18 January 2008
The Parliamentary commissioner for standards, John Lyon, has confirmed that he is to launch an investigation into the funding row involving Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain following a complaint by Tory MP David Davies. Hain could face suspension from the Commons if he is found to have flouted the rules on members' interests. Amid calls for Hain's resignation, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said his fate would be decided by officials investigating his actions. Hain blamed 'poor administration' for his failure to declare political donations totalling £103,000 made to his campaign for the Labour deputy leadership.
The government spent more than £160,000 on external legal advice for civil servants as part of the 'cash for honours' inquiry, Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell has told MPs. In a letter to Tony Wright, chair of the Commons public administration select committee, O'Donnell says there is no estimate of the total cost of the investigation because it would be impossible to quantify the time officials spent dealing with it. It 'would not be appropriate', he adds, to release names of civil servants who received legal advice — costed at a total of £160,512.83p — since no charges were brought.
The Scottish Parliament has agreed to a proposal that local council and Holyrood elections should be held on different days. This was the main recommendation of the independent report into the chaos that marred the 2007 elections, when about 140,000 ballot papers were rejected. The inquiry, headed by independent expert Ron Gould, criticised the running of the May polls, saying that voters were 'treated as an afterthought'. Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie said that holding the elections on the same day was 'the biggest folly' behind the fiasco. 'The Scottish Conservatives firmly believe this decoupling will increase local government accountability,' she added.
Cabinet Office Minister Ed Miliband and Children, Schools and Families minister Beverley Hughes have published a report aimed at encouraging local services to improve support for disadvantaged families. The report — Think family: improving the life chances of families at risk — published by the Social Exclusion Task Force on January 10, 'will ensure adult services support whole families and not just individuals', they said. The ministers also announced the allocation of £16m for local pilot programmes led by the DCSF.
The Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library was the busiest public library in England in 2007, new figures produced by CIPFA show. With more than 1.5 million visits, the Norwich city centre library was just ahead of Birmingham Central Library. Manchester Central Library and Croydon Central Library were third and fourth, both with more than a million visits. Julian Mund, director of operations at CIPFA, said: 'This survey illustrates clearly the major role libraries still play in the cultural life of our towns and cities.'
Third sector organisations must do more to encourage take-up of pension schemes among their employees, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations says. Research for Acevo shows that only 29% of third sector bodies run regular pension seminars. 'The need for effective employee benefits cannot be underestimated and, as the employment market becomes increasingly competitive, third sector employers must be clever about how to use their resources to attract and retain the best employees,' said Ian Bird, principal partner of Foster Denovo, Acevo's employee benefits adviser.