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News round-up 3/9: Cockell sounds reserves warning

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

Reserves

LGA chairman Sir Merrick Cockell (Con) raised the spectre of councils running out of cash reserves within five years, the Observer reports. On the eve of an expected cabinet reshuffle, Sir Merrick’s said that the pressure put on councils by communities secretary Eric Pickles to raid some £17bn of reserves would leave councils to spend on vital job-creating infrastructure schemes that are the means of pulling the economy round.

 

Reshuffle speculation

The prime minister is set to embark on a major reshuffle of his government at all ranks, in an attempt to “rejuvenate the coalition,” writes the Guardian. The paper reports that last night Mr Cameron was finalising plans for a “much wider than expected” reshuffle which will put in place the main ministers for the second half of the Parliament.

The Times speculates that communities secretary Eric Pickles could “expect a whirl on the merry-go-round” as he is “unlikely to be enthusiastic for the chancellor’s new embrace of building on the green belt”. “Solid… widely respected cities” minister Greg Clark and housing minister Grant Shapps are both tipped for promotion to the cabinet.

However, the Guardian also reports that housing minister Grant Shapps founded a family business selling software that breached Google’s code of practice. It said the software, called TrafficPaymaster, increases a website’s advertising revenue by breaching Google’s rules. It said a spokesman for Mr Shapps said the business was run by his wife, Belinda, and that Mr Shapps “derives no income, dividends or other income from this business.”

 

Government growth initiatives

The Financial Times leads with the news that prime minister David Cameron is to announce a number of new measures this week to boost business lending, support new housing and streamline the planning system. The measures are an attempt to “inject life into Britain’s stagnant economy” and deflect growing Tory criticisms of Mr Cameron’s leadership, the paper says.

A state-backed small business bank is a central part of the plan, in a bid to get credit flowing to small companies, the paper also reports.

Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that chancellor George Osborne is to loosen planning laws and wants to see “more imaginative thinking” by planning authorities. This could allow building on previously protected land if councils are able to find other undeveloped land to transfer into the green belt, the paper says.

 

Welfare reforms

Government reforms of the benefits system will put “burdensome and unrealistic demands” on small businesses and the self-employed, writes the Financial Times. The paper reports that the Chartered Institute of Taxation has said it is “deeply concerned” about some of the reporting requirements being put in place to operate the new universal credit, requiring up-to-date information on claimant’s earnings. The Federation of Small Businesses has also voiced concerns, and said that the additional responsibilities could discourage the establishment of new enterprises.

 

Heathrow expansion

The Independent reports that the prime minister is to set up an independent review of Britain’s airports, “paving the way for him” to drop his opposition to a third runway at Heathrow airport. The paper says that creating the commission of external experts takes the controversial issue out of politician’s hands and could strengthen the position of transport secretary Justine Greening, who is “fighting to keep her job” in the upcoming reshuffle.

 

Education

One in four teachers would not send their children to the school they teach in, the Daily Telegraph reports. It says a survey by ITV1’s Daybreak programme and the Times Educational Supplement found that poor buildings and inadequate facilities were among the main reasons for this, with one in five respondents saying their classrooms were unfit to teach in. Forty-five per cent also said their schools posed a health and safety hazard.

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