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News round-up 22/11: Ofsted threatens to remove school powers

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

Education

Senior council officers could be “ousted or stripped of their powers” if schools in their area are failing, the Times reports. It says Ofsted will “name and shame” councils with poor school improvement records in its next annual report, due to be published next week. “Local authorities that failed an inspection could have senior officials removed or school improvement services outsourced to a not-for-profit trust or private company”, the paper reports.

LGC reported earlier this month that Department for Education officials are also considering similar new forms of intervention in councils with failing children’s services, following a highly critical Ofsted report on services at Doncaster MBC.

Mr Wilshaw’s warning comes days after Welsh ministers warned authorities in Wales they could lose responsibility for schools because of concerns over low standards.

 

Welfare reform

MPs have warned that vulnerable people may find it hard to cope with key parts of the new universal credit system, the Guardian reports. The report also concludes the localisation of council tax benefit undermines the government’s attempt to simplify the benefits system. MPs also questioned the transfer of social fund support to local authority responsibility without ringfencing and warned that information systems for transferring data from central to local government may not be ready.

Elsewhere, 13 charities have written an open letter to the prime minister, published in the Times, warning that scrapping housing benefit for the under-25s will put thousands of young people “at risk” of abuse and push them on to the streets.

Senior Conservatives and members of the Free Enterprise Group have called on ministers to be “brave enough” to tell the wealthiest pensioners they can no longer receive free benefits such as bus passes and television licences, the Telegraph reports.

 

Autumn statement

Worsening public debt figures released by the Office for National Statistics have exacerbated the difficult financial backdrop for George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, the Financial Times reports. The Office for Budget Responsibility said it was likely that receipts would fall short of its March forecast while the FT said Mr Osborne will probably miss one of his debt targets and have to extend austerity for three further years in order to bring public borrowing under control.

 

PFI

The Treasury is set to announce that it has cut the cost of private finance intitative hospitals, roads and schools after more than a year of negotiations with the private sector, the Financial Times reports.

 

Roads

The LGA has said a bad winter or further reductions in councils’ road maintenance budget will leave the country with thousands of miles of pockmarked highways, the Telegraph reports.

 

UKIP

The Financial Times says UKIP’s control of Ramsey Town Council in Cambridgeshire marks the “first fruits” of its bid to build a grassroots network, a change of tack from its previous focus on winning European Parliament seats.

 

Council tax

The Telegraph says Cornwall Council has delivered a “tax blow for second home owners” after the authority announced plans to apply a 150% council tax bill for homes left empty for more than two years.

 

Border Agency

Senior UK Border Agency officials have been accused of misleading Parliament after a report said they had wrongly claimed that they had dealt with a backlog of immigration and asylum claims. The Independent reports that UKBA chief executive Rob Wightman, formerly managing director of the LGA’s Improvement and Development Agency, is to be called by the Commons home affaird committee so MPs can “check every fact and figure he has given us”.

 

Leicestershire resignation

Leicestershire CC’s deputy leader has stood down over a five year old “mistake” involving pornography watched on a council laptop, the Leicestershire Mercury reports. The resignation of David Sprason (Con) comes after former leader David Parsons (Con) stepped down over a standards and policy inquiry into his expenses.

 

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