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News round up - 20 September

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

Source: Radu Razvan

Localism

The Financial Times reports that house building data undermines ministers’ localism rhetoric.Ministers have authorised the construction of more than 6,000 homes against the wishes of elected councillors since the general election, according to government data. The government has also overruled seven councils which had sought to remove traveller encampments that lacked planning permission, despite four being on greenbelt land. Since the general election, DCLG has adjudicated in more than 81 separate schemes that have been the subject of rows between developers and councils. These quasi-legal decisions are nominally made by Eric Pickles, communities secretary, although he has only personally intervened in a handful.

 

DCLG project panned

News that a public accounts committee report has branded the £500m FiReControl project, which was scrapped last year, as the worst case of project failure ever seen is picked up by many of the nationals.  

The Guardian reports the committee concluding that the project, to replace English control rooms with nine regional centres, was flawed from the start, launched too quickly, used a supplier with no experience of emergency services and relied heavily on PA Consulting, which was paid £42m for services.

The Telegraph reports the committee’s frustration that despite the extensive failings, no one had been held to account and the careers of most “have carried on as if nothing had gone wrong”. Peter Housden was permanent secretary and principal accounting officer at the Department for Communities & Local Government, which ran the project. Last year he was knighted and promoted to permanent secretary of the Scottish administration, the paper reports.

 

Planning reforms

Ministers’ controversial planning remains high on the national news agenda attracting the attentions of today’s Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Times.

The Telegraph continues its “Hands Off Our Land” campaign. It quotes the Association of British Insurers raising concerns that new planning laws could lead to tens of thousands of “uninhabitable and unsellable” homes being built on floodplains.   

The Daily Mail reports on calls from the RAC Foundation and the Campaign for Better Transport for the planning reforms to be rewritten so new houses and flats are constructed near railway stations or bus routes. The building of thousands of new homes on green fields will create traffic chaos, the groups warn.

Meanwhile, in an opinion piece in the Times, Sir Simon Jenkins, chairman of the National Trust, describes claims by a group of businessmen that the “rotten” planning system is putting “a brake on UK business” as “rubbish”. He says there is no evidence that a shortage of rural land is impeding recovery. Sir Simon’s view is backed up by letters to the newspaper from Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Arthur Dicken, chairman of Prestbury Parish Council in Cheshire.

 

Other stories

Gove gmail claims

Education secretary Michael Gove and a number of his advisers are being investigated by the Information Commissioner, the Independent and Guardian report. The Financial Times has suggested Gove and colleagues have conducted government business on private email addresses in order to avoid Freedom of Information rules.

Blair bags new advisory role…for Cameron

Prime minister David Cameron has been seeking advice on foreign affairs from former prime minister and one-time opponent Tony Blair, according to Foreign Office sources quoted in the Independent.

 

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