Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Conservative strategists are predicting that as few as three cities will vote in favour of a directly elected mayor this May despite cities minister Greg Clark’s hailing a “new era of people power”, the Financial Times writes. The paper reports that Birmingham will most likely say yes to a directly elected mayor, with Leeds and Bristol expected to follow suit. However, with local party groups actively opposing the idea in many areas, the remaining seven cities are predicted to vote no in the referenda.
Despite this, Simon Jenkins argues in his Guardian column that elected mayors will “destroy our shadowy civic mafias” and “revive cities held back by party complacency and Whitehall’s dead hand”. He says cities’ “lack of mandated champions” has allowed central government to “deaden their enterprise.” Jenkins says the mayoral election contests in Liverpool and Salford are proving “staid” but the situation in Birmingham is “most exciting” because three established Labour politicians are shaping up for the party nomination.
Elsewhere, the Financial Times writes that MPs are concerned with the turn to fourth-party voting ahead of the local elections in May as George Galloway is sworn in as an MP for the Respect party and campaigners are met with widespread voter disillusionment on the doorstep. A YouGov tracker poll shows support for “others” has risen from 8% to 17% and the paper says the UK Independent Party and the Greens are expected to benefit from the “anti-politics” mood with both Liberal Democrats and Labour set to lose out.
Many elderly and disabled people face cuts in support and assistance as local councils struggle to fulfil the savings requirements set out in the social care budgets, the Independent reveals today. The paper conducted a survey into care spending in over 30 authorities revealing that spending was due to be cut by an average of 3%this year, while the number of people over 85 has increased by more than 250,000 in the last six years.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports that elderly women are 40 per cent more likely than elderly men to go into care homes, according to research by Queen’s University Belfast.
NHS hospitals have been told by regulator Monitor to increase their savings by 50%, the Financial Times reports. In a letter to hospital managers, the watchdog ramped up its previous demand for 4.6% savings year on year from 2013 to 7% each year.
Pensioners and savers have been “penalised” by the policy of quantitative easing (QE) by the Bank of England. The Telegraph reports that the treasury select committee is warning that creation of £325bn through QE has redistributed money from savers to borrowers and calls for chancellor George Osborne to look into ways of ameliorating the effects of QE in his autumn statement.
The treasury select committee is questioning the sums used in Mr Osborne’s budget to justify the scrapping of the 50p tax rate, the Times writes. Originally set to cost £110m a year, the change in tax rate from 50p to 45p could cost “significantly more or less” than that, the committee reveals in its report on the Budget.
Elsewhere, the Daily Mail reports that other points of contention will also be raised by the Committee, such as the “granny tax”, the VAT on hot pies and church restoration projects and the limit on charitable donations.