Headlines: March 23rd, 2006

Local Government leaders have given a generally cautious welcome to measures unveiled by Gordon Brown in his tenth budget. The Chancellor has also been applauded by the voluntary sector for showing his commitment to its role but doctors are dismayed that there was no mention of their pay settlement.Mr. Brown’s announcement that local; communities are to keep more of the money raised by house building was greeted by the Chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart, as a step in the right direction but Sir Sandy said more needed to be done. “The LGA still wants to make sure that all of the revenue raised from development will be retained locally and that none of the money will be transferred to Whitehall before being redistributed to the local area,” he said.

Similarly, the Budget announcement of a greater focus of resources on education got a guarded reception from Les Lawrence, who chairs the LGA’s children and young people board. Any extra money going to schools was a big help, he said, but while it was putting money directly into schools, the Government should not forget the other services that made up a child’s environment. “It is these services and organisations that must work closely with schools to deliver the Every Child Matters agenda,” Councillor Lawrence said.

The LGA was more open in its welcome for the proposed extra funding for the Olympics and the creation of a national sports foundation. It sees the Olympics as a huge opportunity for the whole nation, not just London, and said it was encouraging to see investment in young athletes and the new foundation that would encourage the grassroots take-up of sport.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, meanwhile, welcomed Mr. Brown’s decision to establish an Office of Third Sector Finance within the Treasury. NCVO Chief Executive Stuart Etherington said it demonstrated the Government’s commitment to the voluntary and community sector and acknowledged the important and wide-ranging role played by voluntary organisations. The NCVO had called for a minister with responsibility for the sector and the new office, Mr. Etherington said, would go a considerable way towards meeting this ambition.

The British Medical Association was much less happy that with only 10 days to go to the doctors’ pay settlement there was still no announcement about it. Deputy chairman Dr Sam Everington said the Chancellor had referred to a two and a quarter per cent average increase for public sector pay settlements this year but did not mention doctors who were in the frontline providing patient care and delivering NHS targets.

There was support from the biggest public sector union, UNISON, for the news that support services will no longer be handed over to private companies as part of Private Finance Initiative projects.