Quiet Fridays are the best sorts of days to bury bad news: or at least so the Whitehall wisdom goes. That doesn’t seem to have worked today, given that ministers’ attempts to bury three bits of awkward news have been picked up – and because it’s a relatively quiet news day, they’re getting a good amount of attention. Today is clearly a take-the-trash-out day, when ministers get rid of a load of announcements that involve them admitting they’re either doing something unpopular, or they’re not going to do something that they are supposed to be doing. Today’s trash includes:
1. The government is delaying the cap on social care costs until April 2020.
In a letter to Izzi Seccombe of the Local Government Association, Alistair Burt writes that ‘we have taken the difficult decision to delay the introduction of the cap on care costs system and that this will now be introduced from April 2020’. The cap, which would limit costs to £72,000 for the over-65s, was due to be introduced in April 2016. The Care Minister also writes that the government will delay the full introduction of the duty on local authorities to meet the needs of self-funders in care homes. Councils had worried that underfunding of the care system contributed to ‘enormous pressures’ that meant they needed a delay. There will now be a debate about whether the cap, which was a policy ministers once boasted about, really is ever feasible.
2. The government is reviewing freedom of information legislation.
The press statement on this little scheme is particularly amusing, as it starts with the words ‘we are committed to being the most transparent government in the world’. Cabinet Office Minister Lord Bridges explained in the statement that a new commission will examine whether there is an ‘appropriate public interest balance between transparency, accountability and the need for sensitive information to have robust protection’. But critics are worried that the members of that commission – Lord Burns, Jack Straw, Lord Howard, Lord Carlile and Dame Patricia Hodgson – won’t be particularly kind to the legislation. Jack Straw, for instance, has said that the Freedom of Information Act has some ‘ridiculous’ errors in its drafting.
3. Ministers gave a £3 million grant to troubled charity Kids Company, despite civil servants’ concerns.
In a letter to Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary on 29 June, Matt Hancock and Oliver Letwin thank the civil servant for his advice on the grant, saying they ’have noted your concerns about the confidence we can place in Kids Comapny’s ability and capacity to restructure in a way that will secure its long-term viability’. But, they go on to say, they’re aware of how inspirational Kids Company is, and that it has made changes in terms of its leadership, governance and so on, and so they will hand over the grant.
4. Ministers are plotting to rid London of tourists*