LGiU Daily News – Tuesday, 2nd June 2015

An independently-produced news round-up for LGiU members, summarising the day’s stories as published by media sources indicated.

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Councils asked to justify ownership

Local government secretary Greg Clark has called on local authorities to justify why they own assets including farms, golf courses and restaurants, saying taxpayers have a right to know that funds are being spent in “the most effective way”. This comes following a report from the TaxPayers’ Alliance which details how local councils own 407 golf courses, 580 restaurants and cafes, 2,586 farms, 7,294 shops and 191 shopping centres. Other sites under council ownership include a cheese factory owned by Dumfries and Galloway Council, a wet fish stall owned by Thanet District Council, a model railway owned by Gravesham BC and an ironworks and piggery owned by Falkirk Council and Hillingdon BCrespectively. Bristol City Council and Harlow District Council both own nightclubs while Gateshead BC and Newcastle-under-Lyme BC each own aviaries. An LGA spokesman said: “This is yet another misleading report from the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Councils are banned from spending the money they make from selling their assets to pay for day-to-day services. Assets fund regeneration, housing and jobs for communities, improve the quality of life for residents and help keep down council tax.”

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 4    The Times, Page: 23   Independent I, Page: 21   Daily Mirror, Page: 2   The Sun, Page: 2   Yorkshire Post, Page: 2   The Scotsman, Page: 12  


Employers of carers to pay pensions

Up to 100,000 people who employ personal carers are being warned that they may now be legally liable to pay them pension contributions. From 1 June, small businesses employing up to 30 staff will gradually be obliged to offer their staff pensions, under the auto-enrolment programme. That includes people who only employ one person, such as a carer or a nanny. The Pensions Regulator, which oversees the programme, says those who do not comply could receive a fine of £400. However, it says it is working with 200 support organisations to make sure people get proper advice.

BBC News


Calls for a national crematoriums inspector

A national inspector should be created for crematoriums, an inquiry has concluded after bereaved parents failed to receive their babies’ ashes. At least 60 families are believed to have been affected by failures at Shrewsbury’s Emstrey crematorium between 1996 and 2012. The Shropshire Council-commissioned report said poor training and out-of-date equipment were mainly to blame. Parents are said to be demanding apologies over the matter.

BBC News   The Times, Page: 16   The Daily Telegraph, Page: 10   The Sun, Page: 15   Daily Mirror, Page: 14  


Call for volunteer roles

Martyn Lewis, chairman of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, has called on volunteer groups to be handed public sector contracts for essential services. Mr Lewis said: “We need to persuade local government organisations that when they award contracts they should tap into local charities that are doing good work and are very close to the ground.”

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 2


Police investigate council housing group

Fraud squad are investigating Hackney Council’s affiliated housing organisation Hackney Homes over allegations related to bribery and corruption. The council launched an investigation into the matter last year, with it claimed that employees accepted gifts from contractor Lakehouse in exchange for payment for repairs and upgrades that were never carried out.

Evening Standard, Page: 22

Right-to-buy could cost 16,000 council homes in London

Dame Tessa Jowell says the government’s right-to-buy scheme could cost inner London 16,400 council homes. Citing research from Liverpool Economics, the mayoral candidate said the sell-off of council houses could see the capital “purged of everyone but the very richest”.

Evening Standard, Page: 12

Woking Council may cut greenbelt as part of housing plan

Plans that will see 5,000 new homes built in Woking could mean that fourteen sections of the area’s greenbelt may be removed by Woking BC. Graham Cundy, in charge of planning at the council, sought to ease fears of locals who questioned the move, saying: “Woking has 63% greenbelt and after the review it will still have 61%. We’re talking about 2% being taken from greenbelt.”

BBC News


Traffic warden cameras approved

Harrogate Council has approved the purchase of 23 body cameras for traffic wardens following physical assaults and verbal abuse. The council will share the £9,100 cost withNorth Yorkshire County Council and Craven and Selby District Councils.

BBC News


Bristol mayor defends magazine expense

Mayor George Ferguson has defended a free magazine being distributed by Bristol City Council, saying it provides information on councillors, council activities and local news to those unable to access the internet. Mr Ferguson said Our City, which costs £34,000 to publish and distribute, “is a very economical, sustainable way of getting to each household.”

BBC News


Outsourcing assessed  

The Guardian’s Aditya Chakrabortty looks at the outsourcing of services at Barnet Council which has seen refuse collectors, care workers, librarians and other council staff go on strike. Mr Chakrabortty cites union data which suggests that staff numbers at the authority are set to fall to 332 from the 3,200 seen in September 2012.

The Guardian, Page: 29


Council fined over asbestos

Waltham Forest Council has been fined £66,000 for failing to control employees’ exposure to asbestos and told to pay £16,000 in costs for contravening health and safety guidelines. The charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Control of Asbestos regulations were related to asbestos in the basement of the town hall. The council said: “We fully accept that the council should have done more in the past to manage the safety of our buildings.”

BBC News


Court removes boy from smokey house

A two-year-old boy living in a house filled with cigarette smoke will be placed for adoption because of concerns about his welfare. A health visitor told a court in Hull there was so much smoke she had difficulty breathing.

BBC News   Daily Express, Page: 9  


A&E waiting-time target hit

The NHS in England has met its four-hour A&E waiting-time target for the first time since September. The 95% target had not been hit for 33 consecutive weeks, since late last September. Figures for the week ending 24 May show 95.1% of A&E patients spent four hours or less from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge. NHS England praised its front-line staff for dealing with high workload demands during a tough winter.

BBC News


Hastings Council leader vows to continue work of predecessor

Councillor Peter Chowney, the new leader of Hastings BC, has vowed to continue the work of predecessor Jeremy Birch who died suddenly in May.

BBC News