Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
In an interview with the Sunday Times, education secretary Michael Gove says that there is “no turning back” from the wholesale removal of state schools from local authority control. With half of secondaries now either academies or in the process of becoming academies, he also pledges that state schools which receive three ‘satisfactory’ ratings in a row will have their governors sacked and be taken over by academy chains. Mr Gove said he was targeting 10 councils where persistent sub-standard primary schools would be forcibly converted into academies, including Tory-led Essex, Kent, Northamptonshire, Lancashire and Suffolk CCs and Birmingham City Council.
Meanwhile, the Observer reports from Sevenoaks where Kent CC’s decision to expand a grammar school through a new ‘satellite site’ have raised fears about a divide between those who can afford tutors and those who cannot.
The Guardian continues its tour of cities preparing to vote on whether to introduce an elected mayor. Assistant editor Michael White describes a culture of “complacency” and “caution” and asks if an elected mayor could shake up the city.
Saturday’s closure of the regional development agencies has left regional growth is stuck in “chaos and confusion”, according to shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna (Lab). The Financial Times also quotes North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive James Ramsbotham who says “a head of steam” built up by One North East in the renewable energy sector has dissipated. The paper says the recent decision by Spain’s Gamesa to choose Leith for a £125m turbine manufacturing plant rather than Hartlepool aggravated fears that Scotland, which still has a well-funded, powerful agency, was winning the fight for inward investment.
The Financial Times writes that a group of local authorities are to seek a judicial review of the government’s decision to continue with the high speed rail link, in a move which could delay the £32.7bn project. Up to 15 local authorities are expected to join in the action, highlighting four reasons for challenging the scheme, which was approved in January.
Elsewhere, the same newspaper reports that the government’s long-term spending settlement with London’s leading transport body would be “thrown into doubt” if Labour candidate for the Mayor of London were to carry out his pledge to slash fares. Transport secretary Justine Greening has raised questions over the “viability” of Mr Livingstone’s “fare deal” proposals, suggesting that the cuts could not be introduced without the agreement of train operating companies.
The Guardian reports that foreign secretary William Hague has said the government did “absolutely the right thing” in urging the public to take precautions against a possible petrol shortage ahead of emergency talks between Unite and fuel distributors. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Hague felt the government would be “vindicated by events over the coming days and weeks”.
The Times writes that militant truck drivers who brought fuel supplies to a standstill by blockading oil refineries 12 years ago have said they are prepared to repeat their protest, in support of striking hauliers.
A leading charity boss has left his role in the government’s welfare scheme in protest at the “deeply flawed” method of assessing whether incapacity benefit claimants are fit to work, the Times reports. Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said the government refused to listen to criticisms of the ‘work capability assessment’ and said that his position was “no longer tenable”.
The Financial Times writes that rising numbers of charities are in “financial distress” due to the recession, and the sector is cutting jobs at twice the rate of the public sector, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. Charity leaders reportedly want to meet chancellor George Osborne to voice concern that budget measures to reduce upper rate tax relief on donations could undermine philanthropy.
Police and Security Services
Ministers are to introduce a law allowing police and security services to extend monitoring of the public’s e-mail and social media communications, the Guardian writes. The new system will allow security officials to scrutinise who is talking to whom, and when the conversations are taking place, but not the content of the messages.
The Times writes that police chiefs have warned that banning “legal high” drugs is doomed to fail. The substances cannot be tackled by declaring them illegal, chief constables have said in a submission to ministers seen by the newspaper.