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News round up - 2 September

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

Source: Radu Razvan

Planning reform

The Daily Telegraph leads today with a splash on the planning reforms, which the paper says could lead to 1,000 major developments a year. The paper has launched a “Hands of Our Land” campaign, urging the government to think again, particularly on the presumption in favour of sustainable development, which it says is a builders charter and could lead to building on green spaces.

Meanwhile, John Howell MP, who drafted the Conservatives’ ‘Open Source Planning’ green paper writes to the Times insisting that the current planning system is broken but that under the government’s reforms, local planning committees will still be able to reject applications which don’t fit with local plans. Councils will also be able to prioritise the use of brownfield sites if sustainable.

LGC says: the row over planning reform continues to rumble on and with the Telegraph launching a campaign against the plans, it is threatening to become another policy debacle, along the lines of the ditched plans to sell off forests. Ministers have not helped their cause through misleading statements about protection afforded to the green belt, when it is undesignated green spaces that campaigners are most conerned about and misguided ‘reds in the beds’ attacks on the National Trust. The government is also haunted by the suspicion that, while avowedly ‘localist’ in opposition it has now become captured by the construction lobby amid fears about flagging economic growth. Key to the planning reforms will be councils local plans. Without local plans in place, councils will have no choice but to nod through development in their areas. But as LGC reports today, there is real concern that councils will not have adopted compliant plans in time.

Equal pay battle heads to the supreme court

The Guardian reports on a crucial equal pay test case bought by dinner ladies and care workers against Sheffield City Council is to be heard at the supreme court next month. Tens of thousands of women who claim they are paid less than men doing comparable jobs could benefit if judges rule in favour of the claimants.The three-day hearing before five justices in mid-October is the first time the supreme court - established two years ago - has looked at the issue of equal pay, an area complicated by the existence of contradictory legal precedents.

Spike in workless households

Both the Financial Times £ and the Guardian report that nearly one in five households has no one in employment, according to official statistics published yesterday. The number of households where no adult has ever worked has risen by more than 5% in a year to 370,000 - the highest in a decade. There remains a significant north-south divide. The north-east had the highest percentage of workless households, with a quarter of homes in the area falling into this category. The south-east had the lowest numbers, with one in seven households classed as workless.

Construction slump

New construction orders in the second quarter of 2011 fell by 16.3% in comparison with the first three months of the year, Building reports. The magazines says that the latest update by the Office of National Statistics, released this morning, show that new orders in the second three months of the year were at their lowest level since 1980.

Dale Farm evictions

Police are expecting a violent and lengthy stand-off when they move to evict hundreds of residents from Dale Farm, near Basildon in Essex, according to the Telegraph. Local roads will be closed as the bailiffs move onto the site and officers drafted in from forces across the UK will be stationed around the area, the

The Times reports that police have warned that the operation to evict 400 Irish travellers and up to 2,000 activists from the Dale Farm sites could take up to eight weeks. Despite the eviction being a civil matter overseen by Basildon BC, the operation is being viewed as a test of the police in the wake of last month’s riots.

Elsewhere, the Guardian carries a comment piece by deputy comment editor Libby Brooks on Basildon BC’s protracted bid to evict 400 travellers from a site at Dale Farm. Ms Brooks says the eviction of the travellers will again marginalise their community and teach a new generation there is no place for them.

Meanwhile, the Mail reports that travellers facing eviction from the illegal Dale Farm site in Essex are planning a “cynical attempt to turn public opinion against police and bailiffs”. According to the Mail the travellers plan to use their children as “human shields”, joined “by a foreign legion” of “Swedish Marxists, German campaigners” and British students.

Out with the town hall ‘sex snoopers’

Town Hall “sex snoopers” are officially banned from bombarding people with intrusive questions about their private lives, the Daily Mail reports. It says communities secretary Eric Pickles insists that the demise of the Audit Commission would see requirements to undertake intrusive “lifestyle and diversity surveys” stepped down. “Local residents shouldn’t be asked to reveal detailed personal information just because they’ve enquired about getting their bins emptied or how to join their local library,” he said.

LGC says: Start your stopwatches ticking now to check how long it takes before the Mail starts running stories about how councils “astonishingly” don’t know what proportion of their population is gay/straight, black/white, Catholic/Protestant/Sikh/Muslim. Read here for LGC’s report on the new DCLG guidance.

Other news

Labour councillors will be expected to sign contracts committing themselves to meet targets for the number of doors they must knock on and members of the public they must meet with in a given period, the Times reports £. Those that fall short risk being deselected.

The Telegraph reports on a speech by Michael Gove where the education secretary said discipline needed to be returned to classrooms and teachers needed to have “absolute” authority to enforce it.

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