Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government
Education secretary Michael Gove has claimed teachers who support the establishment of free schools are being “subjected to personal attacks and even a death threat”, the Daily Telegraph reports.
His comments came as the Department for Education was forced to release details of all organisations applying to open free schools. Using the data the Financial Times reports that independent schools made up a third of the applicants to the government’s flagship ‘free schools’ programme while the Independent says one in four successful candidates have religious affiliations. The Independent also notes that an application from the creationist Plymouth Brethren sect was turned down.
The Daily Telegraph covers LGC’s council tax research, which shows 86 councils are planning to increase the charge, on its front page. It says separate research from the Taxpayers’ Alliance suggests 24 of those councils had also increased the number of employees who were paid more than £50,000 last year.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles has “called on councils to justify increasing tax at the same time as putting up wages”, it says, adding that Mr Pickles will today set out plans to force councils to vote on whether to award big severance packets to executives in a move to end “murky municipal pay deals”. Responding to the TPA’s research, the LGA said a 12.5% cut in management costs “is good news for council tax payers”.
The paper also reports that Sheffield City Council is spending £3,000 on speed reading courses to help councillors deal with lengthy documents.
Retailers are to ask the chancellor to freeze business rates in the Budget, the Financial Times reports. The British Retail Consortium’s submission asks the Treasury to uprate the charge using an annual average of the consumer price index instead of the current method based on the September retail price index inflation figure.
The Financial Times picks up on the economic challenge facing Britain’s national parks where 2011 census data shows a dwindling population dominated by retirees and absentee homeowners. The paper says the falling populations, and the age of those living in national parks, makes the delivery of public services challenging.
High speed rail
High speed rail will not be held up by the legal challenge which has been launched by councils and environmental groups, rail minister Simon Burns has told the Financial Times.
An avid blogger has described her “Orwellian nightmare” as she and Carmarthenshire CBC chief executive Mark James prepare to face each other in court, the Times reports. Jacqui Thompson bought a libel action against Mr James after he wrote a letter about her blogging activity, while he is suing for libel over a number of her blog posts. The authority changed its constitution in 2008 to allow the authority to indemnify officers who wanted to bring defamation claims.
Record numbers of Liberal Democrats have been drafted in to the pivotal Eastleigh by-election contest amid growing Conservative jitters that they may fail to take the seat from their coalition partners, reports the Independent.
Ministers have appointed a string of “expert advisers” from outside Whitehall in a first step to politicise the civil service, reports the Times.
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