DCLG does a high speed u turn

Copied from LGC on line
8 February, 2013 | By Ruth Keeling

Almost thirty rural councils which were this week awarded funding to help deliver services in their sparsely populated local areas have now been told they will receive nothing after all.

Local government minister Brandon Lewis (Con) announced £8.5m funding for 113 councils as part of the final local government settlement, but data issued on Monday was reissued on Tuesday with changed allocations for every council on the list.

Twenty nine authorities informed of the grant on Monday were told on Tuesday they would get nothing, while six new authorities have been added to the list. Of those remaining on the list, some have lost 90% of the original allocation while others have seen their grant more than quadruple.

LGC understands a number of councils have contacted the department for an explanation but have not received any information.

Graham Biggs, chief executive of Sparse, part of the Rural Services Network which campaigned for extra funding for rural councils, said DCLG had not explained why the change had taken place.

“We have been inundated with queries as to what is going on,” he said. “But we are in a position of not being able to answer them.”

One finance director from an authority which had lost out in the second list described the reissue of the allocations as “yet another example of total ineptitude in DCLG”.

A DCLG spokesman admitted its allocation list for the sparsity fund had been “temporarily incorrect”. She added: “As soon as we realised this – within 24 hours – the correct version was put on the website and councils were informed.”

In total, 58 authorities gained something or were added to the list while 68 lost funding or were removed from the list altogether.

The six authorities added to the list were Ashford BC, Boston BC, Carlisle City Council, Harrogate BC, Scarborough BC and West Berkshire Council with grants ranging from £3,600 to £24,000.

Authorities who were already on the list issued by the Department for Communities & Local Government but now have bigger grants include Eden BC which saw the biggest increase of 484%, with an allocation which has gone from £12,000 to £67,000 within a day.

Authorities who have lost their allocation completely include Oxfordshire CC which had been set to receive £465,000 to the Council of the Isles of Scilly which had been allocated £4,000 – see table below.

Of those who remain on the list, significant losers include Cambridgeshire CC whose allocation was cut by 91% from £342,000 to 32,000 and Bassetlaw BC which lost 95% from £13,000 to £649.

For full details of the new and old allocations and the difference between them see LGC’s data table.

Councils losing 100% of allocation
Original allocation £m
Oxfordshire 0.465
Durham 0.224
Cheshire East 0.205
Central Bedfordshire 0.160
North Somerset 0.144
Isle of Wight Council 0.109
Cambridgeshire Fire 0.038
Tendring 0.027
South Oxfordshire 0.019
Sevenoaks 0.019
Mid Sussex 0.018
Tonbridge and Malling 0.018
Lewes 0.017
East Hampshire 0.017
Test Valley 0.017
Dover 0.016
Durham Fire 0.016
Waverley 0.016
West Lancashire 0.014
Stroud 0.014
Lichfield 0.014
East Dorset 0.014
Tandridge 0.013
Rushcliffe 0.012
High Peak 0.011
Tewkesbury 0.011
North West Leicestershire. 0.011
South Bucks 0.010
North East Derbyshire 0.010
North Warwickshire 0.008
Isles of Scilly 0.004

Note: South Holland figures are:
New Allocation £m Previous Allocation £m Difference £m % change
0.016 0.013 0.003 25%
Makes you wonder why they bothered

READERS’ COMMENTS (1)

patrick newman | 8-Feb-2013 5:20 pm

If you think DCLG is in a poor way just wait until this unprotected department is assaulted by Osborne’s next cuts while Eric Piffle holds his coat and cheers him on.
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Sunday Telegraph – check the facts please

I was disappointed and surprised to see a half page spread, promoted by a reporter written piece on another page, in the Sunday Telegraph Business section, making an unsubstantiated claim on car parking charges and containing inaccurate information regarding business rates.

The first of the claims made by Lee Manning, a top gun in the administrator business, is that councils are killing the high street through excessive car parking charges. The article, repeated at the bottom of this page, clearly suggests otherwise.

The mis-information is even more surprising, given that this man is supposedly an expert in closing down businesses that are in financial trouble. One of the core costs to any business is the business rates. Yet Mr Manning seems to be unaware that the level of business rates is determined by central government and only collected on behalf of central government by local government. The reporter written piece, quotes Mr Manning as suggesting that councils don’t care if shops close down because, “…landlords have to pay the councils the rates for the property. This means there is little or no financial impact on authorities if retailers go bust”.

Report finds parking charges are not responsible for decline of high streets

There is no conclusive evidence that parking tariffs are influencing the decline of high streets or town centres, according to a new report.
The report, entitled ‘Re-think! Parking on the high street’, finds there is no clear relationship between parking charges and the amenities on offer in an area. However, it did conclude that further research is required to ensure parking provision is planned effectively.
Research found that in 2012, 94% of all parking acts were free. Of the remaining 6%, over 82% cost less than £3 and 50% cost less that £1.
The report has been produced by the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM), the British Parking Association (BPA), Springboard Research Ltd and Parking Data & Research International (PDRI).
BPA director of policy and public affairs, Kelvin Reynolds, said: ‘This report shows the need for parking to be managed intelligently to work as intended, sometimes requiring effective management. All of this costs money and therefore, we believe that so called ‘free parking’ is not viable.’
The report also highlighted that it is unlawful for local authorities to generate income as an objective of parking management, and any surplus made is ring-fenced by law.

