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News round-up 6/9: Planning shake-up announced

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

Planning laws

Prime minister David Cameron will today announce an emergency year-long free-for-all on house extensions, allowing homeowners to build up to eight metres into their gardens without council planning permission, writes the Guardian in its lead article. Facing the possibility of minimal economic growth, the coalition will present new proposals, including relaxing planning laws and plans to reduce the burden on house builders.

The Financial Times describes today’s announcement as “an effort to boost the construction industry and lift the economy”.

Elsewhere, the Times criticises the proposals in its lead article, claiming coalition ministers were split over the suggestion to free homebuilders from their legal obligation to build affordable homes.

Speaking to the BBC, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said that insufficient affordable homes were being built. He added that initiatives announced by the government would result in more, not less, affordable housing. Mr Clegg said that the planning rules would be changed for developers who could show they were sitting on commercially unviable sites in order to help to negotiate with planning inspectors to build houses. Some of these sites may not include affordable homes, he said, but added that the government would set aside £300m to build more social housing. In addition, he added that £10bn would be provided to underwrite loans for private house building. Mr Clegg maintained that today’s announcements were “a really ambitious shot in the arm for the construction sector and for house-building.

 

Wealth tax

A future Labour government would bring in a wealth tax on high-value properties to safeguard the NHS, shadow chancellor Ed Balls reveals today in an exclusive interview with the Independent. Mr Balls has offered to hold talks with Liberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable to establish a “new Lib-Lab consensus” on a wide-range of issues, including the idea of a permanent mansion tax on homes worth more than £2m.

Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that Labour leader Ed Miliband will herald a shift in his party’s approach to poverty today, putting the emphasis on employers rather than the state to raise living standards. Mr Miliband will say that Labour’s old preference for helping the poor using the results of economic boom times - through ways such as with tax credits - is no longer an option given the state of the public finances.

 

Reshuffle

The Times reports that education secretary Michael Gove was “deeply irritated” over the decision to move senior Liberal Democrat MP David Laws into his department, fearing it could threaten his ambitious education reforms. Mr Laws has a joint ministerial brief between the Department for Education and the Cabinet Office, where he will assist deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

 

Benefits

The Daily Telegraph reports that Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has said the universal benefit changes face “lots of challenges” and are proving “difficult” to implement, the Daily Telegraph reports. The newspaper says there are “tensions” between Chancellor George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith over the implementation of the scheme.

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