Lib-Dem-a-rama 1) They’re pushing for bigger Council Tax rises

telegraphcouncil“Householders face council tax increases of 2 per cent this year after the Liberal Democrats blocked a Conservative attempt to lower a cap on rises. Local authorities will be told on Wednesday that they cannot raise the levy by more than 2 per cent without putting their proposed increase to voters in a referendum. The Conservatives had pushed for the cap to be set at 1.5 per cent, but Lib Dem ministers, backed by some Tory council leaders, rejected the plan.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Local government – Pickles says the vote of each councillor on Council Tax levels must be recorded

Lib-Dem-a-rama 2) They don’t want to cut the top rate of income tax to 40p

“A senior Lib Dem minister has said any cuts to the top rate of income tax before next year’s general election will be “over my dead body”. Chief Secretary Danny Alexander said the 45p rate was the “right place to be” and suggested he would veto any Conservative proposal to cut it to 40p. Lib Dem sources claim David Cameron has refused to rule out such a move.” – BBC

> Today: ToryDiary – We know what the Liberal Democrats are against in government, but what are they for?

Lib-Dem-a-rama 3) Plans for expats to have their own MPs

“Expatriates would have their own MPs in the Commons under a Liberal Democrat plan to create overseas constituencies. The measure is part of an overhaul that would introduce devolution for Cornwall, ‘recognising its historic, cultural and linguistic claim to autonomy’. Other reforms would allow two candidates to run for Parliament together as “job-share” MPs. The proposals are among those to be put to the Liberal Democrat spring conference next month and will become the party’s official policy for the next election, should they be voted through.” – The Times(£)

Osborne warns house price boom could last a decade…

OSBORNE blue tie“House prices are likely to continue rising for at least another ten years, George Osborne suggested yesterday when he attacked “Nimbys” for slowing down planning reforms. The Chancellor told peers that the shortage of housing was an historic problem as he stressed that the coalition was trying to boost supply as well as providing cheaper home loans to struggling families. “I imagine if we were to assemble again in ten years’ time, we would still be talking about the challenge of making sure that our housing supply keeps up with demand,” he told the House of Lords Economics Affairs Committee.” – The Times (£)

…and says he “won’t slash” energy bills

“Large-scale fracking in the UK is not likely to lead to big reductions in household gas bills, Chancellor George Osborne has said. Extracting shale gas would boost tax receipts and aid the UK economy, Mr Osborne said. But he played down expectations that consumers would see big reductions in prices in evidence to a Lords committee. David Cameron has previously said it had “real potential” to cut bills.” – BBC

Hunt says NHS whistleblowers have raised 8,000 cases

Hunt Jeremy 15“The NHS has started to ‘cross the Rubicon’ in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire scandal as thousands of whistleblowers speak out, the Health Secretary will say today. Jeremy Hunt will highlight a big increase in NHS staff airing concerns about patient safety, death rates and poor care, with almost 8,000 cases raised in the past ten months. He will also say that 49 senior NHS bosses have been replaced – most because they ‘weren’t up to the job’.” – Daily Mail

  • “However, there is still one ongoing tragedy: the refusal of the Welsh NHS to adopt any of these measures. Perhaps because Mid Staffs
    happened under a Labour government, the Labour Party in Wales has refused to investigate hospitals with high death rates, refused to introduce Ofsted-style inspections, and rejected the transparency agenda embraced in England.” – Jeremy Hunt Daily Telegraph
  • Thousands more nurses recruited
  • Hunt tried to appoint David Maclean as Food Agency chairman – The Guardian

Grayling to bring in tougher punishments for terrorists

“Ministers propose including life sentences for more terror offences, including weapons training for terrorist purposes, other training for terrorism and making or possessing explosives. These currently carry a maximum sentence of 14 years. Automatic early release for terrorists will be ended and only allowed at discretion of the parole board. An automatic “two strikes” mandatory life sentence would be introduced for a second terrorist conviction. These measures are expected to affect about 30 offenders a year.” – The Guardian

Send two-year-olds to school says Truss

s216_Elizabeth-Truss“Schools should open their doors to children as young as 2 and nursery opening hours should be extended to help working parents, a minister has said. Liz Truss, Minister for Education and Childcare, is to write to local authorities urging them to encourage nurseries to offer longer sessions and to accept younger children, it emerged yesterday.” – The Times(£)

Nudge unit privatised

“A government unit aimed at “nudging” people into making better life choices has been part-privatised. The Behavioural Insights Team – known as the “nudge unit” – has been spun-off into a mutual joint venture. Charity Nesta, employees and the government will each own a third of the new business.” – BBC

Montgomerie defends Speaker Bercow

“I was not a supporter of Mr Bercow’s bid to succeed Michael Martin but I was wrong. While he can appear an attention-seeker with his sometimes pious interventions, he has done as much as any Speaker could reasonably have done to put some backbone in the backbenches — giving them unprecedented powers to hold ministers to account.” – Tim Montgomerie The Times(£)

  • Hands off, he’s Sally’s – what Bercow pals warned Party girl – The Sun(£)
  • I feel sorry for Sally – Sarah Vine Daily Mail

