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News round up - 6 September

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

Source: Radu Razvan

Economy

The Financial Times reports £ that the CBI has warned George Osborne to “step up a gear” and deliver a game-changing growth plan if he is to have a chance of reviving a flagging British economy in 2012. CBI director general John Cridland urged the chancellor to sanction European-style toll roads, cut national insurance contributions for employers hiring young people and scrap the 50p income tax rate immediately as part of the second leg of his Growth Review, due in November.

The paper also reports £ the British Chambers of Commerce has called on George Osborne to reverse a government tax on empty buildings as part of his autumn growth review. Property landlords have been unhappy about the tax since 2008 - just before the downturn - when the then Labour government scrapped the 50% relief on rates for owners of empty buildings.

LGC says: Ministers insist they are keen to encourage better relations between councils and business through the local government resource review and the nascent local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), so there should be a golden opportunity for the sector grabs a key role in the chancellor’s growth plans, due to be unveiled in November. However, concerns have already been raised about the incentives for councils on offer through the proposals to allow councils to retain business rates and how much teeth the LEPs will have.

Riots

The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has blamed the riots that swept across England last month on a “broken penal system” that has failed to rehabilitate a group of hardcore offenders he describes as the “criminal classes”, the Guardian reports.

Writing in the paper, Mr Clarke revealed for the first time that almost 75% of those aged over 18 charged with offences committed during the riots had prior convictions. Mr Clarke said the civil unrest had laid bare an urgent need for penal reform to stop reoffending among “a feral underclass, cut off from the mainstream in everything but its materialism”.

Dale Farm

The Travellers living at at Dale Farm in Essex have been given a fortnight to leave before Basildon council starts forcible evictions in the week beginning 19 September - when electricity supplies will also be cut, the Guardian reports.

Planning reforms

The Telegraph outlines the National Trust’s criticism of the government’s planning reforms. Director general Dame Fiona Reynolds is reported as saying the reforms were “disastrous” and needed to be completely rewritten. The Telegraph is currently running a campaign against the proposals called Hands Off Our Land.

Squatting

The Daily Mail reports that an Information Rights Tribunal has rejected arguments from Camden LBC that disclosing addresses of vacant properties following a Freedom of Information Act inquiry would compromise efforts to fight crime. The paper said Judge Fiona Henderson had ruled against the authority’s attempts to block requests for details of empty properties submitted by the Advisory Service For Squatters.

It reported that the council had argued that almost all squatting involved criminal damage, that squatters jumped housing queues, and police linked squatting with vandalism, drug abuse, and threatening behaviour. Judge Henderson said squatting was not illegal and that identifying void properties would bring them back into use more quickly than would otherwise be the case. However she conceded that the release of the list could have a negative impact on crime prevention and may be of interest to burglars.

Other news

The Telegraph reports on a case brought by a former BBC sports commentator who took Coventry City Council to court after his Mercedes car was damaged by potholes. Hamilton Bland was awarded £2,000 in compensation, leaving open the possibility that similar claims will be made against councils. The paper’s editorial commented that divers spend an estimated £500m on repairs to their vehicles from damage due to potholes.

The Telegraph also reports on the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group’s assertion that the UK will need to invest £8bn in waste and recycling plants by 2020 if the country is to avoid being fined by the EU.

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