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News round-up 2/7: City deals imminent

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

City deals

Devolutionary deals stuck with eight English cities are on the verge of being announced, the Observer reports. Cities minister Greg Clark will unveil an “unprecedented” transfer of power from Whitehall despite resistance from senior civil servants. As LGC reported in April, the deals will include the creation of a statutory city-region authority for Leeds in return for turning the city into a ‘NEET-free zone’ as well as giving Birmingham control over a £1.5bn investment fund.

 

Education

Anthony Seldon, the headmaster of Wellington College who has been tasked with encourage independent schools to sponsor state academies, has expressed his frustration at the lack of enthusiasm among his private sector colleagues. In a “blow to David Cameron’s plans for public schools to pass on their experience to state schools”, the Observer reports he has said those in the private sector have “lost their moral compass”.

 

Looked-after children

An investigation by the Times finds that hundreds of troubled children are being moved many miles from family and friends and being placed in cheaply bought care homes run by private operators and opened in the north of England where property prices are low. The findings contravene official guidance than looked-after children should not be placed more than 20 miles from home other than in exceptional circumstances.

 

Police commissioner elections

Dame Helen Ghosh, permanent secretary at the Home Office, has written to chief constable ordering them to stay out of the political debate during the elections for police and crime commissioners or risk prosecution, the Times reports. In its leader article, the paper says that the voice of chief constables should be heard in the elections.

 

Rail fares

Labour could back calls to effectively renationalise the railways in order to halt big fare increases and prevent private companies from siphoning off “huge profits”, the Observer reports. Proposals from the Transport for Quality of Life thinktank calling for franchising to be phased out and a democratic role given to passengers, the workforce and elected local and regional authorities will be considered in the party’s police review after transport spokeswoman Maria Eagle said they offered “a coherent case for reform”.

 

Welfare reform

Private firms running the government’s Work Programme have told the government it should be easier to remove benefits from people that fail to seek work, the Observer reports.

Meanwhile, absent parents “will have their benefits docked by more than £500 a year” to pay towards the care of their children, the Daily Telegraph reports. It says more than 160,000 unemployed parents, who currently pay £5 per week in child maintenance, will pay £10 instead, and the money will be deducted from their benefit payments.

 

Housing

Olympic planners have been warned they risk “a betrayal” of east London communities if they do not guarantee local people homes in the regenerated Olympic site, the Independent reports. Keith Fernett, a housing expert and director of Newham homeless skills centre Anchor House said changes to the rules meant “affordable now means earning £30,000 or more, which is beyond most of the people in the borough. There are 32,000 people on the social housing waiting list here and we don’t expect the Olympic Park to make a dent in that.”

 

Childcare

Families in many of the poorest areas in Britain are being forced to spend more than a quarter of their incomes on childcare, according to the Independent. On average in Britain, the cost of for 25 hours of care a week was equivalent to 18.9% of average earnings. but was as high as 28.2% in Ebbw Vale, south Wales, and 26.7% in Wembley, London.

 

Cultural services

Museums and galleries across Britain are closing their doors at an unprecedented rate because of budget cuts, according to a study by the Museums Association. The Independent reports that 60% of the museums affected were run by local authorities, including Church Farmhouse Museum run by Barnet LBC. The paper also reports that other museums were saving money by increasing charges for school visits as well as cutting staff and opening hours.

 

Economy

The government’s chief construction adviser has cast doubts over a key pillar of chancellor George Osborne’s growth plan in comments made to the Financial Times. Paul Morrell said Mr Osborne’s plan to leverage £20bn of investment from pension funds into construction schemes has fallen flat as the funds shy away from debt-laden projects.

 

Riots

The Metropolitan Police fears a repeat of last year’s civil unrest as hot weather, cuts to police budgets and the deteriorating economic situation combine to create further disorder, the Guardian reports. Interviews with 130 police officers carried out as part of the paper’s joint project with the LSE, Reading the Riots, found that senior officers are worried that stretched resources mean police would be unable to contain another bout of widespread unrest.

 

Airports

The coalition will delay “indefinitely” a decision on whether to build new runways in the south-east, the Financial Times reports. The government is deeply split over the possible construction of a third runway at Heathrow, the paper reports, adding that the Conservatives would back the project if they could secure a majority in the 2015 general election.

 

Unions

Today’s Independent leads with a story that claims the UK’s sixth-largest trade union, PCS, is planning to back anti-austerity candidates in Parliamentary elections. The union, which is not affiliated to Labour, would target seats where the Labour candidate was not deemed to have offered enough opposition to the government’s wide-ranging spending cuts.

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