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No snort report...
No snort report

Respect has been due in recent months to the Local Government Association's press office, which has successfully raised the profile of local government by jumping on every bandwagon in town.

Barely has a flake of snow fallen from the sky without the LGA reminding the public, through the national press, that it is councils who operate gritting lorries. And no sooner has a parent pulled up outside a school on the yellow zigzag lines than the LGA brings out a press release warning that lives could be lost.

So LGC was most dismayed to be confronted with a wall of silence when Rolling Stone Keith Richards announced that he had snorted his late father's ashes. Had public health spokesman David Rogers (Lib Dem) not been briefed on the dangers of father snorting?

Missing such a glaring open goal in the quest for publicity harked miserably back to the bad old days.


When Michael Grade became chairman of the BBC in 2004, it was a great excuse for the media to wheel out his 'pornographer-in-chief' nickname, earned for commissioning Eurotrash, The Word and similar late-night output for Channel 4 in the 1990s.

Of course, new chairman Sir Michael Lyons is also known for his experience as a chief, although, for most, Birmingham City Council doesn't have quite the same titillating ring to it.


First we learn Sheffield City Council chief executive Sir Robert Kerslake is a big hip hop fan (LGC, 22 March) and now we hear of councillors watching rap videos to understand youth culture.

Warwickshire CC's press release conjures up an arresting mental image, with one member saying: 'It was the first time rap videos have been played at a committee meeting and it was an important first step forward for the committee in terms of engaging young people and understanding issues from their perspective.'

It turns out they weren't tuned in to MTV, the videos were specially made by local youngsters on the subjects of drugs, alcohol and teenage pregnancy. So if any of the next decade's major rap stars hail from Leamington Spa, you'll know how it all began.

Paying the price

One reader has got in touch to point out that far from easing the expenditure pressures on councils, unless the government acts on his recommendations, Sir Michael Lyons will only have imposed new burdens.

'I refer to the exorbitant cost of purchasing his report - which comes to a stonking£108.50 including annexes,' he says.

'Perhaps this reflects his advocacy of service charges to supplement taxation - in this case the cost of the inquiry being part funded from sales to local authorities to relieve the national exchequer,' he muses.

But with the inquiry costing a total of£1.75m, the Treasury would need to sell more than 16,000 copies to recoup its costs.

Think global, act local

Word reaches us that Lord Bruce-Lockhart (Con) is stopping off in Thailand for a hard-earned break on his way back from his local government conference in New Zealand.

After visiting a country largely populated with sheep - a model of the British government vision for councils, if ever there was one - the Local Government Association chairman is visiting a country of 76 provinces, each headed by a civil servant.

One hopes the government's efforts to thwart his quest for devolution have not overshadowed his trip.

Yet another drama looms

We gather round the Ringfencer Club's television to see young Lyons in his new role on the small screen.

Mr Gordon Brown is, it seems, filled with remorse for having ignored Lyons' local government report and, there being a shortage of spare colonial govenor-generalships, has recompensed him with the chair of the BBC Trust.

This carries the distinction of having a costume drama made in one's honour, and thus Lyons - report man will soon grace our screens. Audiences will thrill as Lyons uses guile, martial arts and a lethal weapon hidden under civic regalia to rescue business rates from imprisonment in Whitehall and restore them to their rightful local owners.

Charging around the land in his solar-powered Lyonsmobile, our hero slays the council tax, presents powers to councillors and earns their pathetic gratitude by giving them all an extra 4p.

This is clearly all wild fantasy, but I'm told it follows on from his report, which was designed only as escapist entertainment for local government.

Turning over a new leaf?

I see the Local Government Association is to create a think tank to publish original works, and I have glimpsed its publication list. It includes:

Give us more powers, by Lord Bruce-Lockhart.

Give us more money, also by his lordship.

Give us more money and powers, a report by Professor Sid Corduroy, (somewhat curiously subtitled 'what findings do you want, after all, you're paying').

Labour group leader - a job for life, by Sir Jeremy Beecham.

Let's have mayors everywhere, oh, um, I see what you mean about Doncaster, by Chris Leslie.

I must place an order with my bookseller.

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