Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Pension fund deficits
Figures put together by the TaxPayers Alliance on the shortfall in local government pension funds are covered widely by the press today. The lobby group claims the combined deficit of funds in the LGPS totalled £54bn last year, the Times reports. The combined deficit is considerably lower than it was a few years ago when it totalled £91bn in 2009-10. The LGA argued that the figures, taken from councils 2010-11 accounts, were a “spurious way of gauging the viability of a pension scheme” and had “no relevance to the actual cost of local government pensions”. The Times also incorrectly states that the Local Government Pension Scheme is funded “entirely through employer and employee contributions unlike other public sector pensions, which are funded by the taxpayer”. In fact, the LGPS is funded through returns earned by investing the funds as well as employer and employee contributions.
Sion Simon, the former minister campaigning for the Labour nomination for the potential mayoralty of Birmingham, has claimed that MPs that trigger by-elections by running for such positions should be forced to repay the party’s costs, the Times reports.
Greg Clark is on a mission to correct what he sees as Labour’s “emasculation” of Britain’s largest cities and its obsession with “artificial regions”, the Financial Times reports as the minister embarks on a tour of the 10 English cities due to vote on May 3 whether or not to have a mayor.
Meanwhile in the London mayoral election, the Times reports on Greater London Authority documents on projects funded during Ken Livingstone’s administration, which his rival Boris Johnston claimed showed he had “squandered” money on “harebrained schemes”. Mr Johnston has spent £11m on eight buses and is pushing through plans for a cable car over the Thames.
The Guardian also reports on a row over an advertising campaign promoting the idea that gay people can be converted to heterosexuality that has erupted between the candidates.
The Independent’s columnist Owen Jones argues that Ken Livingstone, Labour’s candidate for London mayor, is being demonised by a ‘Get Ken’ coalition in the media. This includes his Conservative opponent Boris Johnson’s Daily Telegraph colleague Andrew Gilligan and “mocking headlines in virtually every right-wing newspaper”, he writes.
Councils have been accused of failing to claim millions of pounds in funding for children’s cycling, the Times reports as part of its ‘Cities Fit For Cycling’ campaign. Of 600,000 children aged 10-11, only about 250,000 had free training in the past financial year according to CTC, the national cycling organisation, despite each child being entitled to training worth £40.