Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
The government is set to legislate next year to outlaw council-run newspapers, the Times reports. Legislation “to protect local commercial newspapers from unfair competition from municipal publications” will be introduced in May next year and become law by April 2014. The Newspaper Society estimates that at least 45 councils were publishing newspapers in defiance of the code, of which 21 were Labour-controlled, 15 Conservative-controlled and three Liberal Democrat.
Ministers have been accused of suppressing a glowing report about Labour’s Building Schools for the Future, the Guardian reports. The Partnerships for Schools report, released under Freedom of Information legislation, states BSF schools showed “significant” improvements in exam results and declining truancy. The Guardian says education secretary Michael Gove controversially scrapped the programme claiming there was “no firm evidence” of improved results as a result of school renovation.
Mr Gove has branded school governors “local worthies” seeking a badge of status and the chance to waffle about faddy issues, according to the Times. While 300,000 governors work as volunteers in primary and secondary schools, Mr Gove claimed too many say on “sprawling committees with proliferating sub-committees” which failed to keep poor head teachers in check. He also said members of the National Union of Teachers “embraced Trotskyism”.
Meanwhile, all 11 year-olds will be tested on the proper use of apostrophes and the difference between nouns, verbs and adjectives under government plans to raise literacy levels in primary schools. The Daily Telegraph writes that up to 60,000 pupils a year will sit a rigorous new writing exam as part of a coalition drive to ensure children master the basics before starting secondary education.
A survey of care providers has found that elderly people are being put in danger after councils ordered care agencies to complete home visits in 15-minute time slots, the Daily Telegraph reports. Three quarters of all trips now have to be completed in less than half an hour, the survey found.
The case for the controversial £32bn high-speed rail link between London, Birmingham and the north needs reassessing, according to the Financial Times. A public accounts select committee report said the government “does not have sufficient understanding of the economic impact and regeneration benefits of transport infrastructure”, highlighted “unrealistic” assumptions on ticket prices and warned the public sector could end up bailing out the scheme.
Meanwhile, the Department for Transport has given Leeds the go-ahead for a £267m trolleybus scheme two years after refusing to back the scheme on cost grounds, the Financial Times reports.
Private Finance Initiative
The cost of Britain’s private finance initiative will continue to soar and end up costing taxpayers more than £300bn, according to analysis by the Guardian of contracts sanctioned by the Treasury. Despite recent coalition criticism suggesting that the government was going cold on the scheme, the paper writes that recently published figures indicate that repayments will continue ballooning until they peak at £10.1bn a year by 2017-18.
House of Lords reform
Liberal Democrats will block boundary changes that would help the Conservatives’ election prospects if deputy prime minister Nick Clegg’s plan for an elected House of Lords is killed off. Today’s Independent features an interview with a senior aide to Mr Clegg, who warns that there would be “consequences” if 100 rebel Conservative MPs defeat a motion to cut short debate on the House of Lords Reform Bill so it cannot make progress through Parliament. The paper writes that a “knife-edge” vote is expected next Tuesday.
Charities have warned the number of children living in troubled families in Britain will rise by 54,000 in the next four years as a result of government spending cuts, the Guardian reports.