England & Wales

All things England: levelling up, settling up and parking up

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Finance and the economy

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported that there was a 0.1% growth in the UK economy in November, which was a surprise, given that the prediction was for a 0.2% decline. Apparently, this was largely due to the World Cup and the resulting boost in profits for the leisure industry, as we all poured into the pubs to watch England and Wales go out of the competition in the quarter finals and the group games, respectively. Clearly then, this is not likely to be sustainable growth but it will mean we are not, technically, in a recession unless there was a decline of 0.5% in December.

The ONS also reported this week that the private sector saw wages rise by 7.2% from September to November, way less than inflation but substantially more than the 3.3% rise seen in the public sector. More public sector strikes have been announced for February across the NHS, the rail network, education and the civil service.

Local finance, transport and parking

Reports last week, in numerous papers, highlighted the increase in parking fines that are generating revenue for cash-strapped councils. A certain motor insurance company (with a nodding British bulldog in its advertising) obtained figures from local authorities that revealed that parking fines increased by 12% last year. I’m sure that most of us would agree that enforcement of laws that relate to parking in our congested city centres is a duty on local authorities that should be delivered, so well done to Islington, Birmingham and Southampton who came top in the figures released to the press by Churchill insurance.

The LGIU is about to start a new research project on parking. Look out for survey in the next two weeks and get in touch if you’ve been developing innovative approaches to parking.

BBC News has reported a clash in London on the delivery by the Greater London Authority (GLA) of its Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) policy. In advance of Transport for London (TfL)’s plans to extend the ULEZ to the whole of the capital, from August this year, Sutton council has threatened to block the installation of ULEZ cameras in the borough unless TfL comes up with plans to deliver a scrapage scheme and more public transport options for those on lower incomes who are most likely to suffer the consequences of ULEZ enforcement.

Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants

The government has announced plans to move 6000 cross-channel migrants out of hotels and into other accommodation, including a disused military site, holiday parks and former student accommodation. The Times has reported that this will involve a £400m investment, over two years, and will be focussed on five sites in Camber Sands, Southport, Hull and Coventry.

At the same time, Torridge District Council, in Devon, has announced that it is looking at the possible use of cruise ships to house asylum seekers and migrants.

This week the LGIU published a new detailed briefing on the current situation regarding refugees and asylum seekers and it can be read here:

Refugees and asylum seekers: the challenges and opportunities for local authorities

Levelling up

Are we still calling it levelling up? The Prime Minister’s office has this week refuted reports that the term has been ditched but many MPs in the ruling party, particularly those in the ‘red wall’ seats, have publicly expressed concerns at the choice of projects that have benefitted from the £2.1bn funding that was announced this week as the second tranche of levelling up funding. More monies are going to southern regions than northern and midlands authority areas. See the LGIU response to the announcement, in which our Chief Executive Jonathan Carr-West said:

People will debate whether these allocations are right or fair but the real problem here is that this is a crazy way to fund local government.

However, Michael Gove has announced funding for more than 100 projects that include £50m for the Eden Project North in Morecambe, Lancashire, £50m for the Cardiff Crossrail transport plan, £40m for a new education campus in Blackpool town centre and £20m for the regeneration of Gateshead Quays.

Housing

Have housebuilding plans been scaled back since the government’s announcement last month that it will not pursue its previous target of 300,000 new homes a year? The Guardian reported, this week, that nine authorities have joined the 30 authorities that have subsequently scaled back their housebuilding plans, following Michael Gove’s ditching of the mandatory target.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) reported this week that there is currently planning permission for more than 400,000 new homes on greenfield sites and warned that, if all the plans for new housing are approved, some 75 square miles of green belt around London and the home counties could be lost.

LGIU member authority West Devon has shared its story of battling rising rent pressures for ‘exempt housing’, housing for people who need extra support which in turn can attract extra housing benefit claims above otherwise existing caps. We published a briefing on the regulations around exempt housing in late October.

In the meantime, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities this week announced the second tranche of funding from the Brownfield Land Release fund. Councils will be able to bid for £60m to regenerate brownfield sites to make way for new housing.

Also this week, the government announced a rapid review of guidance to landlords about health risks from damp and mould, following the death of two year old Awaab Ishak last year. The guidance is scheduled to be published by this summer. An LGIU briefing on this will be published soon.

The latest LGIU housing and planning round-up will be published on Monday.

Health and social care

Last week a report compiled for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Temporary Accommodation, by the NHS-funded National Child Mortality Database, revealed that homelessness was a contributing factor in at least 34 children’s deaths from April 2019 to March 2021. It was also acknowledged that this was probably an underestimate of the numbers of children whose deaths could be contributed to homelessness over that time period.

This week The Times looked at the Prime Minister’s decision to put the government’s social care reforms on hold and noted Professor Sir Andrew Dilnot, the architect of the plans, as saying that he was, to put it mildly, less than impressed with the shelving of his proposals.

A report in the Sunday Express this week, highlighted concerns from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services that the cost of living crisis will lead to more children entering the care system.

The latest LGIU monthly round-up of health and social care can be read here:

Health, public health and social care round-up: December 2022

Environment

This week we saw German police carrying Greta Thunberg away from a protest against a proposed new coal mining project in the country. Will we see her soon in Cumbria?

Last week we saw reports that historical coastal landfill sites may be threatening further plastic pollution as sea levels rise. We also saw more failures of water companies, with reports of Thames Water’s spillage of sewage into the Thames and the River Severn bursting its banks.

Other news

How is Andy Murray doing?



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