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DIARY - TOULMIN SMITH

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Caroline Spellman only just has her feet under the table as shadow secretary of state for local and devolved govern...
Caroline Spellman only just has her feet under the table as shadow secretary of state for local and devolved government affairs, but the indications are that she shouldn't make herself too comfortable.

Ms Spellman's performance in the job has been seen as less than stellar, and pundits are already predicting the end of her tenure.

Aberdeen City Council has gained the reputation of being a curmudgeonly sort of place, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Take, for example, the soft-hearted folk at the council, who have refused to release the scores of a children's bowls tournament in a bid to spare the blushes of the youngsters concerned. So far, the council's circumspection has earned it nothing but a volley of brickbats from all and sundry.

I think it is to be warmly congratulated. These days, it seems you can hardly get up in the morning without being ruthlessly graded, named and shamed.

Alex Aldridge (Lab), new leader of the Welsh Local Government Association, is only too aware of the perils of neglecting your home patch.

In Scotland, 'the curse of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities' was blamed for a slew of high-profile casualties in the last local elections.

But with the Welsh Local Government Association now a model of political balance,

Mr Aldridge will have his work cut out providing strong leadership for the organisation while keeping a close eye on events in Flintshire.

Pandemonium ruled council offices across the land, thanks to a seemingly innocent missive from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on creating sustainable communities.

When the recipients found not one but two copies of this august publication in their inbox, they might have imagined there had been some duplication on the mailing list.

But then it arrived again. And again.

A couple of hours later, they were flooding in faster than anyone could delete them. Computers jammed and new social networks were established, as colleagues up and down the country sought to out-do each other on the number of copies they had received.

Eventually IT departments came to the rescue, the virus was traced and peace was restored.

So, after all that palaver, what was the verdict on the magazine?

'Too many pictures of John Prescott and I couldn't find the sports section,' says my source. 'One copy was definitely enough.'

Residents of Pheasant Street in Worcester signed a petition complaining about a pestilential ditch and the state of the drainage in the area.

Worcester City Council's response? To await a report from a consultant on the general drainage needs of the city. Given this happened in 1854, I strongly suspect this was the first use of consultants by local government. Unless, of course, anyone has evidence to the contrary.

Look out for an arresting cover on an imminent Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers publication.

The document is a survey of Solace members, and the image is of a group of penguins clustering together on arock.

The symbolism is that it's a cold world and Solace members can find warmth in huddling together.

Penguins' natural predators include seals and killer whales - a pretty good metaphor for local politicians.

Back in the Granite City, I hear that Aberdeen City Council has been forced to repaint road markings at a zebra crossing after motorists mistook the lines on the chevron for extra parking spaces.

And finally . . . I see Southwark LBC is looking to use chip fat as fuel for its fleet of vehicles. I only hope it is used in the right plaice - or it cod cause the council a real haddock

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