POLITICS
04/05/2018 12:02 BST | Updated 12/07/2018 23:55 BST

Five Stories You Might Have Missed In Local Elections Week

We checked so you don't have to.

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As voters across England prepared to go to the polls in this year’s local elections, the news agenda was dominated by speculation.

Would Labour sweep to victory in traditionally Conservative London boroughs?  Or would the Tories hold their ground?  And are the Lib Dems really about to see a revival of fortunes?

You can find the answers to all these questions and more in our verdict on the results so far. 

But for those suffering a chronic case of election fatigue, here’s a list of stories you may have missed amid the build-up and analysis:

1. Youth offending cash delayed

There are fears the government is planning to slash much-needed cash to tackle youth offending, after ministers failed to confirm funding for the Youth Justice Board (YJB) for this year.

The YJB is responsible for specialist teams of youth workers who spend time in communities helping to turn children and young people away from a life of crime. 

London is currently in the grip of a violent crime crisis, with Met Police launching their 60th murder investigation of the year this week following the death of a man at Queensbury Tube station.

Sadiq Khan, the capital’s mayor, said the delay showed the government was “desperately weak on the causes of crime”.

Central government funding for youth offending teams has been halved since 2010, from £145m in 2010/11 to £72m in 2017/18 – and concern is now building that the next pot of money could be smaller still.

Justice Secretary David Gauke promised to confirm this year’s funding settlement after the local elections, so watch this space.

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Justice secretary David Gauke

2. Syrian civilian death

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson admitted a civilian was killed in RAF strikes on Syria earlier this year.

The Ministry of Defence said three missiles were fired at Islamic State targets and a civilian on a motorbike entered the target area at the same time. 

In a written statement on Wednesday, Williamson said: “We do everything we can to minimise the risk to civilian life from UK strikes through our rigorous targeting processes and the professionalism of UK service personnel.

“It is, therefore, deeply regrettable that a UK airstrike on 26 March 2018, targeting Daesh [Isis] fighters in eastern Syria, resulted in an unintentional civilian fatality.

“During a strike to engage three Daesh fighters, a civilian motorbike crossed into the strike area at the last moment and it is assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed.”

The debate around the UK’s intervention in Syria intensified last month, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemning the government’s actions.

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Gavin Williamson

3. MPs blasted over tuition fees 

Money-saving expert Martin Lewis gave politicians both barrels in an overlooked appearance on BBC Question Time shortly after polls closed on Thursday. 

In a heated discussion about student finance and education, he criticised Labour’s Chi Onwurah for claiming university students could find themselves saddled with up to £57,000 worth of debt.

“Don’t tell them that,” Lewis told the MP.

“You making your political point - you put off young people from under-priviliged backgrounds from going to university - with a fear of debt - by framing it as a debt, when you know it doesn’t work like that.

“Politicians need to take responsibility. Your political football, that you and all the parties have used, has mis-educated a generation about how student finance works.”

Lewis, who won applause from audience members for his outburst, hosts a student finance ‘myth-busting’ section on his website.

4. Sky/Fox merger

Culture secretary Matt Hancock revealed he will soon be making a decision on whether a proposed merger between broadcast giants Sky and Fox goes against the public interest.

After receiving a final report from the Competition and Markets Authority on Rupert Murdoch’s bid to expand his media empire, the cabinet minister said he would confirm the government’s position within 30 days. 

“My decision will be on whether the merger operates or may be expected to operate against the public interest, taking into account the specified public interest considerations of media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards,” he said in a written statement.

“When I have reached a decision I will return to Parliament to make an oral statement. I will come to a view on whether to make a final order or accept any final undertakings in due course, and will consult on these publicly, but not before I have taken a decision on the public interest tests.”

An announcement is due by June 13. 

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Matt Hancock will report back to the Commons next month

5. Home Office protest

In an ongoing battle to stop the NHS sharing confidential patient data with immigration enforcers, dozens of doctors descended on the Home Office to make their feelings known. 

The GPs, nurses and midwives mocked up one of Theresa May’s controversial ‘go home’ vans as part of a protest organised by charity Doctors of the World and campaign group 38 degrees. 

They want the government to put an end to its memorandum of understanding with NHS Digital, which allows officials investigating illegal immigration to request confidential details obtained via medical records, including addresses, to help them trace suspects.

“It is essential that we protect the boundaries of patient confidentiality,” said Doctors of the World president Tim Dudderidge.

“For us it is of great concern that patients with serious health needs are scared of attending NHS services because they fear the Home Office.

“Doctors should not be prevented from caring for patients in need in this way.”