Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
The coalition’s £1bn scheme to provide free nursery education for two-year olds will be funded by raiding money currently earmarked for local authority Sure Start schemes, the Guardian reports. While Nick Clegg this week announced £100m capital funding from the Department for Education’s budget to build extra capacity, the day-to-day running costs of the nursery scheme will be met by top-slicing hundreds of millions of pounds from the early intervention grant currently used by councils to pay for Sure Start centres.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has said that a Labour government would carry out a root and branch budget review to examine how every penny of public money is spent, reports the Guardian. Commenting, Mr Balls said the public wanted to know that Labour was going to be ruthless and disciplined when it came to spending. A spending review would require the government to justify every penny was spent in the right way, he said.
Meanwhile, the Times reports that Mr Balls was forced to clarify his economic plans after Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said the party would “not be signing up” to George Osborne’s deficit reduction plans. Aides to Mr Balls said no such decision had been taken.
Interviews are being held today for posts in a new ‘special interest group’ allowing local authorities to share information about sex-grooming networks, the Times reports. The interviews are being conducted by the Independent Local Safeguarding Children’s Board chairs’ network, alongside the Department for Education. Meanwhile, Jim Taylor, the new chief executive of the Rochdale MBC, delivered scathing criticism of local agencies’ response to concerns that girls in the town were being repeatedly abused by men. He will give evidence next month to the home affairs select committee.
The government’s flagship NewBuy scheme aimed at reviving the housing market has resulted in just 250 homes being bought in its first four months, the Financial Times reports. Bank lending rates of 6% are blamed, but the Department for Communities & Local Government said the 250 homes in four months did not reflect the scheme’s real progress because the average house sale took up to six months.
Welfare to work
Today’s Independent reports that poor management of the government’s £1bn-a-year Work Programme meant that vital evidence of potential fraud was never picked up. A report by the Commons public accounts committee found that DWP ministers failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud by A4e, the paper says. However, a DWP spokesperson argued that the department had put in place “the toughest anti-fraud measures ever included in a government back to work scheme”, adding that “the examples of fraud mentioned in the report do not relate to the work programme.