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Entre nous - written by Rodney Brooke ...
Entre nous - written by Rodney Brooke

Some time ago Leeds City Council hit on an original idea, the so-called mice money. Each year councillors are allocated money - now£5,000 each - to spend in their constituencies. Last year veteran councillor Douglas Gabb gave all his mice money to a school where he was a governor. As a result the council was slated by Ofsted.

Chief inspector Chris Woodhead said he had never heard of such an arrangement and hoped never to come across another. It distorted bureaucratic funding priorities.

But isn't it rather a good idea? One of the key issues in local government is how to enhance the role of councillors. What better way than the mice money to give them status in the community?


Westminster City Council is not the only council with an involvement in the sex industry. The town hall tea dance still survives. Though patronised exclusively by the over-70s, sexual aggression still flares up.

In Brent town hall 77-year-old Aubrey Powell carved up 71-year-old rival Mark Lester over the favours of an equivalently aged lady. How many councils are still running these curious survivals?


Soho is a fascinating place. Ten years ago the old London Boroughs Association was temporarily exiled to Brewer Street by Dame Shirley Porter. A certain loucheness came over my colleagues' behaviour. Fedoras were worn. There were long breaks over small espressos. Friendships developed with sex parlour proprietors.

Now the area has provoked two municipal causes celrbres.

Westminster City Council is to be taken to court over a night cafe licence for Italy Two in Frith Street. Residents say it is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. They claim a right to protection from noise.

And local residents have rallied behind the Soho prostitutes. The girls are protesting against Westminster's housing policy which, they claim, will force them to leave their flats (LGC, 17 March).

The girls claim they are a major tourist attraction. They certainly make a change from the usual municipal museum.


Relationships between the Local Government Association and the government continue to deteriorate. The latest blow was 'Frontline first', the government's way of bypassing councils. At one stroke it undermines the integrated approach to service delivery that the Social Exclusion Unit has been trying so hard to put together.

The announcement prompted a stinging Guardian article by LGA chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham. Chief executives worry that this might have damaged relationships further.

This by no means follows. The article struck a chord with many ministers. It could also increase the DETR's clout in arguing local government's case. A captive client rings no warning bells. One that bites back commands respect.

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