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News round-up 27/2: Pickles defends councils against cut plans

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

 

Spending review

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has joined other cabinet ministers in fighting George Osborne’s attempts for an extra £10bn in savings in 2015-16, the Times reports. It says Mr Pickles has been told he will have to find a further 7.2% saving in in 2015-16, “far more than he was expecting”.

However, it says, “sources close to Mr Pickles made clear that he was not accepting the latest reductions, arguing that council services had already been cut to the bone”.

All departments have been told they will be cut in the same proportion that they were in the first four years of this Parliament, it says, adding that the Department for Communities and Local Government was one of the worst-hit departments.

However, an article on the Conservative Home website questions the story, saying another source has said Mr Pickles does not believe councils have been “cut to the bone”. He believes there is still the potential for more savings through shared services, it says.

 

Enterprise zones

Chancellor George Osborne joined forces with the prime minister to lambast Eric Pickles for a lack of progress in the introduction of enterprise zones, reported the Guardian. At a Cabinet meeting yesterday the communities secretary “got it in the neck” over the issue, the paper said.

The Financial Times reports the 24 enterprise zones unveiled in 2011 were launched with promises 30,000 jobs by the end of the parliament but have so far produced just 1,700. Mr Pickles responded to criticism by suggesting business secretary Vince Cable should do more in what one source described as a “blame game”. Culture secretary Maria Miller was also asked to deliver superfast broadband by the end of year but said such a target was impossible.

 

Council borrowing

Moody’s rating agency has downgraded the credit ratings of some UK councils and a number of other institutions following last week’s downgrade of the UK from triple A, the Financial Times reports.

Birmingham City Council, Cornwall Council, Guildford BC and Wandsworth LBC have been downgraded from triple A to Aa1, and Lancashire CC from Aa1 to Aa2. The paper says the credit rating may have little impact because most council borrowing comes through the Public Works Loan Board but also notes that councils who have sought to borrow in the capital markets in recent years, and the LGA’s plans for an “aggregator” bond agency aimed at smaller authorities, may run into problems in future.

 

Schools

Allies of education secretary Michael Gove have devised a plan to fine primary schools up to £1,750 for every poor pupil who fails to reach expected standards, the Times reports. The plan – from academy chain chair Paul Marshall - would see the money being paid to the secondary schools that those children moved to, in order to fund extra support.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governors’ Association, said she supported the payment of school governors in failing schools. There was no contradiction between doing something voluntarily and doing something well, she said, while also supporting the payment of governors in challenging circumstances where schools were failing.

 

Public sector pensions

Plans to increase how much MPs pay towards their pension scheme have been suspended despite rises planned for nearly all public sector workers including council employees, reports the Guardian. The MPs’ expenses body Ipsa decided drop the budgeted 1.85% rise.

 

Health

Public health minister Anna Soubry has said she would like to ban smoking in cars, according to the Daily Mail. It says Ms Soubry made the comments at the LGA’s public health conference, saying it was a “child welfare issue”.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has been forced by Liberal Democrat coalition partners to rewrite controversial regulations on procurement in the NHS, the Guardian reports. Labour and at least one Liberal Democrat MP says the regulations would have forced clinical commissioning groups to consider private providers on the same basis as existing NHS providers.

Several Cabinet ministers are believed to have raised “very serious concerns” about NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson with prime minister David Cameron, the Daily Telegraph reports. The NHS Chief Executive has apologised for the Mid Staffordshire scandal but has resisted pressure from some MPs and relatives of victims to stand down.

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • So the maniac 'Brains' incarnation continues in his mission to demotivate teachers and dismantle the state school system. Schools will be fined for having recruitment difficulties and trying to teach slow learners and chronically sick children.

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