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News round-up 28/8: Hutton wades into benefits debate

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


Former Work and Pensions Secretary and now Labour peer Lord Hutton of Furness has criticised the benefits system as “unsustainable” and accused politicians from all parties of having “lost the plot” on the issue, reports the Daily Mail. The peer, who was commissioned by the Coalition Government in 2010 to produce a report into pensions, is quoted as saying that he could not see “what the buy-in is for someone on average wages paying into the welfare state”. Lord Hutton warned that voters would carefully scrutinise parties’ benefits policies prior to the next General Election.


Rogue hostels

Vulnerable homeless people are being placed in squalid and dangerous temporary housing as “unscrupulous” landlords seek to make a profit from the housing crisis, the Independent reports. A report from the North-east Regional Homeless Group onm the condition of hostels and B&Bs found alcoholics living in premises with licensed bars and evidence of sexual exploitation of vulnerable women. The paper said the situation was replicated nationwide, citing one London housing adviser who reported B&B owners blackmailing tenants.


First time buyers

Chancellor George Osborne’s policy of kickstarting the housing market with subsidised mortgages could inflate prices to pre-cash peaks and sideline the first-time buyers it is designed to help, reports the Guardian today.

In the latest warning about the impact of the Help to Buy programme, the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association warned that property prices could rise by 11 per cent by the end of 2016 due to artificially inflated valuations. The group went on to warn that without a housebuilding programme to address the extra demand, property prices could spiral to new highs.


Green energy

A “bitter new row” is predicted between partners in the Coalition over the issue of green energy, with senior Conservatives looking to “unpick” carbon targets in order to facilitate the construction of a new generation of gas-fired power stations, reports the Financial Times.The paper highlights the agreement made in 2011 to halve emissions, to which Chancellor George Osborne has secured a “potential opt out” if the Climate Change Committee (CCC) were to find that the UK was moving faster than the rest of the EU.

The Engineering Employers’ Federation has reportedly called on the Chancellor to nullify the targets, arguing that “the rip cord needs to be pulled” in order to prevent Britain from being “locked into tougher targets than the other members states [sic]”. For its part, the CCC has said that the failure to toughen EU-wide targets was not sufficient reason to change domestic goals. “Concerted opposition” to any change to the targets is predicted from Liberal Democrat figures including Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey.


Hospital care

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is announcing new guidelines for hospital staff to prevent kidney failure linked to dehydration, says the Daily Mail, after it was revealed that “tens of thousands” of patients were “dying needlessly” in hospitals each year from the condition. A fifth of all patients attending A&E are estimated to be suffering from the condition, the paper reports – with new figures drastically higher than previous data published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which suggested in 2009 that only 900 people a year died of dehydration in hospital.

Staff could avoid “up to 42,000 deaths a year” by ensuring patients have enough to drink and carrying out “simple tests”, the paper explains.


Zero-hours contracts

Thousands of workers are on zero-hour contracts without their knowledge, because they are not familiar with the phrase, according to a report published today, writes the Independent.

Following a challenge by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) to the official estimates of these contracts earlier this month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revised its figures up from 200,000 to 250,000. However, Work Foundation Director Ian Brinkley, whose organisation produced today’s report, said: “In spite of the ONS figure increasing to 250,000, much confusion still remains”.


Wind farms

The United Nations has ruled that the UK government acted illegally in denying the public decision making powers in the approval of wind farms. The Independent says the ruling calls into question the validity of future planning consents and is a blow to the coalition’s wind-power policy.




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