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News round-up 20/3: Chancellor to demand further cuts

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



Chancellor George Osborne ordered ministers yesterday to come up with £2.5bn of extra cuts, as the UK faces stagnant growth and disintegrating debt targets, the Financial Times reports. It is understood that ministers were taken by surprise yesterday when Mr Osborne ordered them to find a further £2.5bn of savings over the next two years to fund housing and other capital projects. The extra cuts of 1% a year will apply to all areas apart from health, education and overseas aid while police, local government and defence “will be granted some leniency”, according to the paper.

Although the £2.5bn is to be redirected to housing and infrastructure, the Financial Times suggests the announcement will receive a “far from rapturous reception” outside Westminster because industry has been “repeatedly disappointed” by government initiatives.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that the chancellor will seek to try and cast himself as the champion of Britain’s hard workers. Alongside fast-tracking the tax-free allowance of £10,000, a planned rise in fuel duty, due to take place in September, may be delayed or scrapped altogether.


Welfare reform

The introduction of ‘real time information’ on salaries is to be delayed from next month to October for some firms, the Financial Times reports. The new system, part of the Universal Credit reforms, requires employers to send payroll data on a weekly basis but HM Revenue & Customs said firms employing less than 50 people can send the information monthly until October.


Social housing

G4S has admitted it is struggling to fulfil its obligation to house asylum seekers after a sub-contractor resigned in January. The Independent says some local authorities were forced last year to house hundreds of asylum seekers after the firm failed to find adequate private sector accommodation.



Education secretary Michael Gove’s proposed new national curriculum will severely damage education standards by insisting that children learn “endless lists of spellings, facts and rules”. In a letter to the Independent, 100 education academics warned that the new curriculum promotes “learning without understanding”.

The number of fines imposed on parents because their children have missed school has risen by a third in a year, the Guardian reports. It says Department for Education figures showed schools and councils handed out 41,224 £60 fines in 2011-12 compared to 32,641 the year before.



NHS boss Sir David Nicholson faced further calls to resign last night after it emerged that he misled the Commons public accounts committee on Monday over how he dealt with a whistleblower. The Daily Telegraph said Sir David claimed a July 2009 letter from Gary Walker, the former head of Lincolnshire NHS Trust, had not identified himself as a whistleblower and had not raised concerns about patient safety in the letter.

The Guardian reports that people with learning disabilities are dying on average 16 years earlier than they should because their health problems are not properly investigated and treated by the NHS, according to a confidential inquiry.


Council surveys

The Daily Mail carries a full-page feature on Birmingham city council’s decision to ask residents about their sexuality in a survey on wheelie bins. “They never ask: do you want your tax wasted on surveys?” it says, adding that “equality monitoring” costs £1bn per year. Its proposed solution is for residents to boycott council surveys altogether.



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Readers' comments (1)

  • The £2.5bn to be spent on infrastructure is a stealth deflation of the economy because capital spending lead time is lengthy after the decision. However the Coalition could be shovel ready at any time!

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