Newspaper headlines: Flood taxes, school veils, GP closures and Dad's Army film

Tax increases to fund flood defences and advice on veils in schools are among the stories making front page headlines.

The Daily Telegraph reports on a warning from ministers that people who live in flood regions face higher council tax bills to pay for new defences.

Councils would be able to increase bills by £15 a year, the paper explains, on top of previously sanctioned rises.

The move is based on a scheme in Somerset which Environment Secretary Liz Truss described as "a very good model".

The Telegraph says: "Ms Truss made the comments as homeowners throughout the country prepared for further floods as Storm Jonas brought misery to areas still recovering from Christmas flooding.

"Last night it was confirmed that councils in Cumbria were also looking at the option of raising money through local taxation to fund defences."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The remnants of Storm Jonas have begun to sweep across Britain

However, Labour peer Lord Clark of Windermere criticised the idea, saying that "passing the buck" to local authorities was "irresponsible" and "upsetting" for flood victims.

The Guardian says Ms Truss told the environment select committee that government scientists were looking to see if they had underestimated the impact of global warming on flooding.

Meanwhile, the Times describes how the village of Glenridding in Cumbria was flooded for the fourth time this winter as the remnants of Storm Jonas swept across Britain.

"Fire services were forced to intervene as torrential rains hit again after three floods in December," it reports.

"The owners of the local hotel said they were 'devastated, tired and defeated' after 'receiving the full brunt of the water'. The fresh deluge is threatening to swamp other areas still recovering from floods at Christmas."


Schools 'flashpoint'

The Guardian focuses on the comments of the head of Ofsted who said schools could be rated inadequate if the wearing of face veils is a barrier to learning.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said the education watchdog would support teachers who ban "inappropriate wearing" of the veil.

The Guardian notes the move drew a mixed response, with the Muslim Council of Britain accusing Sir Michael of being heavy-handed but the Department for Education indicating it backed his stance.

"The wearing of the niqab has been a flashpoint for some schools and colleges," says the Guardian.

"Wilshaw's announcement was criticised across the spectrum of teaching unions, including more moderate ones representing headteachers, as an assault on school autonomy."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There was a mixed response to the head of Ofsted's comments

The Times says Sir Michael said there was no place for discrimination in the classroom - but equally all schools had to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.

The Independent states: "The new policy, which would apply to all state schools in England, follows Sir Michael's comments last week that wearing the veil was 'possibly' stopping teachers and pupils from communicating properly, based on reports from Ofsted inspectors."

The Telegraph says his intervention prompted accusations that he was "picking on Muslims", and the scheme was criticised by some teachers.

The Mail says it could see some school and colleges put into special measures even if they are providing a good standard of teaching.


Prescription handling

The Times claims up to a quarter of High Street pharmacies will close as ministers slash funding and switch more of them to GP surgeries and hospitals.

The paper points out that local pharmacies rely on the NHS for 90% of their income, an average of £220,000, mainly from handling prescriptions.

A £170m cut will be imposed on High Street outlets in October, says the Times.

"Doctors said that the decision was extremely short-sighted and could deprive vulnerable patients of a trusted source of health advice," it explains.

"They claim that GP practices are already overwhelmed and could not cope with the extra influx of patients that in-house pharmacies would inevitably bring.

"However, the government insists that many areas have 'more pharmacies than are necessary to maintain good access', pointing out that 40% are part of clusters with at least three others within a 10-minute walk."

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Media captionWriter Natalie Haynes and South West News Service parliamentary correspondent Rob Merrick joined the BBC News Channel to review Wednesday's papers.

The Telegraph reports on an investigation by professional magazine Pulse which found that more than 200,000 patients may have been "displaced" after their GP surgery closed last year.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's general practitioners' committee, says it is becoming increasingly difficult for practices to cope with rising workloads.

The Telegraph says: "The government has pledged to recruit 5,000 more GPs, amid growing concern about shortages, especially in areas under pressure as a result of immigration.

"However, junior doctors are choosing not to train as family doctors. Figures show that one in three trainee GP posts for new recruits to start work in August remained vacant after the first round of recruitment."


'Strong cast'

Don't Panic! Pictures from the red carpet at the premiere of the new Dad's Army film grace many of the front pages.

The Independent says Mainwaring's men are back - and better than ever.

Sean O'Grady writes: "Permission to speak, sir? Thank you. I bring you an urgent dispatch from the front line of British comedy. Unlike Lance-Corporal Jones, I will get straight to the point.

"This celebration of Dad's Army surpasses the original. Like facing up to the Nazi menace, it took courage for me to say that, such is my reverence for the original."

He heaps praise on an "exceptionally strong cast" including Michael Gambon (Godfrey), Toby Jones (Mainwaring), Tom Courtenay (Jones) and Bill Nighy (Wilson).

Image copyright AP
Image caption Toby Jones stars as Captain Mainwaring in the new Dad's Army film

The Telegraph's Nigel Farndale says Toby Jones gives a "masterclass in comic timing" as Captain Mainwaring.

"He not only looks and sounds enough like Arthur Lowe to avoid upsetting fans of the beloved BBC TV series, but he also manages to imbue his performance with an unexpected pathos," he says.

"Michael Gambon as Private Godfrey is also perfectly cast, managing to steal scenes and raise laughs whenever he is on screen.

"But Bill Nighy, I'm afraid, is simply far too Bill Nighy-ish as Sgt Wilson and his line delivery lacks John Le Mesurier's fey charm."

Brian Viner in the Mail says that while never reaching the heights of the original TV series, it has the same gentle charm and a few bursts of inspired physical comedy.

The Sun's Grant Rollings calls it a spirited remake of a classic British comedy show with jokes delivered by great actors.

But David Edwards' review in the Mirror savages the release.

"Who do they think they are kidding?" he asks. "This all-out assault on Britain's comedy crown jewels contains all the humour of a V2 rocket attack.

"With moments of humour strictly rationed and inspiration rarer than a pair of wartime nylons, it's time for all involved in this career-killing catastrophe to panic."


'Diplomatic peril'

The Times describes how Italy spared the blushes of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani when he arrived in Rome by boarding up any nude statues that might have fallen into his line of sight.

A life-sized statue of Venus emerging from a bath was covered by panels in a room where Mr Rouhani and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gave a news conference.

"The busty marble deity was not the only diplomatic peril at the Capitoline museum in Rome," the Times continues.

"Aides travelling with Mr Rouhani also objected to their leader standing too close to a 2nd Century bronze statue of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback, because the horse's genitals were clearly visible."

Mr Rouhani also met the Pope, and this is part of how the Times imagines the conversation might have gone.

"I was wondering. Why are so many of them covered up?"

"I gather that's for decency, Mr President. We don't want to offend you."

"Yes, we Iranians are fiercely moral. Not like you decadent Italians."

"I'm from Argentina. I'm in Rome for work."