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News round-up 22/3: Historic public funding plunge

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

Public finances

Spending on public services will plunge to its lowest level in more than a decade by 2018 according to Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis reported in the Financial Times. The paper has also sparked an UK Statistics Authority investigation with a complaint that the Office for National Statistics’ decision to treat interest from quantitive easing as government revenue “artificially flatter” the public finances.

 

Council tax

The Daily Telegraph reports that council tax is set to rise by around £30 per year for a medium-sized family home from 2014. It says the Office for Budget Responsibility expects the average charge to rise by 0.8% this year followed by 2% each year for the following four years.

 

Budget: Housing

The Financial Times reports on a “flaw” in the chancellor’s ‘help to buy’ housing scheme which would allow existing home owners to remortgage and not buy a new property. The paper also says initially positive headlines about the Budget turned to criticism as the opposition pointed out the chancellor’s mortagage guarantee could be used by the wealthy to buy a second home.

 

Planning

The Daily Telegraph leads with the news that property developers have been “privately promised” that planning laws will be liberalised within weeks to allow a housing boom. It calls the move a “war on countryside” by planning minister Nick Boles.

 

Energy

The Times leads with a stark warning that Britain has only two days’ worth of gas left in reserve as the country braces itself for another spell of wintry weather than will force up energy bills. Stocks of gas have been drained in recent weeks as households have turned up the heating because of the cold weather, pushing demand to 20 per cent higher than normal, the paper reports.

 

‘Shares for Rights’ scheme

The chancellor is looking to sceptical Liberal Democrats to help him push through his ‘shares for workers’ rights’ plan, in the face of rebellion by senior Conservative peers in the House of Lords, writes the Financial Times. The peers described the plan as “foolish” and “stupid” as they helped to inflict an “embarrassing” defeat of 54 votes on Wednesday, but George Osborne is expected to overturn the amendment to the Growth and Infrastructure Bill when it returns to the Commons, the paper says.

 

Tax rises

Tax rises of up to £9bn could be imposed after the next general election to limit further cuts in public spending, reports the Guardian.The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that the scale of the spending cuts scheduled for 2015 in George Osborne’s Budget will be so difficult to implement that an incoming government would have little alternative but to raise taxes or borrow more, the paper says.

 

Sex education

Parents want sex education to be taught in its “moral context” with an emphasis on marriage and the importance of the legal age of consent, the Daily Telegraph says.

A report published by the Department for Education also found that many people believed “teaching about abstinence before marriage should be taught alongside contraception,” the paper reports.

 

Job centre league tables

The Guardian reports that the government has launched an inquiry after it emerged that job centres had been setting league tables for sanctioning benefit claimants. The employment minister Mark Hoban has reassured MPs that there were no league tables.

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