to local trading standards officers will leave customers at the mercy of ‘Del Boy-style’ rogue traders, the Daily Mail reports.

 

Traveller sites

The Daily Mail reports on comments from Stuart Hoggan, deputy director for integration at the Department for Communities & Local Government at a conference in Westminster, which appeared to indicate that the New Homes Bonus scheme will allow payments to be made to councils that give permission for traveller sites to be built. Payments of £6,000-per-caravan will be allowed through the £431m scheme, the paper claims.

 

Pubs levy

The Independent  reports on a campaign by the Local Government Association for councils to get a larger share of a new £18m levy on pubs and clubs for the social cost of late-night opening, such as running taxi marshals and employing street wardens. The Home Office has said in a consultation that it wants to split the levy income, put at up to £18.2m between the police and councils on a 70% to 30% basis. Mehboob Khan (Lab), chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “The current plans for how the money can be used risks taxpayers still being left to pick up the bill because it fails to recognise the significant contribution made by local authorities.”

 

Teacher Strike

The UK’s largest teachers’ union has laid the ground for further strikes against regional pay and the increasing number of academy schools, the Financial Times reports.

Elsewhere, the Independent reports that widespread strike action against schools planning to convert to academies was demanded by teachers yesterday. The NUT conference in Torquay backed a motion calling on teachers in every school planning to become one of education secretary Michael Gove’s “flagship academies” to be sounded out as to whether they would be prepared to strike.

The Times writes that the NUT decided strike ballots should be held in every school that plans to become an academy and in those that changed pay and conditions

 

Water

Britain’s drought is so severe in parts of the nation that plans are being drawn up to trade water between regions for the first time, in order to supply over 100,000 homes in the worst-hit areas, the Telegraph writes. Severn Trent water aims to sell 30m litres of water a day to Anglian Water – one of seven companies that imposed a hosepipe ban last week.

 

Employment

Nissan is to create hundreds more jobs in the north-east and move to round-the-clock production at its plant in Sunderland, the Financial Times reports. The company is to hire 225 workers to build a new medium-sized hatchback in the north-east, with another 900 jobs to be added at component suppliers in the UK.

 

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