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News round-up 27/3: Boles offers cash for garden cities

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

 

Housing & planning

Planning minister Nick Boles has told councils to build garden cities in return for cash, reporting that ministers had already handed over £20m for a development near Exeter and £24.7m for one near Wokingham. The Times reports he made his comments as the government’s National Planning Policy Framework, a move which has been criticised as a “builders’ charter”.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has appealed to Daily Telegraph readers to back the government’s planning reforms, the newspaper reports, insisting fears they would “lead to a charge of concrete mixers rolling into the English countryside” were “completely unfounded”. The news comes as members of the House of Lords rejected government plans to let homeowners double the size of extensions without planning permission.

Senior officials from the government’s financial watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, have warned MPs that the chancellor’s Help to Buy scheme is more likely to drive up house prices than address the housing shortage, the Financial Times reports.

 

Social Fund

Food stamps will arrive in Britain next month when tens of thousands of vulnerable people will be issued with food vouchers en lieu of money to tide them over short-term financial crises, the Guardian reports. The paper says many of the 150 local authorities in England taking over responsibility for the Department for Work & Pensions’ social fund will issue vouchers in the form of payment cards, which will be monitored so as to prevent the holder using them for alcohol, cigarettes or gambling.

 

Council cuts

Cuts “are being imposed in a fundamentally unfair way”, writes shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn in a letter to the Guardian. “Eric Pickles, the self-proclaimed champion of localism, insists that the cuts are only ‘modest’. The country is now starting to discover exactly what modest means.”

 

Public projects

Government adviser Lord Browne has warned billions of pounds is being wasted because of “worryingly poor” management of government projects and has called for private sector expertise to be used in big road, rail and defence schemes, the Financial Times reports.

 

Lib Dem inquiry

Liberal Democrat MP and councillor Mike Hancock is to be investigated by Portsmouth City Council’s standards committee over allegations that he harassed a mentally ill constituent, the BBC reports. The Times warns the investigation could spark a by-election if he is forced to stand down as an MP.

 

South Shields

Former Labour leader hopeful David Miliband has announced he will stand down as MP of South Shields to take on a charity role in New York. The Mirror says South Tyneside MBC leader Iain Malcolm (Lab) is a possible contender for the by-election which now must be fought.

 

NHS

Failing NHS managers could be blacklisted and barred from working in the UK health care system again, reports the Daily Telegraph. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday announced a complete overhaul of the NHS in response to the findings of the Francis inquiry into poor care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

The former chief of scandal-hit Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust was allegedly gagged at taxpayers’ expense, the Daily Telegraph reports. It says ministers admitted to Parliament that a “compromise agreement” was reached with Martin Yeates, who resigned from the trust in 2009. 

 

Border Agency scrapped

The UK Border Agency is to be abolished and its operations brought under Home Office control, reports the Times. Home secretary Theresa May said the performance of the agency “wasn’t good enough”. The body, whose chief executive is former managing director of the Local Government Improvement and Development Agency Rob Whiteman, will now be split in two with one half focusing on visas and the other on dealing with illegal immigrants.

 

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Public Projects - Let the private sector do it? - like the NHS Connecting for Health which was almost entirely project managed by the private sector!!

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