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News round-up 18/3: Crackdown on 'below-radar' pay rises

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

Budget

George Osborne will admit in Wednesday’s Budget that it will take even longer than previously forecast for public sector debt to begin to fall, the Financial Times reports.

The chancellor has also signalled a “crackdown on below-radar pay rises” with a Treasury paper inviting departments to set out plans for an end to pay progression in the next spending round, the Financial Times adds.

The  Independent reports that the Chancellor is expected to try to use this week’s Budget to win support from British pensioners. Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Osborne announced that the £72,000 cap on care costs and the single-tier pension would be brought forward to 2016.

 

Public spending

Speaking on the Today programme, Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, explained that spending increased across government from 2003 to 2010, but fell “quite rapidly,” from 2010.

If the government carried out its plans to 2017, then on average spending in areas such as defence and policing would fall by about a third. However, spending on pensions, health and schools would not be cut.

Mr Johnson told listeners that in 2010 the main political parties were clear that they wanted to protect spending in health, pensions and schools. However, they did not tell voters that would lead to a cut of a third in everything else.

 

Welfare reform

Tens of thousands more Britons will be forced to rely on emergency food hand-outs because of welfare reforms, according to the head of the Trussell Trust reported in the Independent.

 

Health

NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson will have resigned in September, according to a health analyst, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The paper cites claims from NHS Trust Federation founder member Roy Lilley that sources have indicated to him that Sir David would resign by the autumn. Sir David is due to be questioned by the Commons Public Accounts Committee later today.

 

Housing

Housing developments are springing up on greenfield land across the country as the Government’s planning reforms take effect, the Telegraph reports. However, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England, many major developments are being rubber stamped despite the concerns of affected communities and local authorities.

 

 

 

 

 

Spending review

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has joined other cabinet ministers in fighting George Osborne’s attempts for an extra £10bn in savings in 2015-16, the Times reports. It says Mr Pickles has been told he will have to find a further 7.2% saving in in 2015-16, “far more than he was expecting”.

However, it says, “sources close to Mr Pickles made clear that he was not accepting the latest reductions, arguing that council services had already been cut to the bone”.

All departments have been told they will be cut in the same proportion that they were in the first four years of this Parliament, it says, adding that the Department for Communities and Local Government was one of the worst-hit departments.

However, an article on the Conservative Home website questions the story, saying another source has said Mr Pickles does not believe councils have been “cut to the bone”. He believes there is still the potential for more savings through shared services, it says.

 

Enterprise zones

Chancellor George Osborne joined forces with the prime minister to lambast Eric Pickles for a lack of progress in the introduction of enterprise zones, reported the Guardian. At a Cabinet meeting yesterday the communities secretary “got it in the neck” over the issue, the paper said.

The Financial Times reports the 24 enterprise zones unveiled in 2011 were launched with promises 30,000 jobs by the end of the parliament but have so far produced just 1,700. Mr Pickles responded to criticism by suggesting business secretary Vince Cable should do more in what one source described as a “blame game”. Culture secretary Maria Miller was also asked to deliver superfast broadband by the end of year but said such a target was impossible.

 

Council borrowing

Moody’s rating agency has downgraded the credit ratings of some UK councils and a number of other institutions following last week’s downgrade of the UK from triple A, the Financial Times reports.

Birmingham City Council, Cornwall Council, Guildford BC and Wandsworth LBC have been downgraded from triple A to Aa1, and Lancashire CC from Aa1 to Aa2. The paper says the credit rating may have little impact because most council borrowing comes through the Public Works Loan Board but also notes that councils who have sought to borrow in the capital markets in recent years, and the LGA’s plans for an “aggregator” bond agency aimed at smaller authorities, may run into problems in future.

 

Schools

Allies of education secretary Michael Gove have devised a plan to fine primary schools up to £1,750 for every poor pupil who fails to reach expected standards, the Times reports. The plan – from academy chain chair Paul Marshall - would see the money being paid to the secondary schools that those children moved to, in order to fund extra support.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governors’ Association, said she supported the payment of school governors in failing schools. There was no contradiction between doing something voluntarily and doing something well, she said, while also supporting the payment of governors in challenging circumstances where schools were failing.

 

Public sector pensions

Plans to increase how much MPs pay towards their pension scheme have been suspended despite rises planned for nearly all public sector workers including council employees, reports the Guardian. The MPs’ expenses body Ipsa decided drop the budgeted 1.85% rise.

 

Health

Public health minister Anna Soubry has said she would like to ban smoking in cars, according to the Daily Mail. It says Ms Soubry made the comments at the LGA’s public health conference, saying it was a “child welfare issue”.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has been forced by Liberal Democrat coalition partners to rewrite controversial regulations on procurement in the NHS, the Guardian reports. Labour and at least one Liberal Democrat MP says the regulations would have forced clinical commissioning groups to consider private providers on the same basis as existing NHS providers.

Several Cabinet ministers are believed to have raised “very serious concerns” about NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson with prime minister David Cameron, the Daily Telegraph reports. The NHS Chief Executive has apologised for the Mid Staffordshire scandal but has resisted pressure from some MPs and relatives of victims to stand down.

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Gove and his goons are at it again. Fining for pupils that dont make it would hasten the closure of many village and small schools. Does this ideologue really think teachers need to be under constant threat to do their job properly!

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