“Schools staff crisis looms as austerity hits teachers’ pay”

“Ministers have conceded that teachers’ pay has fallen by thousands of pounds a year since the public spending austerity drive began, amid warnings of a “looming crisis” in attracting and retaining new staff.

Classroom pay has fallen by more than £4,000 a year since 2010 in real terms, according to a government assessment. Damian Hinds, the education secretary, warned that only a 2% increase can be expected for the next academic year.

The admission comes in the Department for Education’s official submission to the School Teachers’ Review Body, which makes recommendations on pay deals. It states that pay is also lower than it was 15 years ago in real terms. “From 2002-03 to 2017-18, classroom teacher median salaries have seen a drop of 10% and overall teacher median salaries of 11% in real terms,” it says. It argues that the fall was smaller than that suffered by private sector graduates.

Unions have been calling for a 5% rise for the next academic year, arguing that low pay makes it hard to retain staff. Last year, about 60% of teachers were expected to receive below-inflation awards. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/feb/09/teacher-pay-down-real-terms-since-2003

“Almost half of England’s bus routes ‘at risk due to lack of funds’ “

“Almost half of England’s “vital” bus routes could be scrapped due to a lack of funding, according to local authorities.

Local Government Association (LGA) analysis found the free bus pass scheme was underfunded by about £652m in 2017-18.

It said councils were having to fill the gap between government funding and the cost of the scheme, with free bus passes for off-peak travel being a legal entitlement for those over 65, or those with a disability.

However, the constraints have meant local authorities have been spending less on discretionary services such as free peak travel, post-school transport and supported rural services.

Almost half of all bus routes in England receive partial or complete subsidies from local councils.

The services are at risk as councils struggle to maintain the current levels of support, the LGA warned.

It called on ministers to bring back full funding of the costs of the concessionary travel scheme.

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“An estimated funding gap of £652m a year for concessionary travel is unsustainable for councils already struggling to protect other subsidised bus travel in rural areas, or helping young people with their travel costs,” said LGA transport spokesman Martin Tett.

“Properly funding the national free bus pass scheme is essential if the government wants councils to be able to maintain our essential bus services, reduce congestion and protect vital routes.

“If this is not addressed in the spending review it could lead to older people having a free bus pass but no bus to travel on.”

Department for Transport figures showed local bus journeys in England fell by 85 million – or 1.9% – in the year ending March 2018.

The councils say more than 3,000 supported bus services since 2010-11 have been either withdrawn, reduced or altered.

“It is for councils to decide which bus operations to support in their areas, but we help to subsidise costs through around £250m worth of investment every year,” a Department for Transport spokeswoman said.

“£42m of this is devolved to local authorities and a further £1bn from government funds the free bus pass scheme, benefiting older and disabled people across the country.”

https://news.sky.com/story/almost-half-of-englands-bus-routes-at-risk-due-to-lack-of-funds-11632137

Government contract with no ships ferry company terminate

Owl says: Another astounding example of “Failing Grayling” ineptitude. After screwing up Work and Pensions and Justice he was let loose on transport. He’s obviously in line for next Brexit Minister (unless Swire gets there first).

“A controversial ferry contract awarded to a firm with no ships as part of no-deal Brexit plans has been scrapped by the Department for Transport.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s decision to award Seaborne Freight a contract worth £13.8 million had attracted widespread criticism.

The department said it had decided to terminate the contract after the company’s Irish backer, Arklow Shipping, pulled out of the deal.

A DfT spokeswoman said: “Following the decision of Seaborne Freight’s backer, Arklow Shipping, to step back from the deal, it became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the Government. We have therefore decided to terminate our agreement.

“The Government is already in advanced talks with a number of companies to secure additional freight capacity – including through the port of Ramsgate – in the event of a no-deal Brexit.” “

Labour to offer councils direct access to Westminster

“Labour has announced proposals for a new representative body for councils to give them a regular voice at Westminster and a direct say on policy.

Andrew Gwynne, the shadow communities and local government secretary, will set out the plans for a local government commission, made up of leaders from all types of local authority.

Under Labour, the representatives would meet every month with the communities secretary and other cabinet ministers and “inform decision-making”, Gwynne will say in a speech to the Local Government Association (LGA) conference in Warwick.

Labour said the current communities secretary, James Brokenshire, had met directly with just one council in April to June last year, the last three months for which records were available.

There have been significant cuts to central grants for councils since 2010, and the LGA says its members are facing a funding gap of £3.2bn in the next financial year.

In his speech, Gwynne will argue that councils are hugely neglected by the centre of government, all the more so given that a Labour calculation found that 44% of the commitments in it 2017 manifesto would have fallen directly or indirectly to local authorities in England to implement.

He will say: “For nine years, ministers have sat in meetings in Whitehall and cut funding to councils hundreds of miles away, never having to see the library that is closed, the potholes that go unfixed and the elderly people that go without care as a result.

“To fix our broken political system which has left people disconnected and disillusioned with Westminster politics, we need to put local people and communities at the heart of decision-making.”

The new commission would “ensure that councillors can influence every decision that affects local councils”, he will say. “We need their guidance, your support and your advice, in ensuring that from Whitehall to our town halls we are being as effective as possible in helping our hardworking communities. Gone will be the days when we have a secretary of state for local government that doesn’t want to know local government.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/feb/09/labour-unveils-plan-to-give-voice-to-neglected-councils