Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
The government is to launch a ‘What Works’ network of institutions which will assess the effectiveness of government policy in areas such as local growth, early years intervention, elderly health and crime. The Independent says the institutions will be modelled on the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) which provides evidence based guidelines on all aspects of NHS healthcare.
Economy & environment
The Treasury has thwarted plans for a review of resource depletion, climate change and growth after saying any work should not take UK growth into account, the Financial Times reports. The review had been supported by the departments of business, energy and the environment as well as industry and environmentalists, according to letters uncovered by Friends of the Earth.
The Bank of England is coming under renewed pressure to restart its quantitative easing programme after new surveys showed flagging business confidence, the Guardian reports. The paper says the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee will likely vote on Thursday to inject a further £25bn of stimulus into the economy; a measure Governor Sir Mervyn King supported at the Committee’s last meeting.
Ian Cheshire, CEO of the Kingfisher Group, has called for online retailers to be taxed in order to boost ailing high streets, the Daily Express reports. Mr Cheshire says traditional retailers are being squeezed by business rates based on floor space, and has called for measures to level the playing field.
Housing associations in London are to venture into the private property market on a grand scale for the first time in an attempt to extend their social housing mission to “generation rent” – the growing number of people who can not afford to buy in the capital and are vulnerable to exploitation from unscrupulous landlord, according to the Guardian.
The 15 biggest social landlords in London are working together to build 13,000 affordable homes by 2015 – but they will also provide an additional 4,000 properties for rent at market prices and at least 1,100 homes for sale at regular London prices. They will use the profits to fund further affordable housing.
Meanwhile, the new Homes Bonus, the Government’s £3.3bn scheme to incentivise councils to build more homes, has failed, according to a former Labour Housing Minister.
The Financial Times quotes Nick Raynsford as arguing that the £1.3bn handed out so far may have gone to councils where homes would have been built anyway.
Today’s Times carries a report stating that wind farm operators are receiving as much as £10,000 a day in Government support, even as their turbines stand idle.
The paper quotes Michael Laughton, Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering at Queen Mary, University of London, as saying that the problem will only increase as more and more wind farms come into operation.
Flooding and droughts
Speaking on the Today Programme, Lord Chris Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency, said that 2012 had been an extraordinary year of weather.
Whilst it could not be conclusively proven that the extreme weather was as a result of climate change but scientists said that more erratic weather would occur as a result of climate change, he said.
Lord Smith asserted that measures needed to be adopted to ensure that farmers were able to cope with extreme weather.
Extreme weather could cause farmers significant problems, Lord Smith continued, adding more small-scale reservoirs would help farmers store water for times of drought. In addition, steps were being taken to identify the locations where dredging in rivers would be most effective, he explained.
Richard Wrinch, an arable farmer, said that a pro-active approach as required to catch water. He had had a good harvest because he crops were affected more by drought than flood.
He argued that investment was required to catch water in smaller reservoirs, which could then be shared between farms in times of drought.
Speaking on the Today Programme, Conservative MP Tim Yeo, Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, said that there had been a decade of neglect in nuclear energy policy.
Whilst he believed that nuclear energy should be part of the future energy mix, he suggested that the negotiations between EDF and the Government were at “crisis point.”
A nuclear power station had never been built in the UK based solely on private finance, he continued, adding an electricity price needed to be agreed in order to provide assurances to energy companies building new nuclear power stations.
Civil servants “neutered” the final version of the Francis report into the Stafford hospital scandal, with the effect of protecting the embattled chief executive of the NHS, a leading expert has claimed, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Professor Brian Jarman, whose work helped highlight high death rates at Stafford, said the final version of the Francis report, published last month, was “muted”. It failed to include key points - mentioned in evidence throughout the £13 million inquiry - that raised concerns over Sir David Nicholson, he said. Sir David faces a key test on Tuesday when he appears before MPs at the Health Select Committee.
The East Coast main line looks set to remain under state control after ministers instructed managers to draw up a five-year plan. The Financial Times says the move comes after the inquiry into the collapse of the West Coast bid advised competitions be paused until radical policy and personnel changes at the Department for Transport had taken place.
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