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DIARY - TOULMIN SMITH

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Has anyone else noticed that the High Hedges Bill, giving councils the powers to curb leylandii hedges in back gard...
Has anyone else noticed that the High Hedges Bill, giving councils the powers to curb leylandii hedges in back gardens, was tabled by Baroness Gardner of Parkes?

Can we expect an anti-litter Bill proposed by Lord Sweeper of Rhodes?

Local Government Association chief executive Sir Brian Briscoe has something of a reputation as a tough guy of local government.

His sway over anyone who he has ever employed is legendary.

An anecdote about former Suffolk CC chief executive Lin Homer, who worked at Hertfordshire, is revealing.

She had just got the job as chief executive of Birmingham City Council. According to witnesses, she was to be seen dashing through last year's annual LGA conference, clearly on her way somewhere, and when hailed refused to stop for a chat.

She explained: 'I'm being a runner for Brian - I need to deliver a message.' After saying this, she hesitated, thought for a few seconds, and added: 'This has got to stop.'

The latest edition of Employment matters, the quarterly online magazine of the Employers' Organisation, contains a curious human resources conundrum.

Its employment advice page includes a number of scenarios from EO files.

One is particularly remarkable: 'One of our staff is expecting a baby in May, and we have received separate applications to take paternity leave from the woman's estranged husband, her lesbian partner with whom she shares a house and the child's biological father. Which one, if any, is eligible for the leave?'

In today's times, all this is quite normal. And one hardly needs to bring in King Solomon to solve it - the answer is the lesbian partner gets the leave, as she will have the main caring responsibility of the three contenders.

But that they should all work for the same council? Now that would make for an interesting Christmas party.

Hardial Bhogal, whose determination as chief executive to revive the fortunes of Walsall MBC foundered on the rocks of dysfunctional politics, is back in the fray, focusing on what he excels at - urban regeneration. Widely admired for his achievements at Wolverhampton by colleagues such as Sir Michael Lyons, he is greatly looking forward to new challenges.

Retiring Audit Commission controller Sir Andrew Foster said in a recent LGC interview that one of the low points of his 10-year rein was losing the NHS value for money work to the Commission for Health Improvement last year. As he departs, there are indications that under chair James Strachan, health could once again be a significant area of interest for the commission.

A senior person in the Department of Health claims ministers punished Sir Andrew for crossing the line between being independent and being awkward. If that is the case, let's hope that awkwardness is written into the job description of the new controller, and the DoH is denied its wish to have a poodle as a watchdog.

If you wish to disseminate any gossip, please e-mail me on

joshua.toulminsmith@lgc.emap.com

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