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News round-up 23/4: Fresh spending curbs for departments

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

Whitehall Spending

Whitehall departments are to face tough new spending rules as the Treasury moves to ensure there can be no repeat of the “mess” that landed Britain with its largest fiscal deficit in peacetime, chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander will announce today.  The Guardian reports that Mr Alexander will outline two new rules for Whitehall departments which will have to monitor and share spending information with the Treasury on a monthly basis. Departments would also need to identify 5% of their resource budget which could be used as a reserve to be redirected if unforeseen spending needs arise elsewhere.

Today’s Times writes that ministers will be ordered to identify more than £16bn of potential cuts to be made, as the prime minister David Cameron seeks to reunite the coalition around a fresh commitment to austerity. The paper adds that Mr Cameron will try to end weeks of political turbulence by refocusing the government on its core “mission” to cut the deficit.


Elected Mayors

Next week’s referendums on elected mayors are a “one-in-a-generation chance to change the way our country is run”, David Cameron will say today. The Daily Telegraph reports that he will tell activists in Bristol that “Britain stands on the brink of exciting democratic change” and use the speech to reinvigorate the Conservatives and draw a line up the coalition’s recent problems.

The case for a local government revival is unanswerable, writes John Harris in the Guardian. “One of the most poisonous legacies of the Blair years is the syndrome whereby the three parties’ big figures have tended to come from a roped-off metropolitan milieu,” he argues. “The national state should shift anything and everything it can well beyond the capital.”

Meanwhile, writing the Thunderer column in Today’s Times, independent London mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita claims that a fixed-price, low-cost housing market could make housing affordable for key workers such as teachers, nurses and police officers.


Lords Reform

A majority of voters favour reform of the House of Lords, in news that will boost the position of deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, according to a poll featured in today’s Guardian. A reformed upper chamber is favoured by 69% of voters, while just 5% support a fully appointed second chamber. The paper writes that a third said that they favoured a fully elected second chamber; the official position of the Liberal Democrats and Labour in their 2010 election manifestos.

Despite the poll, the Independent leads with the news that Mr Clegg has warned his party that he is not prepared to put the coalition at risk to force through reforms against opposition from Conservative sceptics. He has made it clear that he is not prepared to give David Cameron an ultimatum that Liberal Democrats will withhold support from Conservative plans to cut the size of the House of Commons if they do not get their way on Lords reform. The paper reports that a rival blueprint for reform may be put forward by peers and MPs from within the committee that was set up to advise on the intended reforms. The official recommendation made today will suggest that the current House of Lords should be scrapped and replaced by a chamber that is four-fifths elected and one-fifth appointed.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times writes that constitutional reform minister Mark Harper has dismissed proposals from former leader of the Liberal party Lord Steel that departing peers should receive pay-offs of up to £30,000.

Care homes

The Care Quality Commission is under fresh pressure after video footage emerged of an elderly woman being subjected to physical abuse at a home rated as excellent by the watchdog. The Times reports that the daughter of 80-year-old Maria Worroll filmed her being struck in the face, arms and abdomen by a care worker. The footage will be shown on BBC’s Panorama tonight.


Renewable energy

Britain is developing “floating” wind turbines that could be used out of sight of land, the Daily Telegraph reports. It says the turbines can be installed in water more than 300ft deep, where wind speeds are consistently higher than in areas close to the coast. It describes the proposals as “a much more palatable technology for the Tories, many of whom have constituents who oppose wind turbines.” 

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