Newswire

Westminster City Council and London Business School have announced that the school will take over the Grade II-listed building on a 35-year renewable contract. When the main building and annexe are opened for lectures in 2017, following a £60m refurbishment, LBS’s teaching facilities will increase 70 per cent. The council says the financial pressures of austerity have been instrumental in its decision to lease the building, which was designed by the British architect Edwin Cooper and opened in 1920, alongside its Regent’s Park site. Financial Times

Published: November 30, 2012

Councils will be free to spend their health budgets on cycling infrastructure and training when controversial reforms come into effect next April. With local authorities no longer able to receive road-safety grants they will instead be able to use their health budgets to promote activity such as cycling. The Times

Published: November 30, 2012

Council using lie detector tests to root out benefits cheats catches 4,000 fraudsters in just four months. The offenders were picking up council tax discounts worth £1.4million by falsely claiming they lived alone. But they were caught out by technology that analyses phone calls for signs of stress in the speaker’s voice. Daily Mail

Published: November 30, 2012

Nick Boles, the Planning Minister, was accused of behaving like an “intellectual gadfly” after he angered rural campaigners by calling for a massive increase in building in the countryside. Boles suggested that an area twice the size of Greater London should be built on to meet demand for new housing. However, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the National Trust warned that his proposal was unrealistic and would threaten the quality of life for millions. Campaigners were particularly alarmed by the minister’s claim that more countryside must be built on. The Daily Telegraph Daily Mail

Published: November 29, 2012

A radical shift in investment and powers away from London and the south east towards the north of England is needed to tackle the north-south divide and unlock the north’s huge economic potential, says a report launched on Thursday by ippr north, the think tank. The north of England holds the key to a more resilient UK economy, says the study, but only if investment in transport infrastructure, innovation and other key drivers of economic growth is rebalanced in its favour. Financial Times

Published: November 29, 2012

Economists are to build a model that allows the nation’s countryside to be priced and a value given to Britain’s ‘natural capital’. The project will be the biggest change to national accounting in 70 years and it is hoped will be a step forward in preserving Britain’s countryside for future generations. The Times

Published: November 29, 2012

More than 1,500 square miles of open countryside — an area twice the size of Greater London — needs to be built on to meet housing demand, the Government’s planning minister will warn today. Nick Boles, a Conservative minister appointed in the September reshuffle, wants to increase the amount of land built on in England by a third. But his comments come as much of England and Wales has been hit by flooding, which in some parts has been made worse by planners allowing development on natural flood plains which are meant to fill with water. The Daily Telegraph The Times Daily Mail

Published: November 28, 2012

Capita is set to profit from the Government’s reforms on education. The company will buy a majority stake in Staffordshire County Council’s education services division for £32 million. The move is anticipated to generate income of around £2 billion over ten years, with the council receiving significant dividends from the agreement. The Times

Published: November 28, 2012

Councils are under pressure to meet carbon reduction targets but it’s costing them more than they expected, writes David Rees. With the results from the government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme submissions expected imminently, eyes are likely to focus on the performance league table and how authorities compare, both with each other and with the private sector. The Guardian

Published: November 28, 2012

The London property market is hoping for an inflow of new investment following the decision from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission to allow the country’s insurance companies to invest directly in overseas assets, including property. The Times

Published: November 27, 2012

Seven out of 10 unemployed people have failed to find jobs despite being on the government’s flagship back-to-work scheme for more than a year, according to figures released today. Ministers are expected to confirm that they have missed a key target for tackling long-term unemployment through paying private firms and voluntary groups to secure work for jobseekers. The Daily Telegraph

Published: November 27, 2012

Motorists face road tolling by the end of the decade to pay for Britain’s creaking road network, local government leaders have warned. With existing pothole-riddled roads crumbling and traffic predicted to nearly double over the next 25 years, the Local Government Association believes the Government will have to consider tolls or even pay as you drive road pricing to raise the money it needs. The Government is due to publish the results of a joint Treasury- Department for Transport review into the major road network within weeks. The Daily Telegraph

Published: November 27, 2012

The Treasury is poised to seize control of the sale of public land owned by Whitehall departments after losing patience with the slow pace of the government’s land disposal programme. George Osborne is set to announce in next month’s Autumn Statement that all departments will be forced to cede control of their properties and land to a central body, the Homes and Communities Agency. He hopes this will speed the sale of Whitehall real estate, a main part of the government’s housebuilding strategy that has so far amounted only to a half-hearted drip-feed. Financial Times

Published: November 26, 2012

Council leaders have accused the government of imposing some £1bn of cuts by stealth, leaving town halls dealing with an even bigger reduction in income than they had been braced for. The spending settlement of 2010, which covers most of this parliament, saw local government take a steep cut of 28 per cent to their main grant over a four-year period. The latest phase of these reductions will be announced in mid-December by the Treasury, just days after George Osborne’s Autumn Statement. Financial Times

Published: November 26, 2012

Five thousand empty homes could be brought back into use with help from government funds to tackle the national housing shortage, the communities minister, Don Foster, announces today. The Guardian

Published: November 26, 2012

Ministers are attempting to boost private investment in risky and expensive public sector projects with a £20m fund for cash-strapped departments and local authorities that need help solving entrenched social problems. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, hopes Friday’s launch of a “Social Outcomes Fund” will spur the growth of social impact bonds – investments that aim to bring private financing to difficult public projects at no initial cost to the taxpayer. The bonds have an obvious appeal in the current climate of public sector austerity – investors take the risk and are only rewarded with a government-funded dividend if the project is successful. Financial Times

Published: November 23, 2012

A local authority dubbed “EasyCouncil” for its radical cost-cutting plans has named Capita as preferred bidder in a £320m deal under which hundreds of its staff will be transferred to the private sector and a swath of council functions outsourced. The London borough of Barnet is seen as a pioneer of Conservative thinking in pursuing far-reaching reforms to address deep cuts in public spending. However, its policies have sparked public criticism and prompted charges from Labour that the scale of privatisation is unnecessary and risky. Financial Times

Published: November 23, 2012