Tube strike: Boris versus Bob

BORIS open mouth“Boris Johnson and RMT chief Bob Crow tore into each other on-air as striking Tube workers were urged to keep London on the move. Fresh from his holiday in Brazil, Bob Crow rang the London Mayor’s LBC radio show insisting he would call off the dispute – but wanted talks held and job cuts stopped. Mr Johnson slapped down the request, saying it was impossible to talk when the union chief was “putting a gun to the heads of Londoners”. The row came as David Cameron blasted the 48-hour walkout of London Underground workers as “shameful”.” – The Sun(£)

  • “A 48-hour strike by London Underground workers has begun, threatening to cause travel chaos for millions in the capital over the next couple of days. Members of the RMT and TSSA unions walked out at 9pm last night in protest at the closure of ticket offices, which could threaten hundreds of jobs.” – The Independent

Labour’s NEC back union reforms…

Miliband Labour Left“Yesterday, the party’s ruling National Executive Committee backed a watered-down package of reforms, expected to be rubber-stamped by a special conference next month. Mr Miliband hailed the package as ‘historic’ and claimed it would help reconnect the party with working people. But aides later acknowledged that a key element of the measures would not be fully phased in until 2019 because of fears about the impact on Labour’s fragile finances.” – Daily Mail

  • “A Labour official admitted that the plans could see the party “take a financial hit”. Unions currently provide Labour with £8.5m annually in affiliation fees. If only half of the current 2.7 million affiliated union members choose to be linked to the party, then Labour could lose £4m annually.” – The Guardian

…but there are warnings it will mean more union power not less

“Ed Miliband’s union reforms were supposed to prevent another Falkirk. But they won’t. In fact, they as good as guarantee that the scandal will be repeated. Instead of a few hundred new members being recruited to Labour’s ranks, Len McCluskey and his allies plan to deploy a whole army. And next time, it may not be over the selection of a single MP. It may be over the selection of a future Labour leader — perhaps even a future leader of our country.” – Dan Hodges Daily Mail

  • The long withdrawing roar of trade unionism – Daniel Finkelstein The Times(£)

>Today: Mark Field on Comment:A Miliband Government really would take us back to the Sixties

Labour start new Quango row – this time over CQC

“The Government has been accused of politicising the hospitals watchdog after the chair of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) called for more private sector involvement in the NHS. David Prior, a former Tory MP who served as the party’s chief executive and deputy chairman, had said in an article in a Sunday newspaper that the NHS was in need of “serious change” and needed “more competition to drive up standards of care; more entrants into the market from private sector companies, the voluntary sector and other care providers”. But last night Labour’s shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, told The Independent it was “not the job” of the chairman of the independent health watchdog, responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of health and social care services, to make the case for greater private sector involvement in the NHS.” – The Independent

MPs warn that the Charity Commission is “not fit for purpose”

Charity“The Charity Commission is not “fit for purpose” and has persistently failed to tackle abuses of charitable status properly, MPs have said. In a damning report, the Public Accounts Committee said it had “little confidence” in the watchdog’s ability to turn its fortunes around. The regulator failed to challenge charities about their activities and had no “coherent strategy”, it claimed.” – BBC

>Today: Think Tanks: Christopher Snowdon It’s time to stop government lobbying itself at our expense

BP warns against Scottish independence

“Oil giant BP boss Bob Dudley has warned there are “big uncertainties” for the company over the possibility of Scotland becoming independent. Mr Dudley told the BBC the “question mark” over which currency Scotland might adopt if there was a ‘yes’ vote in September’s referendum was “a concern”. However, Mr Dudley emphasised the firm was continuing to invest in Scotland.” – BBC

Obituary of Sir David Price

“Sir David Price, who has died aged 89, was a technocratic, humane and moderate Tory who served as a junior trade and aerospace minister under Macmillan, Home and Heath but spent 20 long years on the back benches after being sacked as Heath made his industrial and economic “U-turn”.” – Daily Telegraph

Prince Charles attacks flood failures

Prince Charles“Heather Venn, a beef farmer and chairman of the Flooding Levels Action Group (Flag) was among those who met the Prince in a village hall in Stoke St Gregory. She said: “I spoke to the Prince about my farm, where I have 300 acres underwater, and he was asking about how we’re going to feed our 200 cows this year and next year. “He understands farming, and the fact that he has come here and has our interests at heart is good for the community. “I would love to see Chris Smith, I would host him myself. I would like to ask him why he came here and said there would be dredging and it never happened.” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • UKIP MEP says Muslims should sign charter rejecting violence – The Guardian
  • Scottish equal marriage bill passed – BBC
  • Sir Gerald Howarth defends Aidan Burley – The Sun(£)
  • Osborne says claim that independent Scotland could retain sterling has been “demolished” – The Scotsman
  • UKIP Kidnap gang boss was previously Conservative Party member – BBC
  • Brussels is trying to bury the City – Nigel Farage City AM
  • War on drugs unwinnable says Clegg – The Times(£)
  • Alcohol price floor announced – BBC

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