The long-promised overhaul of the housing benefit system has been shelved by the government until after the next election. Officials say that while there will be some changes over the next two years, the already much-delayed structural reform of the benefit, worth£12bn a year, will have to wait. 'I think we are now talking manifesto territory,' said one official. Instead, ministers intend to concentrate on piecemeal changes and focusing on reform of the social housing market and payments on single room rates. Ministers are restructuring rents so they more fairly reflect the size and amenity of property across social housing in the council and housing association sectors, reports the Financial Times(p2).
Merchant ships sent to dump plutonium off the Cornish coast got lost and were unsure of their location when they released their radioactive cargo, newly-released government documents show. Archives kept secret for 30 years also disclose that during one dump in 1969 a glass container containing nuclear waste cracked and the crew of a ship were exposed to potentially lethal radiation. Last night Defra said it had no plans to undertake any monitoring. A spokesman said: 'The government funds extensive environmental monitoring of the waters around the UK, and this has not detected any adverse effects which could be attributed to radioactivity from the Atlantic disposal sites,' reports The Times(p6).
IN DEPTH: DEVELOPERS AND PLANNERS RECEIVE ADVICE ON 'BUILDING IN CONTEXT'
A campaign to ban 'gormless pastiche architecture' from historically important parts of Britain's towns and cities, announced yesterday by the arts minister Baroness Blackstone, faces at least two big problems - developers who dumb down innovative design proposals and planners who do not know a carbuncle from a creative masterstroke, reports The Independent (p9). The 'Building in Context' initiative, sponsored jointly by English Heritage and the Government's Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe), is the latest attempt to make architecture a dynamic public issue. 'But will it simply add another layer to planning decisions on important projects in conservation areas?' the paper asks.
LEICESTER ARRESTS RAISE SPECTRE OF SECURITY AND RACISM FEARS
The Financial Times (p2) devotes almost a whole page to the arrests of alleged al-Queda terrorist suspects in Leicester.
-- Councillors had considered introducing measures to prevent extremist groups from using council premises for meetings, but this was dropped because of the difficulty of separating controversial groups from ones thought to pose no threat.
ROAD STUDY LISTS TOLLS AND M6 WIDENING AMONG ITS RECOMMENDATIONS
Motorway tolls and a widening of the M6 to eight lanes between Birmingham and Manchester are among recommendations revealed yesterday as part of a government study aimed at easing traffic congestion on Britain's busiest roads. The proposals, drawn up by the consultancy Arup are aimed at alleviating an expected 43 per cent increase in traffic over 30 years on a 50-mile stretch of the M6 between the West Midlands and north-west England. Arup also recommends enhanced rail and bus services, tighter management of existing roads and short stretches of crawler lanes for freight traffic, reports the Financial Times(p5).
-- The Times Educational Supplement (p12) looks at how, according to MPs' warnings this week, children's lives are being endangered by schools' failure to teach swimming adequately.
-- The government will give the go-ahead today to plans by a group of independent private schools to run a new state school, reports the Financial Times (p5).
-- Arsenal Football Club's plans to build a new stadium are set for further delays following the intervention yesterday of Stephen Byers. The transport secretary issued a 'holding order' that will give his department more time to study the proposals for the 60,000-seater project, which has been cleared by Islington LBC and the mayor of London. It includes a considerable amount of regeneration work in Islington. Mr Byers has the power to 'call in' the project for a public inquiry, reports the Financial Times(p2).
by assistant editor Neil Watson