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News round-up 23/8: Pickles dismisses tourism tax plan

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

 

Tourism tax

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has dismissed calls for councils to be allowed to apply a levy on hotel stays, the Daily Telegraph reports. “This will push up the cost of living and destroy jobs in coastal towns and popular tourist destinations,” he said. A ‘tourism tax’ has been suggested by Graham Allen (Lab), chairman of the political and constitutional affairs committee, and also by the London Finance Commission.

 

Child exploitation

The Times uses its front page to return to the problem of older men grooming underage girls, including those in the care of social service. Detailing the case of one underage girl who was in the care of Rotherham MBC, the paper accuses the council of not investigating its own failings. The paper also says the local police force has had “more than a dozen years” to investigate the crimes against the girl.

In its response the council said safeguarding of young people “were simply not good enough” but children were “supported far better today”. It added: “There are a number of investigations where evidence is being examined”.

 

Wind farms

An official report detailing the impact of renewable technologies, including wind farms, on house prices, is developing into an argument “at the centre of” the coalition, reports the Daily Telegraph. The paper claims that a consultancy commissioned to investigate the matter by environment secretary Owen Paterson has been blocked by the Department of Energy and Climate Change over fears that it would reveal that turbines impact house prices. However, Mr Paterson has pledged to make the document public as soon as it is completed.

 

HS2

Former chancellor Alistair Darling has dealt “a shattering blow to the political consensus behind” to the proposed High Speed 2 railway line by coming out against it, declares the Times. In an article for the paper, the Labour MP stated that the project would drain investment away from other railway lines over the next 30 years, warning that the official cost of £42.6bn could “easily run out of control”.

 

Planning

A millionaire hedge fund manager worth £55m is to be charged £800,000 by Kensington & Chelsea RBC’s planning department for a basement extension to his home. The Daily Telegraph says the council is using section 106 powers usually used on commercial developments because the extension is over 800sq m and will spend the money on affordable housing. One property expert described the fee as “a new tax on the super-wealthy”.

Meanwhile the Independent reports on a row over new housing in Stratford-on-Avon DC where locals have accused Conservative councillors of “cronyism” because one of  the investors is chairman of a local Conservative club. The council denied the connection had influenced its decision.

 

GCSE results

The increase in pupils taking GCSEs too early could be to blame for the fall in GCSE pass rates for the second year running, according to the Independent. 806,000 15 year olds took the exams this year, which was believed to be a ploy by head teachers to boost their league-table ratings. The paper notes that on average 15 year olds score 10% less than 16 year olds and as a result the government stated yesterday that this practice “should not happen”.

 

Flags

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has called on communities to create and fly their own flags in order to help maintain civic pride, the Daily Telegraph reports. Mr Pickles, who issues regular updates about which county’s flag is flying above his department’s offices, is set to relax planning rules so that villages and local clubs can fly flags without express permission.

 

 

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