Thursday News Review

Government under fire over DLA plans

The government’s plans to overhaul disability benefits have come under fire from its own official advisory body. The statutory social security advisory committee is questioning the motives for the proposed replacement of disability living allowance (DLA), paid to almost 3 million people to help cover extra costs arising from their condition. It is also opposing outright the separate move to withdraw DLA entitlement from people living in care homes who receive it to help with the costs of transport. Ministers will be embarrassed by the committee’s intervention, disclosedthe day after the Guardian reported that one of the architects of the new sickness benefit regime had declared its fitness-for-work test “a complete mess”. The advisory committee, chaired by Sir Richard Tilt, a former director general of the prison service, has made its criticisms in a formal, so far unpublished, response to the consultation on DLA changes. – the Guardian

Did Ed approach David?

LABOUR leader Ed Miliband secretly tapped up brother David to be his new Shadow Chancellor – to stop bitter rival Ed Balls getting the job. The brothers held hush-hush talks following Alan Johnson’s shock resignation from the post last month, The Sun can reveal. David quit frontline politics after Ed beat him to the Labour leadership last year, saying he was not willing to serve under his brother. But during their clandestine conversation, the possibility of him replacing Mr Johnson was raised. A Labour insider revealed: “Ed’s people were desperate not to give the job to Balls.” However, Ed stopped short of offering his brother the job when David made it clear he wanted to stay on the backbenches. – the Sun

‘No’ campaign under fire

The organisation making the case for a No vote in May’s referendum on voting reform has launched a series of adverts that are desperate and cynical in equal measure. These adverts focus on the supposed cost of the transition to the Alternative Vote system. The campaign asserts that the bill would be £250m and that “our country can’t afford it”. Yet that figure is entirely spurious. It apparently includes the £82m that will be spent on the referendum regardless of the outcome and £130m for the purchase of electronic vote-counting machines. The problem with this line of argument is that no new vote-counting machines will, in fact, be needed. Votes would continue to be counted by hand, as they are at present. It displays a staggering disregard for honesty for the No campaign to rely so heavily on this confected figure. Just as shameless is the implication of the No camp’s adverts that a No vote will mean more money for public services. Voting no would apparently mean, according to the campaign’s adverts, a state loan for the Forgemasters steel plant in Sheffield, flakjackets for our soldiers, and, most emotively of all, cardiac equipment for sick babies. – the Independent

Government plans to reform local government funding

The government is planning to cut many richer local councils loose from Whitehall control in one of the biggest shakeups of local government funding since the 1980s. Between a quarter and a third of local authorities will become “free councils” entirely independent of central government grant by the end of the parliament in 2015, under plans to be unveiled by the coalition in the next fortnight. Many richer boroughs such as Westminster and big metropolitan councils would no longer be required to use their business rates to subsidise other parts of the country, although ministers say there would still be “an element of redistribution between wealthier and poorer councils”. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are close to agreement on the terms of a quick six-month inquiry into the future of local council funding. This will focus on how to restore the right of councils in England to retain the bulk of revenue from business rates, as well as to keep more council tax revenue. – the Guardian

6th formers to launch legal challenge over tuition fees

The Government is facing a legal challenge to its plans to raise tuition fees to up to £9,000 a year. Lawyers are planning to seek a judicial review of the decision on the grounds it contravenes human rights law because it could discriminate against poorer pupils. The legal firm Public Interest Lawyers said it was bringing the case on behalf of two sixth-formers, Callum Hurley and Katy Moore, who would be due to start university when the rises come into force in September 2012. PIL said it had sent the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, a “pre-action protocol letter” about the rises – seen as the first step to seeking a judicial review. The legal firm’s action coincides with a request from Gareth Thomas, Labour’s shadow universities spokesman, to the Universities minister David Willetts, to spell out details of any further cuts to university budget if too many universities opt to charge the maximum £9,000 figure. – the Independent

One Response to “Thursday News Review”

  1. MG says:

    AV Campign = Enough already!

    I consider myself political but I don’t give a fig about this referendum (though I will definitely be voting Yes because, at the moment, the No Campaign has not given me a good reason why I should vote no).

    Why are people getting so worked up about this referendum? You’d think Westminster was the only political institution in Britain.

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