Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
The Times reports that hundreds of confidential police reports and intelligence files have revealed that organised groups of men have groomed, pimped and trafficked girls across the country for more than a decade with the knowledge of police and child protection agencies. Quoting an anonymous child welfare expert who describes the agencies’ reluctance to tackle such street grooming networks as “the biggest child protection scandal of our time”, the paper claims that police and social services in South Yorkshire have held extensive knowledge of this crime model – based on the town of Rotherham – for ten years but have never publicly acknowledged its existence.
The Sunday Times reports that Labour MP and prominent advocate of welfare reform Frank Field has attacked the government’s decision to keep council tax benefit separate from the Universal Credit. Mr Field says research put together by the House of Commons Library shows that benefit claimants could lose 90p for every extra £1 that they earn. Mr Field said: “Eric Pickles’ victory of keeping council tax benefit separate from the universal credit will be their undoing. The disincentive to work … could be much worse than before if council tax benefit is withdrawn in parallel with the universal credit.”
Mr Field also plans to test an anti-deprivation pilot devised by himself in his own constituency, after the government ignored the report they commissioned him to make, the Guardian reports. The Labour MP delivered his ‘Review on Poverty and Life Chances’ in November 2010, and said he did not believe prime minister David Cameron had even read the paper. The key recommendation from Mr Field was for new ways of measuring deprivation to be introduced alongside the poverty measure set out in the Child Poverty Act, which defines a family as being in poverty if its income is less than 60% of the median household income for that year.
Meanwhile, living standards for low- and middle-income households will fall until 2020, even if the country enters a golden period of steady economic growth, according to an analysis of deepening income inequality in Britain. The Observer reports that an independent study, carried out for the Resolution Foundation by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Institute for Employment Research, paints a stark picture of a nation increasingly polarised between a poorer half whose incomes are set to fall and a top half whose living standards will continue to rise – even as chancellor George Osborne looks to take a further £10bn out of the welfare budget. The study makes clear that future prosperity for the bottom half of earners depends on a policy revolution on several fronts: increasing the number of women in work, boosting training and skills, and raising wages for the lowest paid. Without this, the report finds, a typical low-income family will see its net income fall in real terms by 15% by 2020 – down from £10,600 (at 2009 prices) to just £9,000 at the end of the decade (again at 2009 prices).
Elsewhere, the Independent reports that individuals engaged with mental health projects are being excluded from social housing being built as part of a large inner city regeneration effort in London. An investigation by the paper and Corporate Watch claims that the developers behind the central London development and Camden LBC have also set quotas for the number of homeless and unemployed people who can live there.
Liberal Democrat Conference
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has vowed to oppose further spending cuts, saying there should be no further reductions to areas like welfare, without a new wealth tax, the Guardian reports. In what the paper described as a “fresh battle” with chancellor George Osborne over budget cuts, Mr Clegg said it would “wholly unrealistic” for the coalition government to reduce spending on welfare, without increasing taxes on the top 10% of British earners.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Mr Clegg’s focus on the top 10% means he has singled out those earning more than £50,000 as possible targets for increased taxation.
The Financial Times also reported that Mr Clegg’s vow to oppose further spending cuts in this Parliament was “the clearest indication yet that the coalition is prepared to miss its borrowing targets rather than inflict more fiscal pain on the country.” Mr Clegg made the remarks during a question and answer session with party members at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton yesterday.
The CBI has urged ministers to increase the speed of opening public services to competition, claiming that the move could save the tax payer £23bn per year, the Financial Times reports. CBI director-general John Cridland said public services faced severe cuts from efficiency savings as a public spending review approached next autumn. However, Unison, the largest public sector union, said the CBI’s claim that billions could be saved by privatising services was “fundamentally flawed”.
Free school meals
The Observer reports that more than a quarter of children entitled to free school meals take a packed lunch instead because they fear being stigmatised, according to a study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research.