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News round-up 15/8: Whitehall spends £800m on consultants

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

Whitehall staff

The Times reports that ministers spent up to £800m “parachuting in consultants and temporary staff” last year, after giving payoffs to tens of thousands of civil servants.

 

Public health

Ministers have said wine should be watered down to tackle middle-class drinking, the Daily Telegraph. It says the government has stepped up efforts to rewrite EU rules on the minimum strength for drinks to be classed as “wines” from 8.5% alcohol by volume to 4.5%.

 

Fracking

Lancashire councils, the local enterprise partnership and Conservative and Labour MPs are in discussions to draw up a plan for extracting a better deal from fracking companies, the Financial Times reports. The firms are currently offering £100,000 of community benefit per well drilled and a proposed 1% share of revenues but MPs have said they think constituents deserve more. Ministerial sources told the newspaper the Lancashire group were “an irritation” for the government because their demands were likely to be echoed by other groups across the country.

 

Public debt

More than 100 members of the public have donated almost £3m to the Treasury in the past decade to help pay off the national debt, the Financial Times reports. The figures come as the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties handed one woman’s £500,000 donation back to the Treasury, scrapping plans to share the money between themselves.

 

Social housing

Plans to convert Admiralty Arch, the gateway to Buckingham Palace, into a luxury hotel and members club could be scuppered because Westminster City Council planning officials are concerned the scheme does not comply with the authority’s affordable housing policy, the Finanical Times reports.

 

School cost

Parents are being forced into debt because of the cost of kitting out their children in uniforms for state schools, the Independent reports.

 

Bank of England

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney faces more “dissent” from investors who doubt the Bank’s promise to hold rates low for three years, the Financial Times reports today. Despite Mr Carney’s announcement that that interest rates would be held until the unemployment rate fell to below seven per cent, investors believe rates will increase ahead of the Bank’s initial forecasts due to yesterday’s figures suggesting unemployment was falling. Senior market analyst at Saxo Capital Markets Nick Beecroft argued that Mr Carney’s “Forward Guidance” was “hardly worth the paper it’s written on”.

 

Scottish independence

Senior NATO officials have warned the Scottish Government that an independent Scotland would be barred from joining NATO if there were any disputes over the basing of nuclear weapons on the Clyde. The Guardian reports that it is understood that a small delegation of Scottish civil servants travelled to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels last month to discuss Scotland’s options for joining the alliance if the independence bid is successful.

In a blow to First Minister Alex Salmond, the Scottish delegation was told that no new member could join NATO if that state had unresolved territorial or military disputes with other countries. The paper writes that official sources in Edinburgh and London confirm that these issues were seen as coded warnings that the Scottish Government’s determination to close down the Trident nuclear submarine base at Faslane on the Clyde would be a major obstacle to Scotland’s application.

 

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