Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Welfare cash cards

Claudia Wood, deputy director at the think-tank Demos, debates the benefits of welfare cash cards in the Guardian. She says that currently about 25% of local authorities are using prepay cards and another 30% plan on doing so next year, mainly to distribute direct payments in social care. The cards are proving beneficial in cutting down on administration. Brent Council has estimated that it was receiving 25,000 pieces of paper a year from care users, and it now expects a 10% reduction in its personal budget costs by using prepay cards.  
The Guardian, 34

Council Tax

The London Borough of Hounslow, which is Labour controlled, has said it will cut council tax this year after exceeding savings targets. The town hall said bills will be reduced by 0.5% in 2013-14, the equivalent of £5.45 for a band D household.
Meanwhile, Hammersmith & Fulham Council has said it will cut tax by 3%.
Brent will decide soon
Evening Standard,  19

Monday, 28 January 2013

Potholes bill reaches £320m

A survey by Warranty Direct has found that potholes on Britain’s roads are costing motorists £320m a year and are responsible for up to one in five mechanical failures on the roads. The insurance firm said that too many councils had repaired potholes in recent years with “cheap and brittle materials” instead of using asphalt, this was exacerbating the problem it said. ”.

The Daily Telegraph, 6     

Pickles pledge over taxes

The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has said he will introduce new laws to stop councils from abusing the system by increasing local taxes without public backing. Mr Pickles has said that only 115 local authorities, out of 351 in England, have confirmed that they will freeze council tax in April. This compares with 99% of councils in 2011 and 85% last year.

Ministers have previously said that any local authority wishing to increase its levy by more than 2% has to hold a referendum. Mr Pickles says he believes that some councils are planning to get around this by introducing a 1.99% rise.

 The Daily Telegraph, 1

Friday, 25 January 2013

Freedom of Information changes

The Government want to make it easier for officials to refuse to answer requests from the public and the media submitted under the Freedom of Information Act.

Helen Grant, the justice minister, said the Government was looking at stopping "industrial users" of the legislation who submitted multiple applications. She disclosed that the Government was looking at cutting the amount of time which civil servants were allowed to spend on answering requests, meaning that more would be turned down.

Currently, officials can refuse to comply with a request if it breaches a cost threshold of £600 to retrieve it in central government, the cost of 24 hours' work. The threshold for councils and other public bodies is £450, or 18 hours' work.
The Daily Telegraph,  4

Cash Cow-Parking revenues

Councils in England made £411m in parking charges last year - an increase of 15% over 2011, says the Institute of Advanced Motorists. Top “earners” were Westminster (£38m), Kensington & Chelsea (£27.5m) and Camden (£25m). Biggest earners outside the capital were Brighton (£13.7m), Milton Keynes (£6.5m) and Newcastle upon Tyne (£6.2m).
Daily Star,  52

Clegg - Coalition was wrong to cut capital spending

Nick Clegg 
Mr Clegg said evidence showed more capital spending would help the economy
The deputy PM told The House magazine that ministers had reassured themselves at the time that the reduction was in line with plans drawn up by Labour.
But they now realised investment in infrastructure was crucial for economic recovery, he added.
His comments came on the eve of fresh GDP figures - which may show the UK economy is contracting once again.If the figures show the economy shrank in the final three months of 2012 they will be held to show that Britain risks suffering a "triple-dip" recession.
Labour said Mr Clegg's comments were the coalition's first admission of a "serious mistake" on the economy.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Portas review helps Harrow

The Evening Standard examines the effects Harrow Council’s implementation of key recommendations from Mary Portas’ high street review has had on the area. It says Harrow is now being held up as an example of how councils can boost growth after it slashed business vacancy rates to just 4%, a third of the national average.

