Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
A number of media organisations report that the government will confirm today that it will implement a £75,000 cap on the cost of individuals’ liabilities to pay for social care. The BBC reports that the change would be implemented from 2017 but would exclude the cost of accommodation in residential care homes. The changes will be funded by freezing the inheritance tax threshold at £325,000 for individuals and £650,000 for couples for three years from 2015. This has led to accusations from campaigners that the government is introducing tax rises “by the back door”.
Speaking on the Today Programme, Ian Owen, chairman of Partnership Assurance, said that he welcomed the work of the Dilnot Commission and the Government’s decision to accept its proposals.He explained that the cap of £75,000 would be applied to personal social care costs but would not cover accommodation costs. It was possible that individual would have to pay another £30,000 to cover costs that were not covered by the cap, he added.
Meanwhile, Labour has warned that the average person in social care will not benefit from raising the cap on care home costs to £75,000, writes the Guardian.
Shadow Social Care Minister Liz Kendall has said most people would die before they could benefit from the new cap, as the Government pledges to end “the scandal” of people being forced to sell their homes to pay for social care, the paper reports.
Privatisation of schools
The Independent on Sunday reports that education secretary Michael Gove is considering the outright privatisation of academies and free schools by allowing them to become profit-making for the first time, and be entirely decoupled from Whitehall control. Leaked documents of the minutes of a meeting of top Department for Education officials on the future of funding the academies programme state: “it is difficult to see how we could manage expansion of the academies and free schools programme much beyond 5,000 without increasing central resource”. Another option from the memo, drafted in October, is for new and existing academies to be grouped together into chains and managed by trusts.
Meanwhile, the schools watchdog Ofsted has said some schools are failing to spend their pupil premium funding effectively, the Daily Telegraph reports. It says a report from the regulator found that while many schools used the money – worth £2.5bn a year by 2014-15 – to narrow the gap between children from rich and poor families, others spent it “indiscriminately”. A “significant minority” of schools could not show the money had been well spent, it said.
In other education news, the head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has said take-up of the Government’s £50m ‘summer schools’ programme has been patchy and the money would be more effective if it was used to shore up school budgets instead. The Times notes an Ofsted report which found that the policy, supported by Deputy Prime minister Nick Clegg, has not been successful and suggests funding should be targeted at the teaching of literacy.
The Guardian reports that ten families are planning legal action against a hospital trust in Bristol in an “echo of Mid-Staffordshire”. It says the families claim that poor nursing care harmed their children and in some cases led to their deaths. The families claim nurses on a ward at Bristol Children’s hospital were “overstretched and underskilled”. However, the chief executive of University Hospitals Bristol foundation trust told the newspaper it had some of the best results in England.
Companies that avoid paying their fair share of tax will be barred from lucrative contracts with the government under a crackdown on tax avoidance, the Sunday Times reports. Ministers and officials will be able to block multimillion-pound Whitehall contracts with firms that use elaborate schemes to avoid millions of pounds in tax. For the first time the new rules will also force bidding companies to disclose their tax compliance history, detailing any unpaid tax bills and their use of aggressive tax avoidance mechanisms. The rules are expected to be announced this week by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister responsible for government contracts, and Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury. “It’s about making sure that companies that bid for contracts are going to pay the correct amount of tax,” said a government source. “This is an important step.”
The private sector is leading the labour market recovery in some of the regions of northern England and the Midlands hardest hit by the financial crisis, according to Financial Times research.
Employment in the northeast, Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands has been growing significantly faster than the national average since last summer.
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