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LEADER - BRISCOE'S BATTERING OF 'BARKING' BLAIR

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'Barking mad.' Someone had to say it, and who better than Local Government Association chief executive Sir Brian Br...
'Barking mad.' Someone had to say it, and who better than Local Government Association chief executive Sir Brian Briscoe, as his decade of representing local government in the corridors of Whitehall draws to a close.

Of all the crass, ill-conceived, headline-grabbing stunts prime minister Tony Blair has indulged in with local government over the years, the threat to cut the funding of councils judged by ministers not to have been sufficiently tough on anti-social behaviour is a new low.

It smacks of the desperation of a man whose power is ebbing away, reduced to ever more frenzied throws of the dice to secure his legacy.

Policy initiatives always have unintended consequences, but this one would take some beating.

Each March, would the nation's youth be subject to ever more ludicrous ASBOs as councils desperately tried to hit their quota for the year? Would wily thugs keep their heads down until the pressure dropped in April, leading to a spring surge of hoodies marauding around the country terrorising potential Labour voters?

Would there be an incentive to attract dysfunctional families into your area to ensure you hit your target? Would behaviour that would pass unnoticed in inner London attract the full force of the law in Alnwick because it suffered a thuggery deficit?

Trying to define a robust scale of anti-social behaviour that would withstand judicial review by aggrieved councils would be the biggest waste of civil service time since some of Whitehall's finest, grappling with the government's desire to allow smoking in pubs which do not serve food, had to decide if a sandwich was legally a meal.

In the dying months of his premiership Mr Blair is still flailing around grabbing broken levers at the centre.

Meanwhile, in a multitude of ways which defy Whitehall calibration, councils across the country are implementing local solutions to a local problem.

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