Public sector workers’ children in poverty: highest rate is in South West

“Tens of thousands of children of public sector workers will be living in poverty by the end of next month, unions warned.

Parents working for the NHS, schools and councils may not be earning enough to make ends meet due to the government’s cap on public sector pay and in-work benefit cuts.

Research by the TUC found that one in seven children of public sector workers will be pushed below the poverty line by the end of March. Around 550,000 children living with a public sector worker in the family will be classed as being in poverty by the end of the current financial year, said the union organisation.

The South West has seen the biggest increase in child poverty rates among families with a public sector worker, followed by the North West and East Midlands, the study found. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘The Government’s pay restrictions and in-work benefit cuts are causing needless hardship. …”

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Carillion healthcare contracts sold to Serco at hefty discount

“Outsourcing giant Serco has secured a hefty discount on its deal to buy a raft of healthcare contracts from failed rival Carillion.

Serco said it would now pay £29.7m – down from the £47.7m price first agreed in December, before Carillion’s dramatic collapse into liquidation.

The move reflects the fact the contracts will have no working capital and will come with none of the usual warranties in place as a result of Carillion’s failure, according to Serco. …

… Serco’s deal will bolster its healthcare business, seeing it add a string of healthcare contracts spanning five acute hospital trusts and another 20 public sector organisations.

Just under 1,500 employees work on the contracts being acquired under the deal.

Serco’s existing health operations already generate revenue of over £350m, employ over 8,000 people, and provide services to institutions such as St Barts in the UK.

Serco employs more than 50,000 people across five sectors, including defence, justice and immigration, transport, health and citizen services.”

“Financial Peer Review Northamptonshire County Council”

Northamptonshire County Council is effectively bankrupt. This is a peer review report if their financial situation last year. Some worrying similarities!

Some lessons for officers and councillors.

For example:

“4.3.8 There is a lack of sufficient challenge among officers and from members. There is a considerable amount of trust in plans that are presented without evidence that those plans have been challenged. Some Portfolio holders readily accept the information they are given without systematic and robust challenge. There is a tendency for cabinet members to trust that the relevant individual portfolio holder has challenged proposals.

4.3.9 Decisions taken by the Cabinet need greater transparency. Council members and scrutiny chairs need access to more information. There was a desire expressed from some cabinet members for greater discussion and challenge across portfolios. However, where challenge has been provided, for example from the Audit Committee, that has not been welcomed.”

Northamptonshire CC – FINAL Feedback Report

“A Chief Executive to Lead the Heart of the South West LEP Towards Prosperity for All” ***

*** Prosperity for all LEP Board Members perhaps? !!!

“The Heart of the South West (HotSW) Local Enterprise Partnership is looking for a new chief executive to start in the summer following the retirement of Chris Garcia, who has led one of England’s most successful LEPs for five years.

The role demands a high calibre candidate for this increasingly pivotal role in the HotSW economy, which covers Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay.

Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, Steve Hindley CBE DL [Chairman if the Midas construction empire], said: “We’re a strong business-led partnership between the private sector, social enterprises, local authorities, universities and colleges throughout Devon and Somerset and the unitary areas of Plymouth and Torbay, making us one of the largest LEPs in the country, so we’re looking for strong leadership and talent.

“Across the HotSW area, there’s a mix of urban and rural economies, stunning natural capital, rich heritage and a tremendously exciting range of business opportunities.

“We’ve established an impressive track record with a £750m investment programme to support our mission to see better productivity and better jobs; and we’re poised to launch a new delivery plan for a step change in productivity.

“The role of LEPs is increasing as we become firmly aligned with the delivery of the government’s Industrial Strategy, our funding is secured for at least another two years, and we’ll now have regular meetings with the Prime Minister.

“I look forward to meeting some exceptional applicants for this exciting role as HotSW LEP enters the next phase in its journey towards prosperity for all.”

Applications are open until 16 February and a candidate briefing pack is available at:”

“Councils used as ‘human shields’ for cuts, says John McDonnell”

“John McDonnell has accused the government of using cash-strapped local councils as “human shields” to absorb deep spending cuts by the Treasury.

The shadow chancellor seized on reports that Surrey – where the Runneymede and Weybridge constituency of the chancellor, Philip Hammond, is located – was facing a £100m cash crisis.

Analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism identified Surrey as the council facing the largest gap between expected revenues and expenditures in the coming financial year. The average deficit at the 150 councils the bureau examined was £14.7m.

Meanwhile, a survey of senior council officials by the Local Government Information Unit thinktank found that almost 80% had no confidence in the future sustainability of council finances.

McDonnell said: “If you ever wanted to see the utter failure of this government, look no further than your local council. Many are struggling to maintain many basic services because they are being forced to pass on Tory cuts.

“There needs to be an urgent change of direction in local government funding in this country. We need to see an end to a situation whereby Tory governments are using local councils like human shields as they continue to drive ahead with their failed austerity agenda.”

McDonnell appeared at a conference in Preston alongside the shadow communities secretary, Andrew Gwynne.

Many of the councils under greatest financial pressure are in Tory-held areas, and Conservative MPs have put pressure on the government to relieve the squeeze in particular areas.

Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, announced an extra £150m this week specifically to be spent on social care in areas of greatest need, amid a growing backlash from backbenchers.

But council leaders said it would not be enough to meet rapidly increasing needs.

The LGIU’s survey of councils’ finances suggested that 94% are planning to raise council tax in the coming year to make ends meet, and 65% will be dipping into their financial reserves.

In his speech, McDonnell highlighted alternative approaches to delivering local services.

Labour believes the threat to council services, such as social care and support for children, are the latest stark illustration of the ongoing impact of austerity.

The government has promised to put social care funding on a sustainable footing; but a green paper on the issue is not due to be published until next summer.”

“Business rates hardship fund proves ‘false hope’ after more than £70m delayed”

A relief fund worth £300m set up by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, to support small firms struggling under the weight of business rates rises has proved a “false hope” after failing to pass on tens of millions of pounds 300 days after its launch.

Research by Gerald Eve, the property consultancy, has found that more than £70m of the £175m allocated to councils for the year to March 2018 has yet to be passed on to local firms.

The Federation of Small Businesses said some of its members were still waiting for the essential funding.

“Our research showed that one in five firms facing business rates hikes were planning to sell, hand-on or close their business,” said Mike Cherry, the chairman. “The Chancellor’s £300m hardship fund offered a small glimmer of hope. For many, it’s proved to be false hope.” …

London: luxury apartments failing to sell

“More than half of the 1,900 ultra-luxury apartments built in London last year failed to sell, raising fears that the capital will be left with dozens of “posh ghost towers”.

The swanky flats, complete with private gyms, swimming pools and cinema rooms, are lying empty as hundreds of thousands of would-be first-time buyers struggle to find an affordable home.

The total number of unsold luxury new-build homes, which are rarely advertised at less than £1m, has now hit a record high of 3,000 units, as the rich overseas investors they were built for turn their backs on the UK due to Brexit uncertainty and the hike in stamp duty on second homes. …”