Harrow Council’s Keith Ferry comments: "We decided to make economic growth a top priority. We had already put in place various policies but the Portas Review was very useful as it had a lot of ideas like having street markets and music festivals. These figures show you can make a difference”.
Evening Standard, BXC

Failing councils to be stripped of adoption powers

Councils that fail to do enough to tackle a national shortage of adoptive parents are to be stripped of responsibility for recruiting them, under plans to be announced by MPs today. The Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson, says that the task of ending the backlog in finding people willing to adopt in problem areas will be handed to private agencies and charities instead. The Times notes that research has found that 30% of people who inquire about adopting a child hear nothing for three months.
The Daily Telegraph,

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Triple-dip fears

A number of papers look at fears that the UK is at a serious risk of slipping into a triple-dip recession. Official data out this week is expected to show the economy shrank by an estimated 0.2% in the last quarter of 2012.

The Ernst & Young Item Club’s Peter Spencer says that the recent snowfall could hit sectors such as construction hard in the current quarter, thus increasing the chances of a triple-dip. He said: "Once you lose two weeks on a construction site, it is hard to get back." In the Item Club's winter forecast, out tomorrow, he comments: "The fourth quarter of 2012 is likely to have seen a significant slowdown.

Monthly output data for the early part of the quarter points to manufacturing output falling by around 1.8% and services being a little better than flat, as the Olympics boost unwound. However, in contrast to recent quarters, construction looks set to have provided a sizeable contribution after a sharp rise in output in October. This should have limited the decline in GDP in the fourth quarter to between 0.1% and 0.2%”.

The club's winter forecast expects UK GDP growth of just 0.9% this year before a slow recovery of 1.9% in 2014. Meanwhile, the Item Club has also forecast that house prices will rise 0.2% this year, before leaping 2.1% in 2014 and 5% in 2015.
The Sunday Telegraph, Business, 1     The Independent on Sunday, 86   

Childcare divide

Children in the poorest areas of the country are receiving significantly lower-quality childcare than those in wealthier places, according to a report by the Policy Exchange think tank. The report, to be published later this month, discovered that 79% of childminders and nurseries in better-off neighbourhoods were judged by Ofsted to be "good" or "outstanding", compared with 64% within the most deprived areas.
The Independent on Sunday, 18

Living wage report

A report from the Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Public Policy Research has called for the creation of "living wage" zones in which a proportion of savings that accrue to the Treasury, as a result of the living wage being paid by local public sector employers, would be fed back to those local authorities to encourage spreading the living wage into the private sector. The report suggests that under these "living wage City Deals" local authorities would get the cash on condition that they agreed to work with local businesses to increase wages to living wage levels.
The Observer,  22

Pensions overhaul

Plans for the biggest overhaul in State pensions for a generation will see a single weekly payment replace a complex mix of entitlements and benefits. The proposals, announced in a government White Paper, will boost the pensions of the self-employed and low earners. The Mail on Sunday claims that those on above-average incomes and younger workers are likely to be the biggest losers. The Sunday Times offers an extensive breakdown of the reforms and what their impact will be in real terms for their readers.
The Sunday Times,4


Worth  reminding people about Brent’s “Keep Warm and Healthy” campaign A partnership project with specialists Energy Solutions to help vulnerable residents who may be at risk during cold spells; usually because their homes are hard to heat, they cannot afford the fuel bills, or the heating system has broken down.  The project is managed by Energy Solutions who will also be able to provide a range of services to residents from energy advice, emergency heaters, blankets, etc. and hardship payments.  The project relies heavily on raising awareness among friends and neighbours, so that they too know where to refer people at risk.  They ask everyone to look out for their friends and neighbours and if they believe that anyone might need help, to ring 020 8200 4507. More on
source mapRA

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Penalty Charge Notice - Barnet Way

" We sent you a Penalty Charge Notice because our camera evidence shows your vehicle in a bus lane at a time when only buses are allowed there" unquote


Quote ..... Rules apply on bank holidays unless signs say otherwise. The rules are there to ensure that traffic flows freely and safely. Becuase many areas are busy on bank holidays, the rules apply then too. unquote.

PAID £65.

Well done Barnet

Inflation remains steady

The Office for National Statistics has said that consumer price inflation remained at 2.7% last month, rising energy bills offset a drop in fuel costs. In the shops, food bills put more upwards pressure on overall inflation, with food prices up 1.2% against November. Clothing and footwear dropped 1.5%, while air fares were also lower. The retail prices index measure crept up to 3.1% from 3%, driven by mortgage interest payments and other housing costs.