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DIARY-RODNEY BROOKE'S ENTRE NOUS

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Mass indifference greeted most of the mayoral referendums. The exception was Brighton & Hove City Council, where th...
Mass indifference greeted most of the mayoral referendums. The exception was Brighton & Hove City Council, where the campaign took a nasty turn.

It took place against the conspicuous collapse of the privatised refuse service. Angry mobs bayed for the blood of Brighton's leader, Ken Bodfish (Lab) who inherited the crisis when he took over as leader in May.

The crisis underlines a peculiarity of British privatisation. Everything is geared to an all-or-nothing exercise. Why do we not follow the practice of American cities and let out contracts for parts of the city? Usually American councils keep one contract in house to maintain expertise. They have a readily available reserve contractor if a private operator collapses.

Why do British councils not follow suit?

Always first with the news, this column told you of ex-president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, Rob Hughes' success in the Victoria Sponge Competition of the Little Birch Horticultural Society (LGC, 12 October).

Of course Mr Hughes first achieved fame as pop singer Bobby Valentine. His full name is Robert Valentine Hughes.

Now Peter Lerner of St Albans City & DC has challenged Bobby Valentine's bona fides as a vocalist. Forty years ago, he says, pop singers were good looking. Ouch! Actually Mr Hughes was admired as one of the most handsome male chiefs. Not that he had much competition.

Let me scotch the rumours. There is plenty of evidence of Mr Hughes's singing career. Ask his contemporaries, the Moody Blues, the Blood Brothers or the Rocking Berries.

Meanwhile the trophy for his Victoria sponge was not the only mark of his achievement. The Local Government Commission for England formally celebrated his success. Chairman, Professor Malcolm Grant, observing the greatest contribution made to society by members of public bodies was in their private lives, presented Mr Hughes with a special cup in honour of his Victoria sponge cake baking achievements.

Jeremy Smith, secretary of the Local Government International Bureau, is off to Brussels after being unanimously elected secretary of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions.

In the election he defeated present incumbent, Elizabeth Gateau, who has held the job for 12 years.

The election was on the recommendation of an interview panel which included former French President Giscard d'Estaing, Pascal Maragall, powerbroker of Barcelona, and Barbel Dieckmann, executive mayor of Bonn.

British local government could never raise such an impressive selection panel. Why do the Europeans take local government so much more seriously than the British?

An apocryphal council advertised for a one-armed town clerk. Members were fed up with the last one saying 'On the one hand . . . and on the other. . .'

Now another dubious physical characteristic has been attributed to town clerks. Writing to The Western Mail, Mr Norman James of Llanbradach, says: 'Tony Blair is a coward, a liar and has more faces than the town clerk.'

So in West Wales town clerks are a byword for two-facedness or worse. At least it makes a change. Most people call them faceless wonders.

Can anyone explain this curious phenomenon?

For the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives' Ipswich Conference, the conference handbook named the hotels. It told conference goers to phone the chosen hotel direct, quoting SOLACE conference in order to get a special rate for accommodation.

Special indeed - if you did, it was£5 extra.

Central agencies increasingly rely on local government alumni. Judy Rolston, for example, is working on ethical frameworks for the Standards Board Implementation Team.

Ethics is undoubtedly her specialism - she has worked as borough solicitor to Hackney LBC and Doncaster MBC.

The new breed of elected mayors should be carpet-baggers, said ex-local government minister David Curry (LGC, 26 October).

'Let the candidates come from the media, or sport or business,' he says.

Or from the ranks of ex-ministers?

An Ex-public school pupil is suing for£150,000 after she got an E grade in her A-level Latin. Her father said: 'She has studied Latin for thousands of hours and has got nothing to show for it.'

The example could be copied. Think of the local government officers who have spent thousands of hours studying central government initiatives and have nothing to show for it.

Can they sue? Perhaps Unison could support the action?

Got any gossip?

email rodney.brooke@lgc.emap.com

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