The Conservative Treasury team are holding talks on handing responsibility to local councils for setting and distributing benefits such as the jobseeker’s allowance. Speaking at a conference organised by the New Local Government Network in London, the shadow chief secretary, Philip Hammond, disclosed that he was holding talks on the issue with Conservative councils, including Kent. Under the proposal benefits would be lower where it was easier to find work. Councils would also be given incentives to help people find jobs. The plan has not yet appeared in any formal document. At the same conference John Denham, the communities secretary, put his faith in Total Place, a scheme that aims to drive out duplication and increase partnership working. ‘Local people will rightly be intolerant if they are told that frontline services will be cut when their council hasn’t taken tough decisions to introduce shared services, sharing senior staff with other local authorities, PCTs or other bidders, or through making the best use of public buildings,’ he said.