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News round-up 3/4: Labour seeks to dampen election expectations

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

Local elections

Labour leader Ed Miliband has sought to play down his party’s prospects in next month’s local elections. After launching the party’s local election campaign, sources close to Mr Miliband told the Daily Telegraph that a target of between 300 and 350 gains in the elections which take place on 3 May was realistic. Analysis by leading psephologists Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher for LGC last month predicted that Labour should take at least 500 seats.

 

School Meals

Parents and teachers have warned that children are being left to go hungry as school meal portions are being shrunk, today’s Independent reports. Findings by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) suggest that smaller portions, caused by cost cutting, are leaving primary-age children in particular without enough to eat. School Food Trust figures show that the number of children eligible for free school meals increased by 43,000 to an estimated 1,055,000 in 2010-11.

 

Surveillance

Senior Liberal Democrat MPs are threatening to rebel over the government’s plans to extend the powers of the security services to monitor the public’s telephone calls, email and social media communications, the Guardian says. Concerns have emerged as Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has sought assurances about protecting individuals’ privacy from the proposals, which may enable GCHQ to access some real-time information on online activities.

The Times says that prime minister David Cameron has come under fire from Conservative MPs, with former shadow home secretary David Davis describing the government’s plans as “an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary people”. The government has insisted that the plans intend to focus on fighting crime and not about engaging in “snooping”.

The Independent says that home secretary Theresa May is expected to be summoned to Parliament to justify the controversial plans, which are expected to be outlined in the Queen’s speech on 9 May.

 

Police

Today’s Guardian leads with the news that the Metropolitan Police is facing a deepening race row after a police officer was captured on tape allegedly assaulting a black teenager, hours after a colleague was recorded abusing another man with a serious racial slur. An independent investigation into the alleged assault was understood to have recommended disciplinary action against the officer concerned. The news follows the paper’s release of an audio recording last week of racist abuse on the part of another officer. The Crown Prosecution Service is understood to be reconsidering initial decisions made on the cases.

 

Housing

Council tenants are to be offered up to £75,000 to help buy their own homes, prime minister David Cameron will announce today. The Telegraph says that the prime minister will formally unveil the government’s “reinvigorated” Right to Buy policy, which will have the aim of quadrupling the number of tenants who can buy back their own homes. The government insists that money raised would be used to pay for affordable homes to be built. Details of the scheme have already been announced by the government last month.

 

NHS

Sir David Nicholson, the chief executive of the health service in England, is facing questions about NHS spending of £5,000 a month on his travel and hotel accommodation expenses. The Independent says the criticism comes after his challenge to the NHS to find savings of £20bn over four years was named “the Nicholson challenge”.

 

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