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News round up - 21 September

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

Source: Radu Razvan

Gove email storm   

Michael Gove’s use of a private email account to discuss government business in an alleged attempt to circumvent transparency rules set out under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act continues to keep scribes busy across Fleet Street.

The Financial Times reports that in an email, seen by the paper, the education secretary asked five advisers about issues – including a schools literacy programme and a reduction of bureaucracy – covered by the terms of the FOI Act, which was designed to open up Whitehall to public scrutiny.

The email was sent from what Mr Gove’s advisers called the “Mrs Blurt” account and dated December 29 2010.

Elsewhere, Mr Gove summarises his expectations about a judicial review of his decision to cancel a schools building programme with a single word: “AAAAAARGGGGGHHHH!!!!!!”.

Meanwhile, the Independent reports the hunt is on for a mole at the Department for Education after a number of emails, including some from special adviser Dominic Cummings, were leaked to the press. The leaks were the reason Mr Cummings switched to his private email account, a move being investigated by the Information Commissioner. The paper says Mr Gove also used a non-government email to discuss DfE business.

Mr Cummings also makes an appearance in the pages of the Guardian, this time for refusing to release information about the charity New Schools Network to civil servants preparing parliamentary answers.


Planning reforms  

Prime minister David Cameron has personally intervened in the debate over the government’s planning reforms, according to the Daily Telegraph. The paper quotes a letter from Mr Cameron to the National Trust, in which he says: “Poorly designed and poorly-located development is in no-ones interest.” The letter continues: “I believe that sustainable development has environmental and social dimensions as well as an economic dimension, and we fully recognise the need for  a balance between the three.”

Elsewhere, the paper reprises its “Hands off our land” campaign against the National Planning Policy Framework with the claims that the proposals could make it easier for “gipsies and travellers” to set up legal camps.

Meanwhile, his Honour George Dobry QC, author of the Doby Report on planning in 1976, writes to the Times in response to Monday’s letter from a group of businessmen including TV ‘dragon’ Duncan Bannatyne. He claims English planning laws have always favoured development and that he had found in his report that the UK planning system was the “best in the world” and still is.


Plan B?

The Financial Times reports Nick Clegg will today insist Britain can invest its way out of the downturn amid signs of tensions between Liberal Democrats and the Treasury over the release of funds for capital projects.

Ministers are scrambling to find ways to deliver infrastructure projects, including roads, broadband and energy, the paper says.

The Independent reports on its front page that the International Monetary Fund has called on chancellor George Osborne to prepare a Plan B and rethink the austerity drive if economic growth continues to fall.

Other news

  • The Daily Mail reports that Southwark LBC has caused uproar among its Liberal Democrat opposition by renaming the borough’s Bonfire Night firework show  “The Colour Thief: a winter extravaganza celebrating the change of the seasons” (“Guy Fawkes night? No it’s the evening of The Colour Thief”).
  • Dale Farm travellers facing eviction have been told they will be liable for costs for the delay as they embark on a High Court battle. Basildon BC is not confident they will recoup the expenses, council sources are quoted in the Independent.
  • As part of the government’s continuing response to the August riots, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is set to outline plans to prevent a generation of tearaway teenagers by giving problem primary school leavers places in two-week summer schools in his conference speech this afternoon., the Times reports.
  • Westminster City Council is planning to monitor social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter in order to collate messages sent by suspected gang members. A ‘gang information desk’ will cost £180,000 over three years according to a private council document seen by the Times.
  • Writing to the Times, Stephen Twigg MP claims that, following a briefing for MPs by the Electoral Commission last week, he now feared the completeness of the electoral register could reduce from 90% to 60%.



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