Liverpool devolution, Invoice fines, ‘Unfair’ business rates, TIF extension, LPFA infrastructure bid…

Written on:November 20, 2014
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Liverpool calls for devolution inclusion
Leaders of Liverpool City Region Combined Authority have called on the government not to leave them out of plans for financial devolution. Chancellor George Osborne has already announced a package of measures for Manchester, and said similar plans would be drawn up with Sheffield and Leeds. Liverpool has agreed to approach central government as a matter of urgency to begin discussion on similar arrangements for Merseyside.

Unprepared councils ‘face massive invoice fines’
Councils could face massive bills if they are unprepared for legislation requiring them to pay up to £100 for every invoice they pay late. Mary Glindon MP, a member of the CLG Select Committee, has written to the Local Government Association voicing her concerns. Payment services provider Oxygen Finance say that an average upper tier authority could be in line to pay up to £750,000 a year unless they comply with the changes.

Property body calls for reform of ‘unfair’ business rates
The British Property Federation has called for an overhaul of the business rates system to boost investment in towns and cities, and to restore fairness. It called for an end to the current system which rises are calculated using the inflation rate. Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “Unlike every other tax in the UK, the business rates burden does not fluctuate with the economic cycle, meaning businesses have to pay the same regardless of economic conditions‎ and this, we argue, must change. Unless Government acts, there may come a time when rates become so high that they squeeze investment out of all but ‎our most prosperous towns and cities.”

MPs tout TIF extension
Councils should be allowed to make greater use of tax increment financing to unlock development, according to the parliamentary All Party Urban Development Group. In a report, the group also said that enterprise zones need to become more bespoke to reflect local conditions. It also called for local enterprise partnerships to have a greater role in the allocation of funds through the Regional Growth Fund.

DCLG consults on Right to Buy receipt arrangements
The Department for Communities and Local Government has launched a consultation on whether it should stick with its current arrangements relating to how Right to Buy receipts are split between local and central government. The purpose of the proposed amendments is to enable local housing authorities to calculate the “poolable” amount derived from the disposal of assets for the years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. Special arrangements will be put in place for councils undergoing large scale housing transfers.

Tower Hamlets rejects Pickles criticism
Tower Hamlets Council says there is no need for government-appointed commissioners to run the recruitment process for a chief finance officer at the council. Communities secretary Eric Pickles is considering sending in a team to run parts of the council following a critical report by audit firm PwC. The borough’s mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “There is already an established timetable and committee agreed by all parties in the council chamber for appointments so there is no need for the Secretary of State’s intervention.”

Hull considers benefits of joint venture
Hull City Council is considering setting up a new joint venture company to run the council’s revenues and benefit service. The proposal was unveiled in a budget plan for next year, which aims to save £9m from this year. About 200 staff are expected to transfer to the new company, which will bid to carry out processing work for other councils.

Consultancy unveils valuation tool
Pensions consultancy Hymans Robertson has launched an asset valuation tool for local government pension schemes. The Employer Asset Tracker makes monthly asset valuations and could save pension funds up to 50% on valuation fees, the firm claims, by simplifying the process,

Pensions fund seeks to meet Cameron on infrastructure
The London Pensions Fund Authority is calling for renewed efforts to encourage LGPS investment in infrastructure. In a letter in the Financial Times, the authority’s deputy chairman, Sir Merrick Cockell, said that voluntary asset liability management partnerships across the LGPS, could provide a platform for pooled investments. He said: “LPFA, and I am sure other large LGPS funds, would welcome the opportunity to discuss with the prime minister how best to bring local financing and knowledge to the table and enhance the offer to UK pension funds and overseas investors.”

Newham moves to sidestep Right to Buy

Written on:November 20, 2014

London Borough of Newham is transferring more than 1,000 void properties out of its housing revenue account in order to protect them against future loss to Right to Buy purchases, according to reports. According to specialist website Social Housing, the council is in the process of putting council homes into a council-owned vehicle that currently provides shared equity housing. The council’s director for place commissioning (housing and community infrastructure), John…

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DCLG understanding of cuts impact questioned

Written on:November 19, 2014

The Department for Communities and Local Government needs to improve monitoring of councils’ financial health, as auditors identify concerns that some authorities may be unable to deliver their planned savings, according to the National Audit Office. The recommendations come in two reports published today by the NAO covering the financial sustainability of councils and the impact of funding reductions from central government. The NAO found that the department needs to…

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Looking for a new England

Written on:November 18, 2014

In the aftermath of the Scottish ‘No’ vote it is hard to predict how things will settle down. Politicians, excited by the record numbers that cast their ballot, see it as an endorsement of the democratic process and, by extension, a vote for politicians in general. You can still see the warm glow in their cheeks when the matter comes up. The referendum’s wave of energy is being directed into…

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Deconstructing a money market fund

Written on:November 18, 2014

Dom Piper is Managing Director, Global Liquidity with J.P. Morgan Asset Management Historically the term ‘money market fund’ was a fairly loose catch all definition for various short duration funds ranging from ultra-short government funds through to unrated enhanced cash funds and various absolute return strategies. Regulation has played its part in tightening this definition with the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) introducing specific definitions between a Money Market Fund and…

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Burnley outsources, Barnet rent, Avon hedge investment, Sunderland LABV

Written on:November 13, 2014

Burnley opts for large-scale outsourcing Burnley Borough Council has launched a tender seeking a single partner for a massive outsourcing tender for backroom services. The deal, which could be worth up to £118m over 10 years if neighbouring councils get involved, covers customer contact, environmental health and licensing, payroll and payments, ICT, benefits and revenue administration, property and facilities management, plus strategic management services. It is aimed at making savings…

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Serco to exit leisure and environmental services as share price plummets

Written on:November 13, 2014

Outsourcing firm Serco has announced that it will seek to exit local authority leisure and environmental partnerships following financial problems which led this week to a steep fall in its share price. Shares in the firm fell as much as 35% after it announced on Monday that it was writing down the value of its business by £1.5bn. The write-downs related to problems with a small number of contracts including some…

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Q&A with Amundi’s Nathalie Coffre

Written on:November 13, 2014

Nathalie Coffre is head of short term solutions management at Amundi. She spoke to Room151 Quarterly magazine in October about the highs and lows of liquid bond fund management.  What do you do at Amundi? I run the team here that manages two short-term liquid bond funds, one with about six month duration and one with about 12 month duration.  They both have Sterling share classes and offer treasurers such as those…

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Calderdale takes in-house accounting software to market

Written on:November 13, 2014

Calderdale Council is looking to sell its in-house financial management software system to other authorities in order to raise cash, it has announced. The council has teamed up with software supplier Idox to market the tool, which its ICT department originally built between 2001 and 2004. The system provides a way of managing ledgers, accounts payable and income data, and currently helps the council prepare its annual accounts and other…

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Who’s doing your audit?

Written on:November 10, 2014

Stephen Sheen is the managing partner of Ichabod’s Industries, a consultancy providing technical support to local government. Those due to take over the responsibilities of the Audit Commission are stirring.  The Financial Reporting Council is setting minimum qualification standards for local auditors. The National Audit Office has drafted a new Audit Code of Practice.   The Cabinet Office will take responsibility for the National Fraud Initiative, supported by counter-fraud work from…

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