Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Delays to the reform of social care have been widely reported, with several newspapers saying they are not likely to begin before the 2015 general election.
The Times, the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail reported that cross-party talks on the issue had collapsed and that the government would publish a “progress report” that committed in principle to the recommendations of the Dilnot Commission but delayed a decision on funding the reforms.
The Guardian reported that David Cameron is set to announce his support for the Dilnot report’s two main recommendations: a £35,000 cap on the amount an individual would have to pay towards the cost of their care, and a rise from £23,250 to £100,000 in the savings threshold above which the state does not fund care costs.
However, the Times reported that the social care white paper, to be published this week, “will not endorse Mr Dilnot’s specific spending ceiling.” Instead, it said, “it will suggest that the costs would have to be found in the negotiations leading up to the next spending review.” This would take place in 2014, it said.
The Sunday Times wrote that the white paper “will simply suggest that the money could be raised through general taxation in the next government spending review,” adding that this has prompted critics to accuse the government of “kicking the issue into the longest of the long grass.”
The Guardian also wrote that “it is understood that the Treasury is making clear that the reforms will be unaffordable in the next spending review, which is due to take place in 2014.”
The Sunday Times claimed attempts to fund the estimated £1.7bn cost of the Dilnot proposals have failed “after the Treasury refused to contemplate options including a tax on better-off older people.” It said means-testing pensioners for the winter fuel allowance and free TV licenses were also rejected.
The Financial Times reported that the NHS is “braced to resist Treasury demands that its budget should also fund the £2.2bn annual cost of implementing a radical overhaul of social care.” It said that if the Treasury “presses for the cost of Dilnot to be found from within the health budget, the impact on the NHS…would be significant.”
According to The Times, “Nick Clegg is understood to be pushing for a firmer financial commitment than the chancellor George Osborne wants to give, arguing that any endorsement in principle will be seen as meaningless without a commitment to spend the money.” The newspaper said shadow health secretary Andy Burnham claimed the cross-party group set up to discuss reforms had not met since February.
The Observer reported that charities and health organisations “reacted with fury” to the breakdown of talks on social care reform.
Several newspapers outlined changes that would be introduced this week. The Times reported that the government “will order councils to stop tightening the rules on who they provide with social care, which has been happening increasingly in recent years.” It also said this week’s white paper would introduce a “national minimum threshold” for assessments of entitlement to free domiciliary care.
The Daily Mail said no decision had been taken on the level of the threshold, but welcomed the move, saying some elderly people “end up in hospital or residential care because councils have abandoned them.” The newspaper also reported that the white paper would say pensioners “will no longer have home care taken away when they move home to another council district while their eligibility is assessed again.”
The Times reported that the white paper will approve pilot schemes to provide free end-of-life care, allowing people to die at home rather than in hospital, but it will not introduce the scheme nationwide.
Four out of ten headteachers believe their school buildings are not “fit for purpose” as the effects of the government’s decision to scrap the £55bn Building Schools for the Future (BSF) plan take hold, the Independent reports. Refurbishment projects have fallen by almost two thirds this year, a survey revealed, with many schools forced to use outmoded temporary classrooms or place buckets under leaking roofs.
The UK should brace itself for more extreme weather, with unpredictable, heavy rain predicted to last deep into July, the Guardian says. According to the Met Office, a distortion in the jet stream has led to the UK being buffeted by a series of rain-bringing low-pressure systems that are set to continue for at least the next ten days.
Speaking on the Today Programme, Patrick Mercer MP said that the threat of a hijacked aircraft destined for the Olympic Park necessitated preventative action. Mr Mercer said that a plane would need to be taken down, preferably over sea rather than over land. The national good was greater than the inconvenience caused to the residents of this building, Mr Mercer added. Martin Howe, the lawyer representing the residents said that the MoD had entered into a lease with Waltham Forest LBC to use the roof for a missile defence system for the Olympics. However, Mr Howe stressed that this was a residential complex and it was unprecedented to have soldiers with high velocity missiles on residential premises. These measures would interfere with residents’ family lives, Mr Howe said. He argued that there should have been more consultation on this issue in order to avoid using a residential building.
Senior Liberal Democrats have warned that the Conservatives will have “failed to have kept their side of the bargain” if backbench MPs move to block proposed reforms to the upper chamber. The House of Lords Reform Bill is threatening to create the deepest rift in the coalition so far, with over 100 Tory backbenchers set to oppose the changes. According to the Guardian, the Liberal Democrats believe the Conservatives “owe” them after delivering support for unpopular changes to the NHS and welfare.