Planned reforms of the council tax system will see some people pay significantly more, a government minister has admitted.
A consultation paper on council tax reform in the province has outlined plans for a more progressive system. It proposes an increased number of tax bands and that the ratio between the level of tax for properties in the highest band to those in the lowest should be five-to-one, rather than three-to-one. It's thought that similar changes will be imposed in England following the nationwide property revaluation in 2007.
PRESCOTT PLANS TO DEMOLISH 400,000 HOMES
Plans to revitalise struggling regional economies in the north of England could see up to 400,000 homes demolished.
The demolition programme is greater that initially anticipated and will cover a ten year period, reports The Observer(Business, p1). Redevelopment will focus on areas of housing market failure, and most of the homes earmarked for destruction will be old-fashioned terraced houses that are no longer in demand.
The demolition plans will form part of John Prescott's Northern Way proposals, due to be outlined next month. New homes will be built in some areas, but parks will also be created. There are plans for fast train links and the expansion of northern universities too.
NUMBER OF ASYLUM SEEKERS ON THE DECLINE
The number of applications for asylum in the UK has fallen to 1997 levels, statistics are expected to show this week.
The first quarter of 2004 had around 2980 applications a month, excluding dependents, compared to 2590 in May 1997 when Tony Blair came to power. Numbers peaked at 8900 in 2002, but have fallen sharply since. The figures for April-June 2004 are likely to show a further drop, reports The Observer(p7).
The fall of oppressive regimes and relative calm in countries that have traditionally generated asylum seekers have attributed to the decline, says Keith Best of the Immigration Advisory Service, but the figures are set to spark a debate on whether people are simply entering the country illegally instead.
LABOUR TO BE CRITICISED OVER POSTAL VOTES
An official report into postal voting is set to be highly critical of the latest pilots.
More than 14 million people were able to submit their votes by post in June's European and local elections, but the Electoral Commission is expected to describe the pilot scheme as 'misguided', according to the Mail on Sunday (p15).
Postal voting was introduced to help boost voter turnoutbut has been dogged by vote-rigging claims and reports of late or lost ballot forms. Before the elections, the Electoral Commission had warned that pilots should be limited to two small regions.
HOME OFFICE URGED TO PROTECT TEACHERS FROM LITIGIOUS PARENTS
The education secretary and secretary of state of culture are pushing for legal reforms that will protect teachers and volunteers from being sued by parents whose children are injured on school trips.
The Tories also want changes to the law, including Crown immunity for teachers and cuts in legal aid for parents, reports the Independent on Sunday(p2). Tim Collins, the shadow education secretary, said that human rights legislation and no win, no fee compensation claims had put schools under increased pressure.
The Home Office denies that parents have become more litigious and figures suggest that the number of compensation claims is actually falling. Lawyers are also concerned that changes to the law would deny victims of negligence their rights.
POLICE STATION GIVEN TO RACE EQUALITY GROUP
A newly-refurbished police station in north Wales has been handed over to a race equality group, causing uproar amongst local residents.
The station is now home to one employee from the North Wales Race Equality Network, while the town's only police officer has been moved to an annex of the public library. Local councillor Ken Stevens said that crime has gone up as a result, reports the Mail on Sunday (p13).
CHARLES FACES OPPOSITION OVER WIND TURBINE
The Prince of Wales faces strong resistance to a charity housing project that plans to include a wind turbine on the site.
Despite the Prince's much publicised opposition to wind farms, a 49ft turbine is set to power around 1,200 environmentally-homes in Upton, near Northampton, designed by the Prince's Foundation. A planning application is expected to be approved by Northampton BC next month, reports the Sunday Telegraph (p10).
LONDON MAYOR USING CONGESTION CHARGE TO FUND BRUSSELS OFFICE
Revenue from the congestion charge is being used to help run Ken Livingstone's office in Brussels rather than improve the capital's transport.
The Mail on Sunday (p42) claims that£50,000 a year is being diverted from Transport for London to fund the European mission, along with subsidies from health authorities and the London Fire and Emergency Planning authority.
The office, called London House, provides a briefing service on European Union directives, but critics say that London's EU representation could be handled just as well from City Hall.