Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Johnston Press, the regional published of a range of local newspapers, has announced that five of its daily titles – the Scarborough Evening News, the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, the Peterborough Evening Telegraph and the Halifax Courier – will become weekly publications. Eleven other dailies, including the Sheffield Star, the Sunderland Echo and the News in Portsmouth could also go weekly. The Times describes the move as “the biggest step yet in an industry-wide trend towards less-frequent, less-costly local news publishing”, although Johnston’s two biggest titles – The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post – will remain daily publications.
The Times reports on the latest in the race to become mayor of London where “internal emails” apparently show that Ken Livingstone’s pledge to cut and then freeze bus, Tube and rail fares will cause Transport for London to run out of money within three years. A huge fare increase of 38% in 2015 would be necessary to plug the gap that will open up.
David Cameron promised a “flat-out, full-throttle fight” in local elections next month and hopes the poll could a act as a fire break after a number of public relations disasters, the Financial Times reports.
The paper helpfully details the difficulties facing the government including the petrol strike, the charity tax and the so called ‘conservatory tax’ thought up by Liberal Democrat local government minister Andrew Stunnell.
The Guardian leads with the news that ministers have been advised to allow the controversial practice of “fracking” for shale gas to be extended to Britain, despite concerns over the safety of wells already built, and risks of earthquakes. The paper says that the advice of the first official government report into the practice will be published today, and will almost certainly be accepted, resulting in thousands of new wells being drilled across the UK. However, questions have been raised about the safety of fracking in areas of known seismic activity, and concerning which agencies would oversee the process to ensure public safety. Executive director of Friends of the Earth Andy Atkins said that fracking was not needed to meet Britain’s power needs, and that a “seismic shift” was needed in energy policy. He called for a “full scientific assessment” of all the impacts of fracking.
All mandatory elements of the government’s “Green Deal” for home improvements are to be scrapped following an intervention by the prime minister, says the Guardian. The government will now reject proposals currently out for consultation that would have required homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient if undertaking improvements. The paper says that the abandonment of the mandatory elements puts new pressure on the target of persuading thousands of homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient.
education secretary Michael Gove has urged the Church of England to establish a new generation of academy schools. Mr Gove said that he “cherished” the education currently provided by the Church in comments made in the Commons yesterday. The news in the Daily Telegraph comes as Mr Gove backed an increased role for the Church after a review by the Bishop of Oxford which looked at the potential for new academies. The paper notes that concerns had previously been raised over the education secretary’s commitment to faith in schools after allegations that the importance of religious education had been downgraded.
The Times leads with the news that Labour has opened a 9 point lead over the Conservatives after prime minister David Cameron’s “worst month in office”. The paper says that opposition to the Budget and the handling of the fuel tanker drivers’ dispute have compounded a haemorrhaging of support for the government, leading to Labour being placed on 42%, the Conservatives on 33%, and the Liberal Democrats on 11%.