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News round-up 30/8: 'Pickles' spotted on US roadtrip

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

Summer holidays

Communities secretary Eric Pickles is on a road trip around the USA, or at least a cardboard cut out of the minister is, the Independent reports. The two British students, who are currently on the way to Las Vegas, responsible for the jape said: “He has a lot of gravitas, and he’s a funny man. What better way to spice up our road trip?”

 

 

Beds in sheds

Brixton is facing the worrying prospect of a rise in substandard ‘beds in sheds’, a Lameth LBC’s planning chief told hyper local freesheet Brixton Bugle.

David Joyce, assistant director of planning at the London authority said a changed in national planning rules would allow unscrupulous landlords to rent former office buildings out as housing with no ehceks being made on quality or affordability. “I worry we will end up with beds in sheds arrangements, substandard accommodation that is let out as bedsits,” he told the paper. “They will be expensive units but they will be of poor quality.”

 

HS2

Chancellor George Osborne is set to “lead a fightback” on the issue of HS2, with an emphasis on the issue of overcrowding on commuter services if the new rail link is not built, says this morning’s Financial Times.

Cabinet ministers are expected to “rally around” the scheme in the face of mounting scepticism, with a new strategic business case for it set to be published in mid-October. This will also, the paper notes, contain a reassessment of the economic case for HS2. Contributions from KPMG are predicted to argue that the line “will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the regions”. A Government source is quoted as saying that Mr Osborne will be making “very positive” comments about HS2 “at the first possible opportunity”.

 

Older people’s care

Windsor & Maidenhead RBC is recruiting “a small army” of vetted lodgers to move in with elderly residents and help them with household chores, the Daily Telegraph reports. It says the council hopes its policy will help elderly people to remain in their homes for as long as possible. The council predicts the scheme will save £360,000 a year by preventing people from having to turn to other care services.

 

School admissions

The Roman Catholic London Oratory school is considering legal action after it was told it could no longer prioritise pupils if their parents had given at least three years’ service to their local church community, the Independent reports. The school, favoured by both former prime minister Tony Blair and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, is grant maintained and out of local authority control but regulated by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator.

 

Pensions

New research from the TUC reported in the Financial Times today suggests that increases to the state pensions age risk exacerbating inequality. Due to uneven progress in enhancing life expectancy, the Government’s plans to raise the state pension age to 67 will present escalating differences between the pensions paid to comparable individuals in different areas of the country, as well as having an effect on gender inequalities, the figures say.

“The Government’s decision to accelerate the rise in the state pension age will mean millions of people having to work for longer in order to receive less in retirement”, the paper quotes TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady as commenting.

 

Graduate employment

“Only a tiny percentage” of the class of 2009 is unemployed, according to new figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency reported in this morning’s Guardian.

Some 87 per cent of the cohort was found to be in work at the time of the Agency’s study. According to the figures, the year’s graduates, who emerged from university at the height of the recession, are experiencing a lower unemployment rate after three and a half years than their counterparts from the class of 2007.

Median salaries for the group stand at £24,000, but this average conceals a significant gender pay gap.

 

Immigration

Conservative immigration Minister Mark Harper has defended the Government’s actions on immigration in response to Office for National Statistics data showing that net migration increased last year, confounding efforts to reduce figures.

The Guardian reports that the figures suggest that Home Secretary Theresa May’s drive to hit targets in the area are stalling, with enforced removals of illegal migrants falling by seven per cent over the period.

Mr Harper is quoted as insisting that the Government’s reforms are “building an immigration system that works in the national interest”.

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