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News round up - 19 September

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

Source: Radu Razvan

Planning

Members of the Women’s Institute are the latest group of concerned Brits to raise fears over the government’s planning reforms. Today’s instalment of the Daily Telegraph’s “Hands off our land” campaign, reports that the WI National Federation chair Ruth Bond has witnessed a “groundswell” of concern from members over the National Planning Policy Framework. The paper suggests that Ms Bond’s encouragement to members to lobby MPs on the issue was likely to set alarm bells ringing in Downing Street.

The Daily Mail joins in the fun, by suggesting the government’s “vague” planning reforms will result in a “field day for lawyers”. The paper cites evidence to Parliament from the UK Environmental Law Association, which claims the National Planning Policy Framework is so flawed that “the system may well stumble and fall before it can find its feet”. It also quotes Anne Harrison, specialist property lawyer at Beachcroft LLP, saying the phrasing of the proposals “will just provide more fodder for argument”. “It will lead to more  appeals, more inquiries, more legal challenges,” she adds.

But it’s not all bad news for ministers.

A group of leading businessmen including TV ‘dragon’ Duncan Bannatyne and McLaren executive chairman Ron Dennis, have thrown their weight behind the government’s planning reforms, claiming Britain’s “creaking” planning system is driving investors away and threatening economic recovery, in a letter to the Times.

Meanwhile the Times reports that half of £500m for local road and business development projects announced by chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander will come from underspent budgets in the transport and local government departments.

 

New deficit fears

The Financial Times reports on news that ministers are set to be told this autumn that a new £12bn black hole has opened up in the public finances, in a forecast that threatens to derail the coalition’s deficit reduction strategy and prolong austerity well into the next parliament. In “£12bn hole threatens plans to cut deficit”, the newspaper has replicated the model used by the Office for Budget Responsibility which suggests the structural deficit in 2011-12 is now £12bn higher than previously thought a 25% rise.

 

Executive pay

Business secretary Vince Cable is set to announce measures to curtail spiralling executive pay in the private sector, the Guardian and Independent report.

 

Schools funding

Children and families minister Sarah Teather has announced funding for the pupil premium – additional funding for pupils eligible for free school meals – will double in 2012/13, the Guardian reports.

Funding cuts elsewhere mean schools are abandoning or reducing spaces on the Reading Recovery Project, according to the Independent.

 

Travellers v Basildon BC

Anarchists are digging in at Dale Farm in Essex today as bailiffs acting for Basildon BC prepare to move in on an illegal travellers site, the Daily Mail reports.

The paper reveals that “menacing activists” are busily fortifying the site to prevent authorities from entering it today, following the culmination of the council’s 10-year planning battle.

 

Boris’ boozy brawler bid

London Mayor Boris Johnson has renewed his call for the perpetrators of alcohol-fuelled violence to escape prison sentences if they stay sober.

The proposals, likely to see alcoholics subjected to twice-daily breathalyser tests, would be based on a “highly successful” trial in the United States, the Daily Telegraph reports. It adds that City Hall has been lobbying for the scheme for some time, but Mr Johnson’s renewed call is made in his latest column  for the paper.

However it is the London mayor’s own behaviour that is of interest to the Daily Mail, which reports that a new biography accuses him of having “no moral compass”.

Other stories

  • The print version of the Daily Telegraph flags quirky goings on between Hampshire CC and Wiltshire Council which see a bus service preserved in one direction only. In “The bus that goes but never comes back” the paper attempts to explain the mystery of the No 87 service from Winterslow to Andover, which Hampshire withdrew funding from, and which Wiltshire now subsidises, but only in one direction, meaning there is no return service.
  • The Financial Times reports Newham LBC is looking to cash in on increased demand for property in the area on the back of the Olympics by launching the first government-backed rented housing fund. The borough is examining the possibility of setting up a special purpose vehicle to buy housing stock and use it to seed a large portfolio of rented properties. It would then rent the properties on the open market.   
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