The government won valuable support yesterday in its attempts to contain the crisis over depleted school budgets after the general secretary of the teaching union NASUWT said schools were holding an estimated £1.14bn, which ministers could order town halls to redistribute to stave off threatened teacher redundancies. Eamonn O'Kane questioned the reported scale of this year's crisis and suggested many of the problems stemmed from falling pupil rolls, especially in primary schools, and school reorganisation in some areas, reports the Financial Times(p4). Meanwhile, The Independent newspaper (education supplement, p3) has called for the government to solve the school's cash crisis by distributing more money from the centre to solve the funding shortage. It also stresses that whether the money distributed was new money or money from the Department for Education and Skills was immaterial, it simply needed to be 'forthcoming'.
Trials to test national road pricing technology are being planned for London following the successful introduction of the congestion charge, the mayor's transport department announced yesterday. Satellite and chip-based 'tag and beacon' will be explored by Transport for London over the next 12 months, reports the Financial Times(p6).
TAX CREDITS CAUSE TOWN HALL CHAOS, SAY TORIES
The chancellor's new system of tax credits came under further criticism yesterday when the Conservatives accused him of causing chaos in local authority benefit departments, reports The Times(p14). The Tories estimated that almost half a million claimants may need to have their benefit claims reassessed because they have been overpaid housing or council tax benefit and their tax credits will be backdated once they are processed. Local authorities should be able to claim back some overpayments from the Department for Work and Pensions. The Tories said, however, that there was no provision for reclaiming overpayments of rent rebate for council tenants, which they said would cost councils in London £8m a month.
SCIENTISTS DISMISS CLAIMS CHLORINE IN POOL LINKED TO CHILDHOOD ASTHMA
Scientists have dismissed new research which claims that chlorine used to clean indoor swimming pools is linked to the dramatic growth in childhood asthma. The report, published today, found that young children who swim several times a week in highly chlorinated pools could suffer similar lung damage to regular smokers. Professor Martyn Partridge, an asthma specialist at the Imperial College, London, said however that it was 'very unlikely' that swimming by itself could be the cause for the increase in asthma, reports The Times(p4).
HIGH COURT JUDGE REPORTS COUNCIL TO SSI
An unnamed metropolitan borough council has been reported to the Social Services Inspectorate after social workers for the council allegedly lied to a magistrates court and to the mother of a one year old boy. A high court judge censured the council over the 'extremely worrying sequence of events', in which social workers also denied the boy's independent guardian access to documents about his case and tried to invoke public interest immunity to keep them secret, reports The Guardian(p9).
BEAT THE TOWN HALL CLOCK
Councils are being swamped by e-initiatives dished out by Whitehall as the 2005 target date for the introduction of e-government services is fast approaching. The Guardian(G2, p16) asks how they will cope.
A DIVERSE APPROACH TO FAIRNESS
Equality at work for ethnic minority staff is the key to better provision, according to an article in The Independent (social work - a special supplement produced in association with Unison, p2). It found that while there are many ethnic minority staff in social care, problems remain. Roy Taylor, director of community services at Kingston-upon-Thames, said there was still a shortage, particularly in the higher levels of management.
BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL FIRST IN SOCIAL CARE REMEDIES
Birmingham City Council, a pioneer of modern local government and state education, has been praised for its hard work in trying to improve social care performance, according to an article in The Independent (social work - a special supplement produced in association with Unison, p4). The council has struggled in recent years against limited resources, but despite this it is now two years into its 'fighback' as it works to improve provision.