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BACKCHAT - TOULMIN SMITH

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Crumbs from the table...
Crumbs from the table

Councillors might receive better expenses these days but public servants at Bristol City Council have proved the days of scrimping and saving are not over.

The councillors paid the ultimate price as they struggled to find the cash to fight the menace of a seagull population explosion.

'I think I've found£25,000 by axing the biscuits,' said deputy leader Steve Comer (Lib Dem), possibly not to the delight of his colleagues.

The biscuit budget will be used to fund the dipping of the gulls' eggs in a mineral oil, making them sterile, in an attempt to stop the 17% annual increase in the feathered population.

Catch 'em young

The renewed debate on social exclusion makes one thing clear - if you are NEET your kids are likely to end up with a FASBO.

NEET is not a well-known form of mosquito repellent, but, as Tony Blair revealed this week, means 'Not in Employment, Education or Training', which means you are PDTPWTROUAAW - Probably Down The Pub While The Rest Of Us Are At Work.

And FASBO? Some wags claim Blair's 'catch 'em young' drive amounts to the issuing of Foetal ASBOs.

But will the renewed onslaught of jargon be matched by the arrival of more cash? While Blair's aims may be laudable, the reality is many councils struggle just to keep the children on its protection register safe. The likelihood of many councils being able to provide substantial and sustained support for all teenage mothers and families suffering from drug and alcohol abuse must surely

be remote.

The art of Lyons

Those fearing the Lyons Inquiry has insufficiently engaged with the public might have been by mistakenly calmed by Durham CC's website last week.

The council revealed Michael Lyons was visiting County Hall to give a talk - a talk on his work as a sculptor.

'Michael will discuss how Chinese culture has influenced his work and his recent experiences at the Mexico and Argentinian international sculpture symposiums,' the website states.

Turns out there is more than one Michael Lyons. But clouting stone with a hammer and chisel is a good a metaphor as any, as Sir Michael tries to persuade intransigent ministers of the need to reform.

It's a funeral, not a strip joint

With a good funeral attendance believed to bring the dead luck and honour, bereaved Chinese families thought they had found the ideal means of increasing attendance.

Families in Donghai

county had taken to hiring strippers who performed with snakes and removed the trousers of male mourners, increasing attendance to as many as 200 people.

However, local government has branded the performances 'obscene' and ordered all arrangements to be submitted in advance. The county has set up a hotline with a reward

for callers reporting dodgy goings on.

Give us the cash

Councils usually complain about their lack of money, but it was just as well there was none in Poggersdorf Town Hall, Austria, when an armed robber mistook the building for a bank.

He tried to hold-up staff after seeing a cash machine in an external wall of the building, but fled when a council officer told him there was no money to be had as he was in the town hall.

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