Debt of NHS Foundation Trusts in England increases


The NHS regulator, Monitor, has said that the debt of NHS Foundation Trusts has increased to £321 million which is five times higher than was planned.

The report also found that there had been both staff recruitment issues as well as an increase in the number of services required. There was an 8% increase in the number of journeys which were made by ambulances and there was an increase of 134% to 42,600 in the number of patients waiting for more than four hours.

The report also found that the target for making efficiency savings wasn’t substantially short, £210 million short of the target of £1.2 billion. The Foundation Trusts also spent £419 million more than expected on contract and agency staff due to staff recruitment issues.

The report looked at the figures provided by 149 Foundation Trusts in England. The Government said that it was committed to increasing funding to the NHS and that efforts needed to be made to cut the cost of contract and agency staff.


Baroness Anelay has condemned Mogadishu attack


Baroness Anelay, a Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has condemned an attack on a Mogadishu hotel which took place earlier today. At least fifteen people were killed in the bomb attack including two Members of Parliament and a Deputy Mayor.

Baroness Anelay said in a statement:

“I am appalled by today’s attack in Mogadishu on members of the Somali Government and Parliament, which has also caused deaths and injuries to a number of security personnel and civilians. My thoughts are with the families and friends of all the victims.

The terrorists who carried out this senseless attack have no role in Somalia’s future and will never achieve their objectives. No terrorist attack can derail the process to bring greater peace and stability to Somalia. We continue to stand in solidarity with the Somali people.”

Rozanne Duncan, the former UKIP councillor for Thanet District Council, denies being racist

Rozanne Duncan

Rozanne Duncan, the former UKIP councillor for the Cliftonville East ward of Thanet District Council, has refused to stand down after being recorded saying “I don’t know why but I don’t like negroes or anyone with negro features.”

Duncan, who stood as a Conservative candidate in 2007, was immediately suspended by UKIP in December 2014 when the allegations came to light. The comments were made whilst the BBC was filming a documentary on the party which supports Britain leaving the European Union. UKIP said that Duncan was asked to leave the party after bringing it into disrepute and that she didn’t appeal against the decision.

Thanet Council confirmed that at least one complaint had been made to the council and that Duncan would be investigated by the Standards Committee.


David Cameron condemns ISIS over death of Kayla Mueller

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has condemned ISIS after the United States confirmed that Kayla Mueller has died. In a statement David Cameron said:

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of US aid worker Kayla Mueller and my thoughts are with her friends and family as they deal with this awful news.

Let me be clear – those responsible for her death are the terrorists that kidnapped Ms Mueller, and who held her against her will ever since. Kayla travelled to the region to help men, women and children forced to flee their homes, and her death demonstrates yet again the indiscriminate brutality of ISIL. We will work with coalition partners to ensure her murderers face justice, however long it takes.

The truth is that ISIL are under increasing pressure from the coalition of over 60 nations, including those with large Muslim communities, who are giving help and support to local forces to take back territory in Iraq and Syria. Despite its attempt to break this effort, ISIL’s depravity has only strengthened the international coalition against them.”

HSBC may face criminal charges over allegations that it helped clients evade UK tax


The HSBC bank has said that it will co-operate with an investigation after allegations that it helped some of its wealthy clients illegally evade UK tax by using Swiss bank accounts. The information has come from a whistle-blower within the bank who leaked data relating to 2007.

In a statement the HSBC said that:

“In the past, the Swiss private banking industry operated very differently to the way it does today. Private banks, including HSBC’s Swiss private bank, assumed that responsibility for payment of taxes rested with individual clients, rather than the institutions that banked them. Swiss private banks were typically used by wealthy individuals to manage their wealth in a discreet manner.

Although there are numerous legitimate reasons to have a Swiss bank account, in some cases individuals took advantage of bank secrecy to hold undeclared accounts. This resulted in private banks, including HSBC’s Swiss private bank, having a number of clients that may not have been fully compliant with their applicable tax obligations. We acknowledge and are accountable for past compliance and control failures.”

David Gauke, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said that “There are clearly questions that need to be answered about what happened at HSBC between 2005 and 2007” after Labour accused the Government of not doing enough to tackle those individuals who had evaded tax.


Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham, removes controversial tweet


Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, has removed a Twitter post after initially refusing to do so. The MP called it “hilarious” when Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, was trapped inside a shop whilst discussing the child abuse scandal in the constituency.

The tweet read “Hilarious Farage is trapped inside the Rotherham UKIP shop by people objecting to him coming to rubber neck at victims!”. Champion defended her position in a BBC interview with Andrew Neil and later refused to remove the post.

A spokesman for Nigel Farage said that it was “utter nonsense” and that he was never trapped inside the building. Champion has since deleted the tweet.

Prime Minister calls murder of Moaz al-Kassasbeh “sickening”


David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has condemned the murder of Moaz al-Kassasbeh who was set on fire today by ISIS troops. The Prime Minister issued a statement:

“I condemn this sickening murder by ISIL’s barbaric terrorists. I pay tribute to the dedication and bravery of Lieutenant Moaz al-Kassasbeh, who as a member of the Jordanian Armed Forces serving in the anti-ISIL Coalition, paid with his life while protecting his country and us all. My thoughts and prayers are with his family tonight at this tragic time.

These terrorists’ brutal behaviour will only strengthen our resolve. We stand in solidarity with our Jordanian friends and we will continue to work with them and our other Coalition partners to defeat ISIL. Together we are making progress. In the last week, ISIL has been thrown out of Kobane. The Iraqi Armed Forces, with Coalition support, are steadily re-taking territory in Northern Iraq, freeing many thousands from ISIL’s utter cruelty. We will not stop until these evil extremists and their poisonous ideology are defeated.”


Luke Ellis, a Bridgend County Borough Councillor, defects from the Labour Party


Luke Ellis, a councillor for the Pyle ward of Bridgend Council has left the Labour to stand as an independent. He said that the NHS and the Child Sex Abuse inquiry were the main reasons but also likened Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, to a “hapless chuckle brother” and said that he would “lead the party to an inevitable defeat” at the General Election.

Government Statement on Local Government Finance Settlement 2015-2016

Kris Hopkins MP

Kris Hopkins, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has made a written Ministerial statement with reference to the Local Government Finance Settlement of 2015-2016.

The statement confirms that local Government spending in the next financial year will be £115 billion in England which represents a fall of 1.5% on the current year.

The text of the statement follows:


The government has today laid before the House the Local Government Finance Report (England) 2015 to 2016 and the Referendums Relating to Council Tax Increases (Principles) (England) Report 2015 to 2016.

These reports set out for each local authority in England, individual local government finance settlement funding assessments, business rates tariffs and top-ups, the basis of their distributions, and the council tax referendum principles for 2015 to 2016.

Further to my oral statement of 18 December 2014, Official Report, Column 1590, a draft of the Local Government Finance Report was issued for consultation in December.

During the consultation period, which closed on 15 January, ministers met a number of local authorities and representative groups including the Local Government Association, London Councils, the District Councils Network and the National Association of Local Councils.

I also led a phone-in discussion in which over 100 authorities participated. In addition, the consultation received numerous written responses.

Having considered the views of all those who commented on the provisional settlement, we have decided to confirm the proposals for the settlement for 2015 to 2016 as announced.

We are confirming our proposal that the council tax referendum principle for 2015 to 2016 will be set at 2%. In addition, we are providing a further £74 million to upper-tier authorities to recognise that councils have asked for additional support, including to help them respond to local welfare needs and to improve social care provision.

Delivering a fair settlement

Every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to pay off the deficit left by the last government, including local government which accounts for a quarter of all public spending.

Yet we have aimed to deliver a settlement that is fair to all parts of the country, both north and south, urban and rural, city and shire. There is still significant scope for councils to deliver sensible savings – from more joint working, better procurement, ‘invest to save’ use of reserves, using transparency to find and cut waste, collecting unpaid taxes, tackling fraud, and better property management.

Even with the savings that have been made to date, English local government expects to spend over £115 billion in the current financial year. Net current expenditure by councils (excluding education due to the shift to academy funding) has risen in cash terms under this government.

With the addition of the extra resources mentioned above, the overall change in local authorities’ spending power in 2015 to 2016 is now -1.7%. When taking into account the funds that we are providing to support local transformation, the overall final reduction is even lower – at 1.5%.

