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Weekly News Round-Up: Scotland, court summons and the private sector

Alex Salmond accused of dishonesty over oil fund

Alex Salmond has faced Labour accusations of dishonesty after it emerged he was privately warned his flagship plan for an oil fund would require a separate Scotland to cut spending or increase taxes.

Opposition parties used First Minister’s Questions to contrast his public claims the proposal was affordable with a report by Scottish Government officials, which was published under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

Written by civil servants in March last year, it showed that ministers were warned about their plan to squirrel away North Sea revenues in one or more funds instead of spending them on public services. Read more

Simon Johnson | The Daily Telegraph | 10th October 2013

Up to 450,000 face court over council tax arrears

More than 450,000 people could already have received a court summons because they have fallen into arrears with their council tax payments following changes to the system, it was claimed.

Ministers have been criticised over a decision to reduce spending on council tax benefit by £500m a year from April. The Government has told local authorities to decide who should lose the cash. Critics have warned that unemployed and low-paid families will be heavily affected as benefits to the elderly are protected. They have predicted the move will increase numbers of people struggling with unmanageable debts and the threat of visits from the bailiff.

Freedom of Information (FoI) responses from 112 English town halls have disclosed that 156,500 people have received summonses as a result of changes to council tax benefit six months ago. They included 11,830 disabled people, 2,153 carers, 59 veterans and 54 war widows. Read more

Nigel Morris | The Independent | 11th October 2013

Freedom of Information Act ‘should be for private firms too’

The Freedom of Information Act should be updated to include “any body funded by the taxpayer” said a Labour councillor.

The act applies to local and central government – allowing the public to ask for details about how they work – but not to the private companies and voluntary firms who carry out work for them.

Theo Blackwell, the London Borough of Camden Council cabinet member for finance, said it meant a “complex web of private contracts” is not subject to as much scrutiny. Read more

BBC News | BBC News | 9th October 2013

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