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BACKCHAT - TOULMIN SMITH

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On Macca's farm ...
On Macca's farm

Rother DC has ordered a prominent resident to allow the local countryside to get back to how it once belonged.

Sir Paul McCartney claims he can't live another day with the noise he gets at his farm - he needs a place to hideaway and built a secluded log cabin.

Councillors weren't swayed by his retrospective planning application. Instead of letting it be, they've ordered Sir Paul to demolish it. It is hoped things aren't getting bitter but the committee stopped short of saying they can work it out.

Miliband hit by sneeze scandal

He's the young upstart allegedly considering challenging Gordon Brown in the race to be the next PM but poor David Miliband's been looking a trifle jaded.

While Mr Brown basks in the glow of impending fatherhood, the minister for communities and local government has been beset by a series of bugs.

Mr Miliband was forced to apologise for his croakiness during his speech to the New Local Government Network - just weeks after suffering the same fate at the launch of the review of the Greater London Authority's powers.

But unlike Charles Kennedy, the clean-living Mr Miliband's illnesses are for real.

Carry on councils

The Standards Board for England has entered the film industry with a DVD called Going local aimed at local standards committees.

It features a fictional councillor who has not declared an interest in a planning application.

What others films might the board make? How about Carry on probing, a bawdy romp starring board chair Sir Anthony Holland in the Charles Hawtrey role, and an ethical standards officer as Kenneth Williams? Any other suggestions for Standards Board bad acting to the usual address.

Watch out Prezza

Rumours abound on the hasty departure of polymath James Strachan from the Audit Commission chair shortly after his re-appointment. Famously independently-minded, did he have a terminal fall out with John Prescott, like his predecessor, Dame Helena Shovelton?

The question might soon be answered. Mr Strachan has accepted a fellowship at the London School of Economics. His brief? To research relationships between the Audit Commission and central government.

Grave concern

Cannock Chase DC has announced two open days at its cemeteries at which the public may see 'demonstrations of how safety testing of headstones is undertaken'. This follows a warning from the Heath and Safety Executive that in the past five years, six people have perished in 'memorial stability' incidents.

Pyramid of piffle

As a viewer of BBC's Balderdash and Piffle about the origin of words, we are indebted to Uttlesford DC for the information that the first known use of the word 'balderdash' was in its civic seat of Saffron Walden. Its original meaning was a froth or frothy liquid and it was used by Tudor poet Thomas Nashe in his 1596 satirical poem Have with you to Saffron Walden.

Route to success

Bob Kiley's successor as Commissioner of Transport for London is Peter Hendy. He joined TfL as a bus conductor. Much has been made of his meteoric rise. But local government also has a distinguished ex-clippie: Chris Duffield, clerk of the Corporation of London. He honed his negotiating skills collecting fares from Newcastle's drunks.

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