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DIARY-TOULMIN SMITH

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The Times journalist Peter Riddell, speaking at the Local Government Association conference, rubbished local govern...
The Times journalist Peter Riddell, speaking at the Local Government Association conference, rubbished local government secretary Stephen Byers and local government minister Nick Raynsford's vision of themselves as 'demanding friends'.
'An interesting concept,' he said. 'Do they regard Gordon Brown as a 'demanding friend'?
'If you look at it that way round you can see how meaningless it is.'
Rhondda Cynon Taff CBC has had to pay compensation to a sexton accused of moonlighting as a pallbearer.
Unison took up the case of Paul Williams and won£54,715 for unfair dismissal at the Cardiff employment tribunal.
Mr Williams had worked for the council for 24 years when he was dismissed last year following allegations he was moonlighting for his son's undertaking firm.
Unison regional officer Pat McCarthy said the case was extraordinary, not just because of the size of the award but because Mr Williams had been sacked previously by the same council in 1994 and had been reinstated following an industrial tribunal case.
Mr Williams said: 'I have lost my trust and confidence in my employer - they did not do the right thing by me. I attended funerals of my friends and relatives - who wouldn't?'
A foul film
Staff from Houghton Regis Town Council are to hide in parks and beauty spots to try and film dog owners standing idly by as their pets foul in public.
People refusing to clear up the mess will be prosecuted and face a fine of up to£1,000 as part of the scheme to tackle the problem.
Pat Hamil (Lib Dem) said: 'We are checking to make sure there are no legal problems with us filming people and using that footage as evidence. It's in the early stages, but I'm confident this will work.'
With the inquiry into teachers' workloads well underway, many an outspoken teacher has felt encouraged to vent the most extreme of demands in reaction to the challenges of their job.
Head teacher Sylvia Moore was imprisoned in her office by parents after she refused to allow their 11-year old daughter to wear a nose stud at school.
Both parents have received nine-month prison sentences.
Ms Moore is calling for legal reform to allow children to be excluded for their parents' bad behaviour.
Gosport BC is being forced to replace road signs because they show maximum road widths in metres rather than feet.
John Bowles, who represented the
UK Independence Party in the election, wrote to the council demanding the sign be removed.
He said: 'The reason this campaign is being conducted is because the government is gradually imposing metrification on the country through
the back door. This Tory council is no better in allowing these signs to be erected.'
The metric signs breach the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions Act 1994 which states they should be shown in feet.
A spokeswoman for the council said: 'The mistake was made because the signs are not standard road signs. As they are width restriction signs they can have metric measurements, but they must also have the imperial ones.'
Compared to the somewhat unpopular poll tax, the council tax system seems successful, but changes are afoot.
The finance white paper is likely to introduce alterations to council tax discounts for empty properties and second homes.
This will mean more cash for councils but Local Government Association finance director Neil Kinghan greeted the news with muted enthusiasm.
'Even though you might support
a policy, that doesn't mean it's right,'
he joked.
On closer inspection
At the Local Government Association conference Liverpool City Council member Richard Kemp suggested best value inspection was a tale of two inspectors.
You desperately hope you will get the sharp penetrating intellect and gravitas of Inspector Morse, he said.
Instead, you get a 'bumbling, stumbling Inspector Clouseau, unable in a week because of lack of experience and time to get to grips with your problems, coming up with league table assessments which are eagerly accepted by your local newspaper'.
Best value inspectors really must stop inadvertently smashing up every council premise they visit - and above all stop referring to themselves as 'officers of the leur'.
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