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Political life through a Lauren lens (w/e 04/08/17)


Our Strategic Director Lauren Bennie gives her take on a week in Politics…


May the best council win

Dribs and drabs of cash have flown out of the coffers of central government to the tune of £150m in recent weeks and local authorities are being encouraged to bid for the elusive pots of gold. Cash strapped councils, many without access to bid writers, will be carefully considering whether to divert resources away from frontline public services to participate in the upcoming round of applications essentially competing against other local councils for the ultimate funding prize.

Included in Tuesday’s announcements is phase 6 of the One Public Estate inviting councils and existing OPE partnerships to apply for up to £500,000 revenue funding to deliver land and projects in their local areas.

The fund will be a welcome move for councils trying to free up land for housing but the slow release of funding opportunities is doing little to help both local and central government reach their housing targets. Local government spends £94bn every year. £150m of funding is a mere 0.16% of this annual spend. Some might say it’s a small slice of funding for one of the largest crisis facing local councils.


A breath of fresh air?

Planning applications in Cheshire East Council between 2012 and 2015 are under review due to a series of errors in the council’s air quality data. On Wednesday, the council admitted that results had in fact been falsified to appear cleaner.

In 2016, Cheshire East Council’s internal audit team undertook a review of air quality data when an anomaly threw up the possibility of a mismatch of recorded data. An external investigation got underway and found that the errors were the, “result of deliberate and systematic manipulation of data from a number of diffusion tubes.”

Auditors believe the volume and nature of the imprecisions in the reporting meant that it was unlikely that a simple human error was responsible for the data reporting.

And while the disciplinary procedures are as yet unknown, we can assume that new property developments in particular may have been disadvantaged during the planning process. Applications must take into consideration new sources of air pollution, large volumes of dust during construction and exposure to existing sources of pollution by building developments in places with poor air quality already. Planning applications, where incorrect air quality data features, in Nantwich, Congleton, Crewe, Holmes Chapel and Sandbach may have been affected.

Central government has its own issues air quality to deal with. So DEFRA’s monitoring of and response to this week’s admission might come off as a little hypocritical. We’ll wait a fuller response. In the meantime, I’ll remind you that back in May the UK government attempted to delay their plans to clean up air quality in towns in cities until June because of the then upcoming local elections. The High Court rejected the government’s application. That was the third ruling against the government in Westminster over its failure to tackle air pollution. The lack of an effective plan to deal with air quality breached EU and domestic law.


Are you a female councillor?

This week the Local Government Association’s Be A Councillor campaign raised a call to arms to grow its network of female councillors. 55 female councillors (and counting) responded to their rallying cry in the space of a few hours. The Be A Councillor team would like existing councillors to engage informally with prospective female councillors in the not too distant future. Watch this space for more on what it takes to be a councillor and this space for their next Women in Politics event.


A view from above…the border

As we all very well know, it is not all Irn Bru and accents up here in Glasgow so on each of my regular visits to Cratus London HQ, I take a suitably Scottish treat into the office to expand the minds and taste buds of my Cratus colleagues. A box of Tunnock’s Teacakes or Lee’s Snowballs usually do the trick. However, I was somewhat overwhelmed on Thursday when my London colleagues made great strides in our Scottish cultural exploration with the offering of suitably deep-fried olive branch; lunch in a Memphis-inspired establishment on New Globe Walk. This olive branch came in the form of deep fried pickles in breadcrumb batter. Frickles.

BREAKING NEWS: The mighty deep-fried mars bar has a worthy challenger rising through the ranks. Who knew it was to be found on the Southbank.


Other news

Jennifer Glover’s full report on community collaboration for the LGiU and the Local Trust. A year-long project to find the best examples of community collaboration resulting in this handy 16-page guide for elected members and those in the sector wishing to better understand what drives councillors, the experts in their communities.

ICYMI: Baroness Scott joined the growing list of local government leaders in July to take part in the MJ’s new podcast series to discuss how the Leader of Wiltshire Council catapulted the council ethos into a modern and dynamic business model.

What makes a frickle fabulous? Find out more from Those Fabulous Frickle Brothers