ToryDiary: A timely announcement from Grant Shapps on homelessness

Local Government: Eric Pickles answers a final tranche of your questions

Local Government: Should Councils be doing more on drug rehabilitation?

WATCH An extract from the Queen’s Christmas message in which Her Majesty focuses on the sombre time that many are experiencing

David Cameron gave in to Shadow Cabinet "moonlighters" after Hague threatened to quit

"William Hague threatened to lead a walk-out if David Cameron forced his Shadow Cabinet to give up their lucrative second jobs, it was claimed last night. The Tory leader planned to ban ‘moonlighting’ by Christmas, but has since backed down in the face of an internal revolt. Senior Conservatives revealed that up to three spokesmen, including the Shadow Foreign Secretary, were ready to quit." – Daily Mail

> Last night’s ToryDiary: Hague threatened to quit if outside interests were banned

Osborne accuses Darling of "bankrupting Britain" as economy shrinks faster than expected

"Alistair Darling may be forced to revise his forecast that the economy will start to grow again from next summer amid fears that his prediction is already proving too optimistic… Fears that he will issue a more gloomy forecast increased when the Office of National Statistics (ONS) announced that the economy shrank faster than it previously thought between July and September. It said it contracted by 0.6 per cent, the biggest fall for 18 years, rather than 0.5 per cent as it originally estimated… George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, said: "Here is further evidence that Labour is bankrupting Britain again. Not only have we been in recession for six months but it is now deeper than we thought." – Independent

Grant Shapps launches Tory anti-homelessness strategy today

"Criminals should be forced to save part of their prison pay to fund
accommodation when they are released, the Tories said today as part of
a new anti-homelessness strategy. Shadow housing minister Grant Shapps
said the cash would be paid in instalments in a bid to end the
"revolving door" that saw many reoffend because jail provided a roof
over their heads… Other pledges included ensuring troops returning
from the frontline were not put at the bottom of waiting lists for
housing and reforming benefits to make sure people were better off by
getting a job. Rough sleeping statistics would also be made more
accurate, Mr Shapps said." – Daily Telegraph

Tories accuse Government of being obsessed with spin

"The Conservatives accused Gordon Brown and his ministers of being obsessed with spin, after new figures revealed the scale of the budget for "media monitoring". Statistics obtained by the party in a series of Parliamentary answers show that Whitehall departments and taxpayer-funded quangos and agencies have paid private consultancies at least £13 million to monitor news coverage since 2005. In addition, the Government has its own internal Media Monitoring department with 19 members of staff, which costs another £1 million a year to run."  – Daily Telegraph

Philip Hammond uncovers the cost of Christmas in Whitehall

"Government departments have spent £137,000 on Christmas cards, parties and decorations in the past year. The most lavish Whitehall department was one of the smallest, the Northern Ireland Office, which spent £40,000 on festivities, including £33,000 on receptions and parties alone… Philip Hammond, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, obtained the figures in a series of Parliamentary answers. He said: "It beggars belief that, with Britain in recession, Gordon Brown is happy to lavish tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on Christmas revelries in Government departments." – Daily Telegraph

Midwifery staffing shortages put women at risk, say Tories

"NHS maternity units have hundreds of unfilled vacancies for midwives who are needed to ensure the safety of women in childbirth, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal today…. Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, applied for information on the number of midwives and support workers at 227 maternity units in England… Lansley said: "The returns I have received from NHS trusts make a mockery of the government’s promise of 1,000 more midwives by 2009. Ministers need to look at this problem urgently and take action to get plans to increase midwife numbers back on track." – Guardian

Police "secretly taped Damian Green arrest"

"The controversy over the arrest of Tory frontbencher Damian Green took a new twist today after it emerged the arresting officers were wearing sound recording equipment at the time… In a statement today, the Metropolitan police said: "A tape sound recording was made of the MP’s arrest and subsequent period in police charge, without his knowledge, prior to arrival at Belgravia police station from Kent. This was authorised at superintendent level to provide an accurate record of anything that may have been said by officers or the MP over a period of nearly two and a half hours." – Guardian

Conservative treasurer admits non-disclosure of shares loan pledgeTimes

Motorists to face fine and points for minor accidentsDaily Telegraph

Government adviser: Probation service is "institutionally on the side of offenders"Times

Price of a first-class stamp to rise by 3pDaily Mail

And finally… Has Santa got the right insurance cover?

"With all those children’s addresses, Santa is at risk of a huge claim — as well as a red face — if any of his notebooks slip out of the sleigh and into the wrong hands. One gust of wind and it’s claim time… With millions of chimneys to climb down in the UK alone, Santa is the world’s most vulnerable celebrity and his limbs and white beard would be worth far more. Some underwriters may require a diet warranty to ensure he is fit for purpose."  – The Sun

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