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All over the country, councils are setting up their local standards committees. ...
All over the country, councils are setting up their local standards committees.
They must include one or two non-councillor members. The government's 1998 consultation paper talked of non-political, well-respected members of the community with relevant experience. The white paper that followed proposed regional lists of suitable persons.
But now the lists seem to have evaporated. The government's latest consultation paper requires councils to advertise for lay members in local papers. These unpaid independent members could face venomous party political disputes. Who will take on such an invidious task? Where will these virtuous citizens come from? Will 'well-respected members of the community' reply to the public advertisements?
-Both favourites have fallen in the contest to succeed Sir Richard Wilson as cabinet secretary and head of the home civil service. Only a month ago, it was a two-horse race. Anointed by Sir Richard to succeed him as mandarin of mandarins was Sir David Omand, permanent secretary of the Home Office. Vying with him was the champion of the reform movement and mandarins' anathema, Sir Michael Bichard, of the Department for Education and Employment.
Suddenly they have both disappeared from the race. Stricken by sudden illness, the charming Sir David has left his post. And now the forceful Sir Michael has unexpectedly resigned. The field is open. Permanent secretaries are hastily making friends and influencing people - no fewer than eight turned up at the Society of Local Authority Chief Executive's annual dinner.
So who will get the job? The result will be crucial for local government. The new candidates could well include some with a local government connection. Ex-DETR permanent secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull, now at the Treasury, must be in the running. So might DETR permanent secretary Sir Richard Mottram.
But watch who gets the Home Office job. The successful candidate will automatically become a leading contender for the cabinet secretary's post. The appointment itself will show political approval. Despite the prime minister's wish to open up the senior civil service, both the Home Office and DfEE jobs are to be offered only to serving civil servants, denying the posts to council chief executives like Sir Michael Lyons.
But for Sir Richard's job, what about Robin Young, permanent secretary of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport? The ebullient DETR alumnus is far from a typical civil servant. He is committed to modernisation. Jumping to No 10 from his present job would be a leap too far. But he could leapfrog via the Home Office.
Once an outsider in the race for cabinet secretary, Mr Young is now starting to attract some hot money.
-Early visitors to Tate Modern on Bankside gawped at piles of builders' rubble, thinking that they were works of art. After all, if the stacks of bricks exhibited in the galleries are art, why not builders' rubble?
Free of the builders, Tate Modern now shows its first exhibition, Century City. It displays the culture of 13 cities in the 20th century, from Vienna in the 1900s to London in the 1990s.
And in the magnificent Turbine Hall, a collage shows how art recycles the media and the media recycle art. Or possibly the other way round.
A sharp-eyed reader points out that prominently displayed in the oeuvre is a cutting from the Entre Nous of 14 July 2000.
Is it a work of art? Could this column have at last achieved immortality?
-Local government officers do well in voluntary organisations. One of the most distinguished pillars of the sector is Judi Clements, chief executive of Mind. The association for mental health combines provision with lobbying.
Ex-assistant housing director in Camden, Ms Clements had a spell at the old Local Government Management Board before her nine-year stint as Mind director.
Though still only 47, ill-health has sadly forced her resignation. She will be much missed.
-Only 10 weeks ago (Entre Nous, 8 December) I corrected the story elsewhere of the death of Lord Bellwin, originator of the Bellwin rules. Sadly the story is now true. He died last month.
Irwin Bellwin was a courteous and gentle man. He held two unique records. He was the longest serving minister for local government and the only politician in recent times to switch directly from council leader to government minister.
As Tory leader of Leeds City Council, he impressed Mrs Thatcher. When the Conservatives won the 1979 election, she made him minister for local government with a seat in the Lords.
What a pity that Tony Blair did not form a similar view of a current council leader.
-Big fleas have little fleas
According to the Russian proverb, It's a thin wolf that has no fleas. These days councils are pretty lean, but they still have hangers-on.
The wheelie-bin has presented a market opportunity. Wheelie Kleen Services have offered to help me. For only£2.50 per month they will arrive half an hour after the bin men, jetwash it and leave it smelling of lemons.
And even the flea has a smaller flea. Wheelie Kleen Services belong to a national association new to me: the National Association of Wheeled Bin Washers.
The arrival of this formidable rival must have the Local Government Association trembling in its boots.
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