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News review - 3 December 2009

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LGC’s selection of this week’s must-read news items plus a comprehensive round-up of news from all local government’s service areas and disciplines.
NOTE: Click on the headlines for more on the stories.

THE WEEK’S TOP STORIES

English councils’ 4% funding rise

English councils will get a 4% funding increase for next year, local government minister Barbara Follett has confirmed. Local authorities will receive £76.3bn in 2010-11, the final year of the three-year settlement.

The 2010-11 grants include a 2.6% increase to £29bn for the total formula grant; an area-based grant of £5.1bn; and specific revenue grants of £42.2bn. Ms Follett said given the level of inflation and resources in the settlement, ministers expected the average band D council tax rise in 2010-11 to be the lowest for 16 years and that the government was prepared to take capping action on “excessive increases”. (LGCplus report)

Doubts grow over social care sums

The government has revealed the calculations behind its policy of free personal care at home for those with highest needs. However, in an impact assessment published alongside the bill, Department of Health officials state: “It is not possible to say whether the net benefits of this intervention definitely outweigh the costs. However… it seems plausible that the net benefits are substantial.”

The assessment reveals that - as LGC predicted - the free care offer will be restricted to a small proportion of service users currently defined as having “critical” needs. (LGCplus report)

Balls urges schools to cut energy costs

Children’s secretary Ed Balls has announced that ‘smart’ electricity meters will be installed at 12,000 schools in January. He also called for a series of belt-tightening measures to cut costs, calling on schools to use their existing budgets in a more effective and creative manner. (LGCplus report)

LGC says: Meters for 12,000 schools is a good start - the government must now deal with the rest and ensure the schools actually supply the data, as called for by LGC in October.

Minister calls for rethink on libraries

Culture minister Margaret Hodge this week called for a “radical rethink” about how public libraries are run and accused councils of viewing them as “a soft target for budget cuts”. Launching a consultation on the future of libraries, Ms Hodge said “nothing should be out of bounds”.

The comments came a day after a public inquiry found Wirral MBC’s now-abandoned plans to close 11 public libraries “fundamentally flawed” and in breach of its statutory duties. However, the Local Government Association said that existing legislation on public libraries was out of date and should be reformed. (LGCplus report)

 

POLITICS

Tories suggest council takeovers (LGCplus report)

Seddon joins Cameron thinktank (LGCplus report)

Councils may be forced to respond to petitions (LGCplus report)

FINANCE

  • Boris Johnson wants US-style funding for London projects (The Guardian)

LGA freezes or cuts subscriptions (LGCplus report)

MANAGEMENT

  • Council chief executives are an easy target, but great value for money (The Times)

Somerset to review controversial outsourcing (LGCplus report)

Stoke chief promises more accountability (LGCplus report)

North Yorks council to explore sharing (LGCplus report)

SOCIAL SERVICES

Scottish personal care spending soars (LGCplus report)

HOUSING

EDUCATION

Dozen new council projects added to BSF (LGCplus report)

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Merseyside backs presence at World Expo (LGCplus report)

TRANSPORT

Fresh setback for Merseyside’s tram (LGCplus report)

PLANNING

Councils ‘need more flood experts’ (LGCplus report)

ENVIRONMENT

Councils can lead green revolution (LGCplus report)

LEISURE AND CULTURE

English cities bid for football World Cup (LGCplus report)

REGENERATION

COMMUNICATIONS

BBC beefs up local reporting (LGCplus report)

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