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ENTRE NOUS - THE STORIES BEHIND THE HEADLINES

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In case you missed it, can I draw your attention to Statutory Instrument number 2000/418? The Sheep and Goats Ident...
In case you missed it, can I draw your attention to Statutory Instrument number 2000/418? The Sheep and Goats Identification Regulations 2000 came into force this week.
Made under the European Communities Act 1972, it implements Council Directive 92/102, amends SI 1992/2677 and revokes with savings
SI 1996/28.
Who says Eurocrats have no sense of humour?
- The Queen's Speech includes a bill to license the private security industry. Soon councils can hire pukka security firms to cover up police inadequacies. The tragic murder of Damilola Taylor has concentrated minds.
The police has missed a trick though. Why doesn't it accept the idea of auxiliaries working alongside its officers? Doctors have paramedics. Why not parapolice? It would avoid the dangers of separate organisations all doing their own thing.
We all know police on the street do not reduce crime, but they do reassure the punters.
So, why not put the patrol equivalent of traffic wardens on the street?
- Gascony is famous for its Armagnac. It is also famous for its annual snail race. An easy victor this year would have been the Midland Mainline train that left London at 22.00 and arrived in Nottingham at 07.00 the next day.
It obviously has kinship with a Turin-Rome express in Mussolini's Italy. Due at midday, it arrived on the dot of noon.
'This,' said a British admirer, 'is what is achieved under Il Duce.'
'Actually, it is exactly twenty-four hours late,' replied a local.
With only a little effort British train companies could beat this record. Two weeks ago my journey from Ilkley to Eastbourne took 10 hours. Twice, the train stopped and we had to board a bus.
Now, thanks to intrigue and influence, I have procured one of the most secret documents in the country: the revised GNER timetable. There would be appalling consequences if my mole were detected. Do not rush to get your own copy though - it stands a good chance of winning the Booker Prize for Fiction.
My local paper caught the spirit with the headline 'Passengers hit by cancelled train'.
Many local government functions have been removed and given to incompetent bodies. Why not reverse the process? Why not hand the railways to local government? It could hardly do worse than the financiers who are currently responsible.
- Three decades ago Southampton City Council was riven by political argument. The issue was the licensing of brothels. The political parties agreed on their desirability, but were bitterly divided over whether they should be municipal or private sector.
Now, following a Home Office paper, Birmingham City Council is canvassing the creation of a red light district. There, brothels could flourish undisturbed.
Councils are always searching for a new source of revenue. Even if not municipal, brothels could be a nice little earner. The Palazzo Manzoni is one of the most beautiful buildings on the Grand Canal in Venice. A 15th century chief executive of Venice built it from the proceeds of a tax on prostitution.
The idea of a prostitution tax may even have support from that fount of political correctness, the New Local Government Network. Always at the forefront of local government thinking, the Network's much trumpeted Towards a New Localism gives a discreet steer:
'We suggest additional optional sources of funding...to increase pubic (sic) involvement in the priorities and plans of their council.'
- Five months ago (LGC, 11 August) I forecast the inclusion of Richard Rogers in Mayor Livingstone's cabinet would cause ethical problems. Sadly, I have been proved right. Now the mayor has hired Lord Rogers as a consultant for a personal fee of£130,000. His work will be 'over and above his work on the cabinet'. The assembly is up in arms.
As chairman of the government's Urban Task Force, Lord Rogers has the ear of John Prescott. The mayor needs the deputy prime minister's support for his planning strategies.
Lord Rogers is also a leading architect. Councils used to be told not to put estate agents and property developers on their planning committees due to conflict of interests. But even Lord Rogers must find it hard to remember which hat he is wearing. We can look forward to the ruling of the GLA Standards Committee.
- Palm Beach is now famous as the home of the dimpled chad. According to Lord Rees-Mogg, the last time it figured in a disputed Presidential election was 1888. Then, the vote counters (three) outnumbered the votes cast (two).
However, we cannot afford to be smug about the dimpled chad saga. Remember last year's disastrous London count, when static electricity from baize tablecloths disrupted the high-tech counting machines?
One person fuming at the delay was the urbane Rob Hughes, returning officer for Greater London. Strangely, Mr Hughes was in Palm Beach during the American count.
Perhaps he was trying to learn from the American experience for the next London election. He certainly found one more way not to do it.
- The Greater London Authority is to scrutinise the fiasco of London's unused New Year's Eve fireworks. Over£1m was spent on squibs and rockets to make the capital's New Year's Eve as memorable as last year.
Why did the quangos that run London's infrastructure and emergency services refuse to co-operate when they played ball last year? Could it be that last year the prime minister himself was behind the celebrations?
This year's fireworks were not ordered by the mayor, but by the DETR. Of course, that was before the election and in the days when it was expected that a Labour mayor would benefit from the kudos of the celebration.
How strange that the enthusiasm disappeared after Mayor Livingstone's election.
What will the GLA's scrutiny panel make of it?
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