Regeneration in the newspapers: Minister struggles with Big Society concept

Reports of a pending rebellion over housing benefit caps and a minister's questioning of the Big Society agenda feature in our round up of today's newspapers.

The coalition Government is facing its first major rebellion after the Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes said he could not support proposals to reform housing benefit, according to the Daily Telegraph. The newspaper reports that Hughes said he would vote against proposals to dock benefit payments by up to ten per cent from unemployed claimants out of work for over a year.

Most people do not understand what the Prime Minister’s Big Society idea actually means, a Conservative minister has claimed. The Daily Telegraph reports on a speech to the House of Lords by children’s minister Tim Loughton, in which he said although the term was a "buzz phrase" for charities and voluntary groups, even ministers struggled with the concept. "What actually is the Big Society let alone is it good or not? Exactly how big is it going to be? Is it in fact Ann Widdecombe," the newspaper quotes Loughton as saying.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports on research revealing that charitable giving by Britain’s wealthiest families stalled last year. The newspaper says this throws into question the Big Society concept and its emphasis on individual and charitable activity replacing the state’s role in providing public services.

Celebrity chef and food campaigner Jamie Oliver is preparing for a showdown with health secretary Andrew Landsley over government plans to abolish the school meals grant, the Times reports. According to the newspaper, Oliver will meet the Landsley later this week to challenge the scrapping of £240 million grant. Introduced by the last government, the grant was aimed at improving the quality of food on offer in school canteens.

Property company Hammerson is drawing up revised plans to regenerate Leeds city centre, the Yorkshire Post reports. The company will shortly submit a planning application for the Eastgate Quarter, a retail-led scheme that stalled during the recession. The scheme could create 4,000 jobs, the company claims.

Land in Britain is falling steadily out of the ownership of the aristocracy and under the control of government bodies, charitable organisations and businesses, according to the Daily Telegraph. The newspaper reports on a survey by Country Life magazine revealing that whereas 100 years ago private families and the Church of England owned the most land, today the Forestry Commission and National Trust count among Britain’s biggest landowners.

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