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News round-up 17/9: Fresh welfare reform criticism

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

Welfare Reform

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith is “trying to calm fears” over the Universal Credit amid fears the reforms could backfire, the Times reports. A report by the Social Market Foundation thinktank warned that the plans could cause hardship for families on the lowest incomes. The news comes after a weekend in which it was reported that the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood is amongst those nervous about the implementation of the plan.

Meanwhile, Labour has called on the government to postpone the introduction of Universal Credit for one year, writes the Guardian. Shadow employment minister Stephen Timms argued that the government needed another year to “iron out” remaining problems with the scheme that is set to be launched in October 2013.


Planning and infrastructure

Shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn has accused ministers of delivering a “blow to democracy” with plans to take planning decisions away from councils if they take too long to come to a decision and hand the matter to the independent Planning Inspectorate instead. Mr Benn told the Financial Times the “astonishing” change was buried in the technical details of the planning reforms announced earlier this month.

A survey of some 600 business leaders has found that a growing number are losing faith in the coalition’s ability to fast-track infrastructure spending, the Times reports. The research by the CBI and consultants KPMG found that the proportion positive about the state of infrastructure had fallen from just under half a year ago, to barely a third now, with three in four bosses believing that transport infrastructure will not improve in the next five years. Almost all respondents (97%) believed the planning system was a barrier to infrastructure delivery.


Public spending

More Britons are supporting greater public spending, even at the cost of higher taxes, reports the Financial Times. The paper says that a British Social Attitudes Survey has revealed the proportion of the population wanting the government to spend more rose between 2010 and 2011 from 31% to 36%.



The number of homeless families placed in B&B accommodation between January to March 2012 was 44% higher than figures for the same quarter in 2011, reports the Guardian. The National Housing Federation, who carried out the analysis of official statistics, said the number of homeless families was also increasing leading to greater demand for emergency temporary accommodation, the paper says.



The Guardian reports that private health firms can expect to win £20bn from the NHS in the next few years. It says a report by the finance advisers Catalyst, which was “written for profit-making companies,” highlights a “£20bn opportunity ahead for the private sector.” The newspaper quotes the report as saying: “The introduction of GP commissioning and interest in healthcare models offering alternatives to hospital care will require a higher proportion of services to be delivered by the private sector.”


Conservative Party

Sir John Major has warned rebellious backbench MP that “regicide is not a good idea” after weeks of “disgruntled mutterings” about prime minister David Cameron’s leadership, writes the Financial Times. Sir John’s comments follow reports that 14 MPs had written to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, to request a leadership challenge, the paper says.

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