The chancellor's pre-Budget speech yesterday (see LGCnet), threw local authorities a £406m 'lifeline' to pacify rebellious voters in middle England and avoid another round of double-digit council tax rises, reports The Guardian(p19). But Local Government Association chair, Sir Jeremy Beecham, warned that the cash might still not be enough to prevent above-inflation rises in some areas. It is thought the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, - overall in charge of local government - has clearly won the day after privately warning that more cash was needed to rescue some local authorities. But Gordon Brown warned councils that the government would cap their budgets if they deployed excessive and unreasonable increases in tax. Mr Prescott followed the threat with a challenge to councils to hold local referendums before considering big tax rises. Further comment in The Guardian(p28), states the pre-Budget report failed to address key long-term questions with a leader(p29) suggesting that the speech was predictable and something 'we have come to expect each year', despite the emphasis on child poverty and hand outs to councils. Meanwhile The Daily Telegraph (p1) describes the chancellor's cash injection as emergency action to 'curb' council tax increases as the government tries to head off a growing middle class backlash over rising taxes before the next general election. In the Financial Times(p9) local government expert, Tony Travers, said the extra cash for councils was an indication of the 'potency' of local government as an ongoing problem. Dan Corry from the think-tank, New Local Government Network, said the report puts an onus on local authorities to manage their spending but said it is unusual the money has not been ring-fenced.
Reports in The Guardian(p12) suggest that London mayor Ken Livingstone has struck a deal with, Nicky Gavron, Labour's official mayoral candidate, in which she is willing to stand down in the interest of party unity. This development emerges ahead of a meeting on Monday, when trade unions will demand that the party's national executive readmit Mr Livingstone. The party's regional board is also expected to back the call for the mayor to be readmitted at its meeting, also on Monday. The national executive meets the following day and it is at this point that Mr Livingstone could be officially reinstated, but the newspaper warns that the vote could be close with senior cabinet ministers including the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, the chancellor, Gordon Brown, and the education secretary, Charles Clarke, all opposing the mayor's readmission. Read more on this here.
NEW LAWS TO CURB JUNK E-MAILS
Legislation coming into force today aimed at curbing junk e-mails will be ineffective in the short term, the government has admitted, reports the Financial Times(p3). The new laws will mean Britain is one of the first countries to implement the European directive on electronic communications, which requires companies to gain individuals' permission to send them e-mails unless they have an existing relationship to market certain goods to them.
BINNED INFORMATION FUELS FRAUD
Research in north London has found busin esses and public sector organisations are throwing away large volumes of sensitive information on customers, helping fuel identity frauds valued at £1.34bn a year, according to a study by Camden LBC and the business information group, Experian, reports the Financial Times(p3). Click herefor the full 'Closing the lid on fraud' report.
By reporter Bansri Shah