Displaying items by tag: Government
The Government has issued new guidelines aimed at curbing mobile phone use in schools to improve behaviour and minimise disruptions. The move follows previous calls for phone bans. Education secretary Gillian Keegan emphasised the need for consistency across schools but hinted at potential legislation if the guidelines prove ineffective. While some students see benefits in limited phone access, the Association of School and College Leaders doubts the effectiveness of the guidelines, considering existing school policies. Critics argue that the Government should focus on more pressing issues, such as funding and special needs. The announcement coincides with calls for tighter regulations on children's social media access following a tragic incident. However, the Government remains cautious about restricting phone access for under-16s. Despite differing school policies across the UK, complete phone bans are rare, and the UN has highlighted global concerns about phones' negative impacts on education.
The Government has announced a comprehensive Disability Action Plan to make the country the world's most accessible for disabled individuals. This initiative outlines 32 specific measures, including ensuring disabled children have access to local playgrounds and improving access for guide dog users. Over 1,300 disabled individuals, their families, and stakeholders contributed insights to the plan. They highlighted the necessity for enhanced emergency protection for disabled people, suggesting mandatory protocols like visual fire alarms and tactile signage.The plan also focuses on making public spaces, including toilets, playgrounds, and transportation, more inclusive. A new working group will advise on supporting guide and assistance dog users. The Government has also revised its approach towards a proposed Disability Enabled Badge, opting first to better understand disabled people's needs. Mims Davies, minister for disabled people, said that the plan aimed to create an equal and accessible living environment for all.
Dozens of farmers were arrested on 31 January after breaking into the huge Rungis wholesale food market south of Paris, during their ongoing protests. Emmanuel Macron’s government had warned farmers not to approach the market, which feeds twelve million people a day. But that failed to take into account the level of anger over what farmers view as unacceptably low pay, stifling red tape, unworkable European policies, and unfair competition from foreign rivals. 91 farmers managed to enter the Rungis site and were arrested for ‘damaging goods’, though they claim they caused no harm. While progress was reported in discussions with new prime minister Gabriel Attal, the protests reflect the deep-seated grievances of farmers against policies they view as detrimental to their livelihoods. At present 4,500 tractors are blocking eighty spots along major roads.
The Government has announced a £600 million bailout for local councils, primarily to support elderly care, in response to financial challenges faced by town halls. This emergency funding aims to prevent service cuts and potential bankruptcies. Councils are directed to focus the funding on urgent needs and reduce non-essential expenditures such as consultancy fees and diversity projects. The move follows alerts from over 40 Conservative backbenchers about the risk of increased council tax and reduced services. Financial struggles have already led to bankruptcy declarations from councils like Birmingham, Nottingham, Thurrock, and Woking. A survey reveals that nearly 20% of council leaders in England anticipate needing to implement austerity measures within the next two years. The bailout includes £500 million specifically for social care, and councils will also see a 4% increase in their core spending power. Additionally, £3 million is allocated for flood defence in vulnerable areas. See
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, seems to be cautiously moving towards a deal that could see his party return to Stormont. He acknowledges the final stages of negotiation as the most challenging, hinting at internal party disputes. This development follows the collapse of Northern Ireland’s government in February 2022 over post-Brexit trading arrangements, known as the Irish Sea border. The key issue is the proposed UK Internal Market Act amendment, ensuring Northern Ireland businesses can access the UK market. However, this primarily addresses goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, not the reverse, which involves checks and paperwork under the Windsor Framework. The DUP appears open to some checks to prevent criminality and smuggling. Additionally, measures to reinforce Northern Ireland's union status, such as a new East-West council, are being discussed, but their decision-making power is uncertain. The government is eager for a quick decision, with a potential financial incentive of above £2.5 billion. If no agreement is reached soon, secretary of state Chris Heaton may need to take decisive action, potentially concluding negotiations with the DUP and revealing the proposed deal.
Charities have expressed outrage as the Government demoted the disability minister role - during Disability History Month. The vacancy arose when Tom Pursglove became legal migration minister. Mims Davies, the new appointee, will maintain her focus on social mobility from her previous role as minister for social mobility, youth, and progression. Disability charities criticised the move, highlighting it as the longest gap without a minister in thirty years. Downing Street refuted claims of downgrading the position, insisting that a minister for disabled people would remain. However, the charities argue that the minister should not have divided responsibilities and demand the restoration of a dedicated minister of state. James Taylor from Scope emphasised the need for a full-time leader for disability strategy in government. The National Autistic Society's Tim Nicholls called for clarity on the role's scope and reassurance that disabled people's needs are a priority. Meanwhile, a government spokesperson stated that Davies would continue supporting disabled people, noting achievements in employment and financial aid for the disabled.
The government has announced that South Africa, battling crippling power blackouts, plans to add 2,500 megawatts of new nuclear generation. The country has Africa's only nuclear power station, but the Koeberg plant near Cape Town is currently only working at half capacity. The first of the new units will probably come on stream in 2032 or 2033. Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said the extra nuclear power would be a significant milestone. He added that it would be part of the government action to ‘ending the existential challenge that is confronting the country’ over power shortages and long-term energy security. Rotating power cuts of up to twelve hours a day over the past fifteen years have badly hit the economy and the government's reputation as it heads into an election next year. National power company Eskom has been tainted by corruption and maintenance problems which have led to the power cuts. In a bid to extend the life of the Koeberg plant by twenty years, one unit was closed for nearly a year and the second unit was shut down for maintenance this week.
Robert Jenrick has resigned as the UK's immigration minister due to disagreements about the Government's new proposed Rwanda legislation, which he believes does not offer sufficient protections to end legal challenges that hinder the scheme. He stated that he found the proposal inadequate for successful implementation, describing it as ‘a triumph of hope over experience’. Sunak expressed disappointment, emphasising the risk of collapsing the scheme by entirely excluding the courts. The Rwanda option, aimed at deterring Channel crossings by asylum seekers, has faced delays and legal challenges, with no transfers as yet. The new bill seeks to circumvent the UK Supreme Court's ruling against the plan by limiting the applicability of the Human Rights Act (HRA) and other laws. However, it stops short of overriding the entire HRA and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as some Conservative MPs desired. Labour's Yvette Cooper criticised the chaotic situation, highlighting the government's struggles. The bill’s potential success seems uncertain amid legal challenges and political divisions within the Conservative party.
Due to a homelessness crisis, Edinburgh is poised to declare a housing emergency. The city council's housing convener, Jane Meagher, will table a motion to establish an emergency action plan and request urgent funding from the Scottish government to address the severe challenges. Edinburgh currently has around 5,000 households in temporary accommodation, the highest in Scotland. The crisis is exacerbated by a severe shortage of social rented homes, with approximately 200 bids for each advertised property. Rental costs are soaring, with Edinburgh having the UK's highest rental inflation rate at 13.7%. If the motion passes, Edinburgh will be the first Scottish city officially to declare a housing emergency. The council plans to write to the First Minister and the housing minister to request additional funding.
In August, high inflation led to increased government finances, creating pressure on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to boost support for state services, according to the Resolution Foundation. Government borrowing for August was £11.6 billion and nearly £70 billion for the first five months of the current fiscal year. This left the Chancellor £11.4 billion better off for 2023-24 than March's official forecasts had predicted. The Resolution Foundation noted that while higher inflation had led to increased tax payments, it had strained public services with pre-inflation budget allocations, making future public service cuts less tenable. Conservative backbenchers have opposed increasing department budgets in favour of tax cuts, while former prime minister Liz Truss has advocated tax cuts to stimulate economic growth. The borrowing figures highlight the need to manage inflation and government finances.