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News round-up 5/4: Resources diverted from care home monitoring

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

Health

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) was forced to divert resources away from monitoring patient care in the NHS after health secretary Andrew Lansley ordered unannounced inspections of more than 300 abortion clinics in England. Today’s Guardian highlights a letter from chair of the CQC Dame Jo Williams to the Department of Health which states that fulfilling the request “has clearly impacted on the planned regulatory activity by the CQC”.

Also featuring the story, the Daily Telegraph writes that Mr Lansley is said to be “shocked” by the letter.

 

Education and class

Teachers’ warnings that schools are becoming increasingly segregated along class lines feature on the front page of today’s Independent. Leader of the Associations of Teachers and Lecturers Dr Mary Bousted states “we have schools for the elite, schools for the middle class and schools for the working class”. The paper includes claims from Dr Bousted that the coalition is attacking poor children and highlights the 22% cuts in Sure Start centres, withdrawal of Educational Maintenance Allowance, removal of the ring fence on funding for schools meals, cuts to local authority funding, and a real-terms cut of 13% in education spending by 2014-15.

 

Tax and benefit changes

Families with children will lose an average of £511 a year under tax and benefit changes which will come into effect tomorrow as the new financial year begins, according to the Times. The paper writes that analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) of austerity measures announced by chancellor George Osborne in the Budget last month underlines pressure faced by middle-income families. Despite the row over the so-called “granny tax”, the analysis shows that pensioners will suffer the least as a result of the Coalition’s policies.

 

Fuel poverty

Today’s Independent reports of fresh fears that millions are heading into fuel poverty as figures show that consumers now owe £478m to energy suppliers. Nearly four million households are in debt to their energy suppliers, owing an average of £131. Data from uSwitch shows that the figure has climbed by 4% in the past twelve months, and is 15% higher than in 2008. The news comes after yesterday’s announcement by Ofgem that it has launched a new investigation into mis-selling on the doorstep or the phone against E.on. Ofgem is already investigating the sales tactics of Scottish Power, SSE and npower, the paper adds.

 

Lords reform

A joint select committee has agreed to recommend that an elected second chamber should only be introduced after the constitutional change is endorsed in a national referendum. The Guardian writes that the committee will publish its findings at the end of the month and is recommending a 450-strong upper house in which 80% are elected and 20% are appointed. They would be elected on non-renewable 15-year terms to make them independent of party whips. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has promised to take into account the joint committee’s recommendations before publishing the coalition’s final bill around the time of the Queen’s speech.

 

Planning

A major windfarm on Shetland has been approved by ministers despite a bitterly fought campaign against the scheme by local residents, the Guardian reports. More than a tenth of Shetland’s population opposed the scheme, twice as many as those supporting it.

 

Transport

The first trip for Blackpool’s £100m upgraded tram system was derailed by sand on the tracks yesterday, the Guardian reports. A spokesman for Blackpool BC said the windy weather was “exceptional”. He added: “For this to happen on the first day on the first journey is unfortunate to say the least.”

 

London funding

Conservative mayoral candidate Boris Johnson has called for a review of how London is funded arguing that London is subsidising the rest of the country with £1 in every £5 earned in the capital spent elsewhere. The Financial Times points out that London receives more public spending per capita than anywhere else, £10,256 per head in 2010/11 compared to an average in England of £8,588 per head.

 

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