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News round up - 7 September

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

Source: Radu Razvan

Planning row

The Daily Telegraph leads on the on-going row between ministers and the environmental lobby over planning changes. The paper has clearly nailed its colours the mast, labelling the story as part of its “Hands off our land” campaign. It reports planners have been told to start approving developments on the basis of the coalition’s controversial new planning guidelines, despite ministers offering to reword the legislation before it comes into force. Official inspectors, who have the power to approve local developments, were given the fresh guidance by the Planning Inspectorate last week. It told them to start abiding by the new draft planning framework, which campaigners fear could lead to unchecked development in rural areas, because it represents the Government’s “direction of travel”.

The Guardian reports that the director general of the National Trust has begun sending the first of nearly 3.8m personal letters to its members asking them to sign a petition and protest to their MPs about the government’s proposed planning reforms. The paper says the trust, one of the world’s biggest membership organisations, rarely argues publicly with the government, but hopes to get 100,000 names on its petition in order to spark a debate in parliament on the reforms.

Meanwhile, the Times reports £ that environmental protection groups have warned ministers that a high-speed rail scheme would bring “huge and irreversible damage” to some of England’s unspoilt beauty spot. The paper quotes Steve Rodrick, chief officer of the Chilterns Conservation Board, who said the project would represent a “Berlin Wall for wildlife”.

Police commissioners

The Times reports £ that the first elections for police commissioners outside London will now take place in November next year, instead of alongside the local elections in May, after Nick Clegg struck a compromise deal with the Conservatives. According to the paper, the deputy prime minister fought a coalition battle to stop the first elections for police commissioners being held in conjunction with the local elections, with Tories claiming that he was worried that Lib Dem councillors could suffer if the focus of the campaign rested on law and order. The paper says Mr Clegg is likely to have a hard time justifying the cost of holding the election, which could reach £74 million, after he strenuously argued for the AV referendum to be held last May on cost grounds.

Double dip fears

George Osborne has insisted that the government would stick unwaveringly to its austerity plans, despite admitting that the long-term damage caused to the economy by the credit crunch was forcing him to revise down estimates for growth that were already weak, reports the Guardian.

Tory council set to fund union in train battle

The Financial Times reports £ that Tory-controlled Derby City Council is set to fund a union’s legal battle to force the government to overturn its decision to send a £1.6bn train order overseas.The council will vote next week on whether to support Unite, the union, if it presses ahead with a judicial review of the award of the contract for Thameslink trains to Siemens of Germany rather than Bombardier, which owns the last trainmaker in the UK. Bombardier, the Canada-based group, made 1,400 workers redundant after the announcement in June and is reviewing the future of its Derby plant. Philip Hickson, Conservative leader of the council, said all three parties had agreed the move. “The issues transcend party politics. I have to do what is best for the city. It could wipe out every job we have created in the last 10 years. It would also force us to depend on train imports. The jobs would never come back.”

Cameron pledges to tackle EU laws on labour

The Financial Times reports that David Cameron has pledged to claw back authority for labour laws from Brussels amid growing frustration from business and his own backbenches over damaging European directives, but admits such changes may take years to bring about. The prime minister told MPs that aspects of European employment legislation were working against Britain’s national interest and vowed to tackle these problems were there to be a new European treaty to strengthen governance of the eurozone.

Riots aftermath

The Guardian reports that the home affairs select committee has been told the riots in England will cost more than £133m in policing and compensation for businesses hit by the violence. The paper says that in London the bill for policing has reached £74m, and the cost for police forces outside the capital is set to exceed £50m. This includes a bill for Manchester of around £10m - made up of £5m in policing and potentially the same amount in payments under the 1886 Riots Damages Act to individuals whose properties are damaged by rioting. The paper says that the London the Metropolitan Police Authority had already received 100 applications for compensation under the RDA, totalling £9.3m - a figure which is likely to increase - bringing the cost of the riots to around £133m.

The Financial Times reports £ that Boris Johnson, the London mayor, has warned that rioters should not be “abandoned” in prison but educated and rehabilitated to prevent further offending, in evidence to the home affairs select committee on Tuesday. Addressing the panel of MPs - which met to examine the policing operation in the wake of the nationwide violence and looting last month - Mr Johnson backed suggestions by Ken Clarke, justice secretary, that the perpetrators of the riots were a “feral underclass” who had been repeatedly let down by a “broken” penal system.

Dale Farm

The Independent reports on Basildon Council’s statement that the travellers facing eviction from Dale Farm have asked to sell the site for £6m. Council leader Tony Ball turned down the offer, saying the price was “hugely above market value”. The council and traveller representatives have been holding secret meetings over the past six months in an attempt to avoid forced clearances.

Pensions

The Independent reports on TUC director general Brendan Barber’s criticism of the level of pensions received by top company directors. The average FTSE 100 company director holds a pension worth £3.9m, according to TUC’s Pensions Watch survey. Mr Barber said public sector workers are “rightly furious” that their pensions were deemed to be unaffordable by business leaders on multi-million pound pensions.

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