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Allegra Stratton, Political editor, Newsnight

Allegra Stratton Political editor, BBC Newsnight

Right now, somewhere in Whitehall or Westminster, politicians are discussing changes that are going to affect your life - I will try to give you a sense of what is being said and why

Lib Dems 'ignored chance to soften bedroom benefits cut impact'

17 July 2014
Row of terraced houses
The policy is known as the "spare room subsidy" by supporters...

The Lib Dems were given the chance in March to soften the impact of benefit cuts for people judged to have too many bedrooms, BBC Newsnight has been told.

As Nick Clegg's party announces it will seek to change the policy in this coalition, or pledge to do so in its next manifesto, Newsnight understands there was an opportunity within government for the Lib Dems to amend the policy four months ago.

Options were drawn up by civil servants and presented to both coalition parties that would have allowed councils to cushion the impact of cuts under the policy - what supporters refer to as the "spare room subsidy", but which critics have dubbed the "bedroom tax".

The civil service proposed the lifting of a cap on something called discretionary housing payments (DHPs), which would have allowed councils greater flexibility to help people struggling because of the penalty.

Vulnerable groups

The Lib Dems are accused by government officials of ignoring this suggestion.

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Allegra added analysis to:

Lib Dems accused of 'hypocrisy' over bedroom benefit rules

17 July 2014

The Lib Dems were given the chance in March to soften the impact of benefit cuts for people judged to have too many bedrooms, BBC Newsnight has been told. As Nick Clegg's party announces it will seek to change the policy in this coalition, or pledge to do so in its next manifesto, Newsnight understands there was an opportunity within government for the Lib Dems to amend the policy four months ago.

Read full article

Francis Maude attacks civil service over job document

7 July 2014
Whitehall sign

The Cabinet Office minister has accused the civil service of drafting a job description for permanent secretaries without "constitutional propriety".

The document sets out the qualities for permanent secretaries, who are the UK's most powerful government officials.

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Ministers warned of decrease in house building

2 July 2014
Work on a new housing development
The PM said in January that new housing starts were up 16%

The government is exploring emergency measures to kick-start house-building, amid an expected decrease in new build this year, BBC Newsnight has learned.

In leaked documents, officials warn the last set of figures before the 2015 general election will reveal house building to have decreased by 4%.

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A pregnant pause

26 November 2013

Newsnight's political editor is currently on maternity leave and this blog will not be updated for a while.

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Plan to divert benefits of troubled families scrapped

26 September 2013
Boy on bike rides past boarded-up shop
The Troubled Families Programme was launched in the wake of the England riots

A plan to put benefits paid to some of Britain's most troubled families under their caseworker's control has been shelved, BBC Newsnight has learned.

The Downing Street Conservative Policy Unit wanted to give managers of the Troubled Families Programme more power to prevent the misuse of payments.

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Conservatives 'considering ways to raise minimum wage'

2 September 2013
Pound coins
In 2012 there were 1.4 million workers earning the national minimum wage

The Conservative party is examining ways to raise the national minimum wage, BBC Newsnight has learned.

Measures being considered include offering tax breaks to companies paying a wage level higher than the current national minimum of £6.19 an hour.

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Tories hire Obama campaign chief Jim Messina

2 August 2013
Jim Messina and President Obama
A fellow presidential aide described Jim Messina as "the most powerful person in Washington you've never heard of"

The Conservative Party has hired Barack Obama's campaign manager Jim Messina for its general election campaign team, BBC Newsnight has learned.

Sources confirmed that he would act as a campaign strategy adviser to the Conservative party.

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Senior politicians unite to issue call for data bill

13 June 2013

Senior politicians from across the political divide have united to call for UK security services to be given greater internet monitoring powers.

In a letter to The Times newspaper three former Labour home secretaries, three senior Tories and one Liberal Democrat urge changes.

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Nick Clegg 'to block childcare ratio reforms'

8 May 2013

Nick Clegg has told Conservatives he will block government reforms to adult-child ratio limits for childcarers, BBC Newsnight has learned.

In meetings over recent days he said he could no longer back the plan to increase the number of children nursery staff and child-minders can look after.

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About Allegra

Allegra has worked in Westminster for a decade. She arrived via an unusual route, studying archaeology and anthropology which took her to banana plantations in east Africa, a monastery high in the Alps and the permafrost of Siberia. She started writing about these projects, and was soon hooked on reporting.

She went on to work for the Times newspaper's war desk in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the BBC - including two years as a producer on Newsnight - and then the Guardian newspaper where she was political correspondent and a columnist.

In 2005 Allegra travelled to the Middle East to report on what was then an underreported phenomenon - how the fact that two-thirds of the population were under the age of 25 was changing politics in the region. She might say she had predicted the Arab Spring, except she didn't. Her resulting book, Muhajababes, was a best-seller in the Middle East.

Allegra's job means she has to turn her hand to any story, but her particular interests are these: how skilled is the UK, how will people make a livelihood now and in years to come and so find a place in the world.

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