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MP questions Whitehall urgency over Hull's City of Culture plans

Hull MP Diana Johnson spoke in Parliament today, asking if there was enough urgency to make the city's City of Culture year a success.

Diana Johnson MP questions Whitehall urgency over Hull's City of Culture plans Credit: Press Association

A year ago today the city was awarded the honour for 2017 and the man in charge of organising it says he is assembling a world class team.

But, Ms. Johnson asked for a debate on how Hull can capitalise on the status with the help of the government:

Can we please now have a debate about whether there’s enough urgency and joined-up thinking across Whitehall to ensure that this national status for Hull is being used as an opportunity to get national arts, culture and sports events to Hull.

Secondly, redress the unfair funding balance between the North and the South.

And thirdly - and most importantly actually - ensure that Hull gets our privately financed rail electrification scheme to Hull by 2017.

– Diana Johnson MP

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York Council leader steps down

The Leader of York Council has quit to take up a job in the national Labour Party.

York Council leader steps down Credit: City of York Council

James Alexander led the council when it was widely criticised over the introduction of fines for drivers crossing Lendal Bridge.

In a statement he said:

Despite recently receiving unanimous support in the Labour Group to continue and a part of me wanting to go on, I cannot fully commit to another four years. My new policy role at the national Labour Party is an opportunity I could not turn down.

I am proud of what Labour has achieved under my leadership since 2011, to turn a city in stagnation onto the path to prosperity.

– James Alexander

Full report: Protests over planned care home closures

More than a hundred protestors gathered outside Leeds Civic Hall today to try and prevent the closure of three care homes.

Leeds City Council needs to save forty-eight million pounds over the next year alone. But there was a last minute reprieve - of sorts - for the care homes in Armely, Seacroft and Morley. Adam Fowler was there

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Protests over proposed care home closures

There are protests outside Leeds Civic Hall this lunchtime, to try and prevent the closure of three care homes in the city.

Protests take place over the possible closure of three care homes Credit: PA

Councillors are meeting now to decide whether to go ahead with closures which would mean a saving of a four million pounds over the next four years.

Siegen Manor in Morley, Middlecross in Armley and The Green in Seacroft could get the axe. Permanent admissions to two more homes would also be stopped.

LGA to call for independent review after Ofsted report

The Local Government Association say they will call for an independent inquiry after a government report criticised watchdog Ofsted over its role of protecting children in Rotherham.

Protecting children from harm is one of the most important things that councils do. While some local authorities are making positive strides to protect young people, it’s clear that others have been too slow to step up to the plate and must do more to stop any cases where children could be at risk.

This report makes for uncomfortable reading and councils across the country will now be reflecting on its implications and asking questions of their staff to ensure we are doing everything possible to protect each and every child.

Preventing child sexual exploitation is incredibly complex but local authorities are not going to be able to tackle this vile crime in isolation, it needs to become everyone’s business.

We need to see better local working with the police and NHS to proactively review the processes used every day to keep children and young people safe. Schools, GP’s surgeries, charities and community groups also have a vital role in identifying and reporting any cases where children could be at risk.

In addition, councils, communities and parents need to have confidence in the Ofsted inspection regime and its role in protecting children. The LGA has called for an independent review to discover what has gone wrong with the inspectorate. It’s also vital that we move towards a process that is able to properly assess the contribution of all agencies in keeping children safe.

The exploitation of children for sexual or any other abuse has no place in society. There are lessons in this report for every community and we must all work together to stamp out this awful crime."

– Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board

Home Secretary defends PCC roles

The Home Secretary has defended the role of police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and said reforms proposed by opposition parties would be a "grave mistake".

Home Secretary defends PCC roles Credit: Press Association

Theresa May told the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners partnership summit in Harrogate that PCCs were making a difference across the country.

She said she believed turnout at the next PCC elections in 2016 would be "higher than before".

The Home Secretary described the former police authorities as "invisible committees of unknown appointees" and warned against returning to a similar arrangement.

She said: "When I hear that the Labour Party want a 'new political settlement' for policing, which would replace police and crime commissioners with a 'policing board' made up of local council leaders, or when I hear that the Liberal Democrats - who failed to even put up a candidate in South Yorkshire - propose a similar 'board' of appointed councillors, I am reminded of those dark days of invisible, unaccountable committees.

"We should call these policing boards for what they really are - police authorities by another name.

"And when we look at the positives that police and crime commissioners are bringing, we can see just why returning to a committee model would be a grave mistake."

Mrs May told the audience at the conference in Harrogate: "Our opponents said you couldn't cut police spending without crime going up. They were wrong.

"They said you couldn't cut spending without damaging the front line. They were wrong.

"They said there was no need for police reform. And they were proved wrong again.

"And they say they want to replace police and crime commissioners with invisible, unelected committees. And in that they are absolutely wrong again.

"Police and crime commissioners are providing accountable, visible leadership and making a real difference to policing locally. And for that we should all be pleased."

Mrs May said turnout in the first PCC elections was "disappointing" but said the next elections would be held in May at the same time as local authority elections.

She said: "Under this Government, more than 5.8 million votes have been cast for police and crime commissioners in total. That's 5.8 million more votes than were ever received by any police authority.

"We have every reason to believe that turnout at the next election in 2016 will be higher than before."

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