Councils facing the highest demand for services continue to receive substantially more funding and we are continuing to ensure that no council will face a loss of more than 6.4% in their spending power in 2015 to 2016 – the lowest level in this Parliament.

We have deliberately shifted the emphasis from keeping local authorities dependent on grant, to providing councils with the tools and incentives they need to grow their local economies and promote house building, including through business rates retention.

For 2013 to 2014, authorities’ own estimates show that over 90% are expecting a growth in their business rates income, of over £400 million in total.

As well as growing their economies, the best authorities are transforming the way they do business. The government is supporting them as they do so, achieving real savings and – importantly – improving outcomes for the people who use local services.

We also continue to recognise the challenges faced by rural communities. This government has a clear commitment to rural areas, and consecutive settlements have helped to address the gap in urban-rural spending power. We expect the gap to continue to close.

In the meantime, the settlement confirms another year of additional resources for the most rural authorities to recognise the challenges they face in delivering services. In 2015 to 2016, this grant has increased to £15.5 million.

Supporting the vulnerable

The government previously consulted on a range of options for how local welfare provision by upper-tier local authorities (ie London boroughs, metropolitan borough councils, unitary councils and county councils in 2-tier areas) should be funded in 2015 to 2016 following its localisation.

The Department for Work and Pensions also carried out a review. The government concluded that local authorities would continue to be able to offer local welfare assistance from within existing budgets for 2015 to 2016, alongside a range of other services, if they judge it a priority in their area.

To assist in identifying how much of their existing funding relates to this, an amount relating to local welfare provision was separately identified in each upper-tier authority’s general grant. This totalled £130 million nationally and was distributed in line with local welfare provision funding in 2014 to 2015.

The government has always been clear that councils should choose how best to support local welfare needs. Therefore this allocation will not be ring-fenced and we will not be placing any new duties, expectations or monitoring requirements on its use.

In response to representations during consultation, we have now decided to allocate an additional £74 million to upper tier authorities, to assist them in dealing with pressures on local welfare and health and social care. This will further help councils as they develop localised arrangements.

This extra funding is on top of £37 million of additional funding to local authorities for 2014 to 2015 announced last week, so that they can provide additional support packages to get people home as soon as they are ready to leave hospital, and avoid the need for people to go into hospital in the first place.

This government is working to join up local public services and decentralising power and funding to local communities.

Keeping Council Tax down for hard-working people

We are again providing funding for councils, fire authorities and Police and Crime Commissioners to help freeze their Council Tax in England. We have now provided freeze funding during all 5 years of this Parliament.

As a result, Council Tax in England has fallen by 11% in real terms since 2010, when it had more than doubled under the last government. Indeed, the Welsh Government which has refused to fund a Council Tax freeze from the Barnet consequential payments has seen soaring council tax.

We urge councils to protect tax payers up and down the country by taking the additional funding on offer for a freeze and help hard-working people with the cost of living. The Council Tax freeze grant from central government will be embedded into councils’ baseline funding.

For those which do not freeze, any increase of 2% or more will require a binding referendum of local electorates. Local authorities which want to do so should have the courage of their convictions and seek a mandate for this.

It is already the case that a Council Tax referendum can be held at a reduced cost in 2015 to 2016 when combined with the General Election.

We can further announce today that any savings to the Consolidated Fund as a result of combination of a referendum with the General Election will be redirected to councils, so that the cost of a referendum to a local authority is marginal – such as the small costs of printing and counting some extra ballot papers. This demolishes the argument floated by some that holding a local referendum would result in an excessive cost.

Copies of the appropriate documents have been placed in the Vote Office and the Library of the House. We shall be making available supporting technical information online on my department’s website.

Darling would work with Salmond on a pro-EU campaign

Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, has said that he would work with Alex Salmond, the former First Minister of Scotland, on any campaign to keep the UK in the EU. Darling said that “my view has been very clear, that if I agree with another politician of a different party on an issue, whether it’s the independence referendum on Scotland or whether it’s on Europe then of course I’ll share a platform. It doesn’t stop me saying bad things about them on things I disagree with.”