News Council tax set to rise by as much as five per cent

The amount paid by households towards the cost of policing looks set to rise by up to five per cent this year as the Government faces a potential show down with its flagship Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) who are demanding above inflation increases in council tax to combat swingeing budget cuts.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visiting a nursery in London last year

Improve nursery provisions before expanding free places, government warned

Ministers have been urged to delay expanding their plan to provide free nursery provision for two-year-olds until existing provision is brought up to scratch.

Rise in ‘funeral poverty’ means more than 100,000 in UK cannot afford to die

Damning study says there is a lack of support to help Britain’s poorest pay for funerals

A woman pulls her dog in a boat at the Abbey Fields caravan park after the River Thames flooded on 8 January 8.

Government gives councils almost £7m to help deal with flood damage

The Local Government Authority said the repairs will increase financial pressure facing local authorities

Be quick on your feet and check out your gym contract before you get signed up

Savvy Money: Sign up to a gym contract as supple as you aim to be

If your resolution to fight the flab weakens, the only pounds you lose may be in health club bills

Renewal says that millions of people have been priced out of the housing market and that the 300,000 homes a year target should include allowing local authorities to build more social housing

Building new homes to trump Labour is key to winning the election, Tories told

The Conservatives are being urged to trump Labour by promising to build 300,000 new homes a year, in an attempt to shed their “party of the rich” image.

Toxic waste was left at the site of Corby’s former steel works

Funding axed for clean-up of toxic land

Polluted sites could go untreated as cash-strapped councils have to foot the bill to investigate possible contamination

Why drivers’ road rage is misplaced

Two topics guaranteed to get drivers steamed up are the cost of parking and the number of potholes in their streets. But many motorists who direct their incentive at “profiteering” town halls probably do not realise that much of the cash they put into ticket machines is ultimately used to repair local roads and upgrade public transport. It simply cannot be used to reduce council debts or subsidise other services.

The MP Louise Ellman branded the use of parking fines to raise revenue unacceptable and illegal

Councils make £600m profit from parking tickets

Councils across England have been accused of implementing “an unacceptable mass ticketing culture” after the release of figures showing that car parking charges have generated £600m of surplus profit in the past year.

Protesters have been very vocal about the so-called 'bedroom tax'; here pictured outside the LibDem conference

One third of disabled people asking for help with ‘bedroom tax’ have applications rejected

Critics say there is a ‘postcode lottery’ for grants meant to protect the vulnerable

The plans have been described by Labour as turning Eric Pickles into Whitehall’s ‘censor’in-chief’

Councils could be banned from using 'bedroom tax' phrase in move to veto contentious language

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles could be given power to put a blue pencil through any language with which he disagrees, critics claim

Simon Calder: Sir Howard Davies has tight-rope walked the line between Cameron and Boris over airport expansion

Ruling out all Thames Estuary options at this stage would have fuelled that political battle rather than allowing the Airports Commission diligently to evaluate each of the three short-listed options

Over 3,000 people are still living as patients in hospitals, one year on from Government commitments to transform adult social care in the wake of the Winterbourne View abuse scandal

One in five patients with learning disabilities live in hospitals 100km or more from their families

Thousands of patients still live in hospitals, a year on from Government promises to transform adult social care

In some rural areas, almost every bus route is subsidised by the local council, and these are vulnerable as funding cuts bite further

Buses in crisis: Cuts see routes dwindle - despite people using them more than all other forms of public transport in Britain

In bigger towns and cities only one service in 20 receives support, while in some rural areas almost every bus is subsidised

Pedal power: British cyclist Elizabeth Armitstead

Women cyclists face an uphill climb to attract sponsors

An event featuring some of the biggest names in the sport is struggling to find funding. Is it because the riders are female?

Minimum wage must be enforced on pay-cheat bosses, says think tank

Tougher action is needed to enforce the national minimum wage and tackle rogue employers who refuse to pay the statutory rate, a new report has urged.

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Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?