Court to rule on council tax support schemes

Copied from LGC online
4 February, 2013 | By Mark Smulian

One has to ask if this ‘Knight In Shining Dog Collar’, isn’t picking a fight with the wrong level of government? Local government is being forced in to this position by central government. Based on the principle that everybody must pay something, government has placed the onerous task of deciding how to divvy up the council tax support budget, whilst cutting that budget by 10%.

This legal action is simply going to give the council involved an even larger hole in their budgets, unless they are able to claim back their costs from the other party. One has to ask if the complainants will put the same amount of effort in to helping these councils determine where to find the money required to fill the financial shortfall that loosing this case would create.

Two local authorities will be forced to defend their council tax support schemes in the High Court this week in the first of a string of legal-aid funded challenges by law firm Irwin Mitchell.

The first case against Haringey LBC is due to heard on Tuesday with a challenge to Sheffield City Council’s scheme due to begin on Friday. Irwin Mitchell say it has cases against Birmingham City Council, Hackney LBC and Rochdale MBC in the pipeline and warned it was “investigating several further councils”.

Sheffield cabinet member for finance and resources Bryan Lodge (Lab) said: “We will defend any proceedings because we simply have no choice but to make changes to our benefits system when we have had to make a cumulative savings of £180m over three years”.

A Haringey spokesperson said: “We took on board the views of residents, which is why those households that include claimants in receipt of certain benefits recognising significant disability have been shielded from the change.”

The string of legal challenges appear to have been initiated by Haringey residents who were put in contact with Irwin Mitchell lawyers by Paul Nicolson, a vicar who chairs the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust anti-poverty charity and Taxpayers Against Poverty, a campaigning organisation he founded last year.

He said: “I remember the poll tax in the 1990s and this is going to be worse. Taken with changes in unemployment benefits and housing benefit there will be a devastating affect on many people.”

Rev Nicolson said ministers had left local authorities too little time to devise acceptable support schemes, as defining financial hardship “requires detailed thought and there was just not enough time allowed for council to do this”.

Council tax support will be localised in April, when councils can set their own rules on who receives it but with a 10% cut in the overall budget.

Many claimants face being asked to pay council tax for the first time.

Local authorities can claim transitional relief if they limit increases for those who previously paid nothing to 8.5% of the tax level, but this is only available for one year.

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “The council believes that the scheme is fair and lawful and will strongly defend any legal proceedings.”

He added that Birmingham thought its schemes differed sufficiently from others that “a finding against another authority would be binding on Birmingham”.

It rejected transitional relief because it would only defer the support scheme for a year and that “may not truly promote positive work incentives or support people back into work”.

Pickles defends his tough love approach

If it wasn’t so bloody infuriating to read such utter b******ks from this blustering windbag, it would be comical. Promoting his vindictive and spiteful sound bites as ‘tough love’, hopefully will attract the ridicule it deserves from all corners of local government. Disappointingly, the editorial page of the Daily Telegraph will be falling over itself, in the next day or two, to praise this latest guff.

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
4 February, 2013 | By Ruth Keeling

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has professed his “love” for local government, praised it for doing a better job at cutting the deficit than the rest of government.

The declaration came after a tumultuous few weeks during which more than 30 Conservative council leaders wrote a joint letter of complaint to the prime minister warning of a “fractious relationship” with ministers.

Speaking at the New Local Government Network’s annual conference, Mr Pickles declared: “I love local government.

“Sometimes I do take liberties in trying to push you on…but it is on the basis of a loving relationship. I just want you to do a little bit better.

“I am there cheering you on, I want you to do better and you can do better.”

He added: “Local government has been absolutely outstanding in dealing with the deficit. If other bits of government had shown your resolve we would be in a better position.”

Mr Pickles was responding to a question from Peter John (Lab), leader of Southwark LBC, questioning the mixed messages from ministers about the role of councillors.

“Two years ago you were questioning the need for a chief executive, but then two weeks ago [former housing minister] Grant Shapps said we were the equivalent of scout leaders. Are we volunteers or proto-chief executives?”

Cllr John was referring to a BBC interview during which Mr Shapps argued that an increase in councillor allowances in recognition of their time and career sacrifice would be inappropriate as they were “volunteers”.

Mr Shapps’ comments has sparked an angry response from councillors, especially as they came shortly after local government minister Brandon Lewis had called for councillors to be barred from the Local Government Pension Scheme. Mr Lewis has also argues they were “volunteers” but not “professional, full-time politicians”.

Mr Pickles’ protestations of love for local government were dismissed by shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn whose speech to the conference came immediately after Pickles’.

“It is no good asking local government to take on this challenge [of falling funding and rising service demand] if at the same time the people expected to take on the challenge are criticised, patronised and belittled.