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News round-up 24/4: Council accused of social cleansing

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

Welfare reform

A London council has been accused of starting “social cleansing” in the capital by asking a Stoke-on-Trent housing association to take on up to 500 families on housing benefit, the BBC reports. Newham LBC says it can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation. It has written to the Brighter Futures Housing Association in Stoke, offering it the “opportunity” to lease homes to it. The letter says the local private rental sector is beginning to “overheat” because of the “onset of the Olympic Games and the buoyant young professionals market”. It says the council can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation as the gap between market rents and the local housing allowance has become too great.

 

education

The Guardian reportsthat 18 of the 24 free schools that opened last autumn have admitted a lower proportion of deprived pupils than is average for their neighbourhood, according to government figures. The story says the 18 schools have admitted a lower proportion of children eligible for free school meals than is average for schools with pupils of the same age group across their local authority.

 

London mayoral election

London mayor Boris Johnson has been accused of doing “virtually nothing” to tackle serious youth violence, The Guardian reports. It says Ron Belgrave, “a former senior official who drew up the Conservative mayor’s initial proposals for addressing the issue,” has accused Johnson of a “superficial, unserious” approach and of hoping the problem “would just go away.” In response, it reports, a source close to Johnson said the mayor had “ended an era of appalling complacency on youth crime” and “his commitment remains absolute.”

 

Dangerous Dogs

Homeowners could be prosecuted if their dogs attack burglars under government plans to force people to take responsibility for their pets, according to the Daily Telegraph.  Courts could jail dog owners for up to two years or impose a £5,000 fine if animals caused injury while “dangerous out of control” in their homes. The paper adds that owners face bills of up to £40 to fit all newborn puppies with microchips, while dangerous breeds seized by the police would be allowed home on “bail” until court cases had concluded.

Meanwhile, the Times writes that charities such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home warn that microchipping will do little to prevent attacks by dangerous dogs.

 

Coalition woe

Today’s Independent states that the Conservative-dominated public administration committee will “add to Mr Cameron’s woes” in a scathing report which will say that the administration lacks a “clear and coherent” approach to governing.

On the Today Programme, Conservative chair of the committee Bernard Jenkin said that the lack of a national strategy was an “endemic problem in government.” A national strategy needed to be an evolving concept, and Mr Jenkin thought that the government should publish a statement of national strategy in Parliament once a year, as was the case in other countries such as Canada. Mr Jenkin said that governments used the need for flexibility and the need to adapt as excuses for not publishing a national strategy. He added that the coalition agreement was a list of policies and not a national strategy. The public administration committee had been discussing this issue with Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin, but Mr Jenkin was confused as to why the government had said in response to his Committee’s report that reducing the deficit was one of its key strategic aims, yet this was not listed by Mr Letwin as one of the government’s six strategic aims during his appearance before the committee.


Public finances

The UK government borrowed more than expected in March, official figures have shown, but still met its borrowing target for the year, the BBC reports. Public sector net borrowing, excluding interventions such as bank bail-outs, came in at £18.2bn in March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. However, previous months’ borrowing was revised down, meaning the government met its target of £126bn for the year.

 

Cycling safety

As part of its campaign to make cycling safer, the Times published the results today of an audit of road safety. More than 10,000 people have used an interactive map to identify unsafe junctions, roundabouts or stretches of road across the country.

 

Privacy

Ministers are planning to make it easier for public sector organisations to share confidential information supplied by the public, The Guardian reports. It says the development will raise fears that “sensitive personal information supplied by citizens to a doctor, social worker or police officer…could be used arbitrarily by another agency of the state for a different purpose.”

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