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Storm in a teacup ...
Storm in a teacup

I write regarding your story 'Cardiff in a drama over a crisis' (LGC, 23 May).

It is true to say that Cardiff City Council took the critical joint review of social services very seriously. We were given six months to progress and where appropriate we brought in a range of specialists to ensure we did.

A great deal of work and effort is going into social care in Cardiff to make sure it is the service our citizens deserve.

Cardiff operates a clear and accountable decision management process in line with best management practices and its statutory framework. All councillor and officer decisions are recorded through our delegation process and details are available to the public on the internet or from the scrutiny office.

In this particular case Regester Larkin's appointment to help the council was not kept in the dark.

The matter was reported to the social care forum in October 2002 and to the children's social services and adult social services scrutiny committees in November 2002 and it is a 'storm in a teacup' for this matter to be seen as an issue by anyone.

Byron Davies

Chief executive, Cardiff CC

Knight fight

Howard Knight, the former head of Labour's Local Government Unit, seems agitated that the Conservatives are asking for a review of the original power sharing arrangements he and his colleagues proposed at the formation of the Local Government Association (LGC, 23 May).

The Conservative party is shown to be the largest by all the usual measures in England and Wales - number of seats, number of council controlled, and a quick glance at the LGC Council Control Map 2003 which has conveniently just arrived - yet is some way off getting the chairmanship of the LGA based on its complex method of calculation of political power. It is hardly surprising if the Conservatives ask for a review of the original arrangements that have led to this.

We are not proposing rushing this because it needs careful thought. But we do believe, as the largest pa rty in local government, we owe it to Conservative members of the LGA to see how that reality can be reflected in the chairmanship.

Gordon Keymer

Leader, LGA Conservative Group

An end to complacency

Dave Wilcox's thoughtful letter about the Local Government Association's ability to respond to the schools' funding crisis - and indeed education issues generally - provoked a curiously defensive response from its chairman.

When I was closely involved in these matters up until my retirement a year ago, the reorganisation of the officer structure was already leading to concern among members of the education and life-long learning executive that the quality and timeliness of its response to government was likely to suffer. It is sad to read that this indeed appears to be the outcome.

It is of crucial importance to the credibility of local government there is a team of experts available to each LGA executive whose advice will be such that it cannot be ignored by central government. The association's members should expect nothing less - otherwise the existence of the organisation would immediately be questioned.

In the case of education, the expectation has always been that the executive will have the best advice delivered in a timely fashion not only from the association's own staff, but also from the chief education officers themselves. In my experience, that was almost always the case. But all this can only be achieved with the appropriate dedicated leadership. Is it the deletion of the post of head of education that is causing the problem?

In any event, if the leading member

for education finance is writing to you

in the terms he did, I suggest his

concerns deserve a less complacent response.

David Cornwell

Former deputy chairman, LGA, education

and life-long learning executive

Honesty adds up well

I read with some interest George Manne's letter (LGC, 16 May) expressing some surprise over Anna Klonowski's description of Hackney LBC's financial position wh en she took over, as being between £25m and £50m overspent, rather than as £5m overspent, as previously reported.

Far from being concerned at this

spread of numbers, I should wish to compliment Ms Klonowski on her frankness. Putting in decent and reliable systems is surely more important than quantifying how much damage was done

by not having them.

David Cook

Chief executive, Kettering BC

Six-fingered salute

As the dust settles on the unelected north-east regional assembly after it was found to be acting unlawfully in using ratepayers' monies to promote elected regional government, we are drawn back to the main concerns.

The will of the people has not been demonstrated except with wholly distorted statistics and spin worthy of a six-fingered cricketer. Despite years of preparation, very few at grass-roots level have the slightest idea of the product that is on offer, nor have they demanded it.

It has emerged there is to be massive reorganisation, with the removal of the county councils and the restructuring of districts into unitaries.

More politicians will not result in anything more dynamic - simply more of the usual suspects talking about what they would like to do, if only they had the power.

Neil Herron

Campaign director,

North East Against Regional Assemblies

Assembly lined up

The push to democratise governance of the English regions has taken another step forward with the passage through Parliament of the Regional Assemblies (Preparation) Bill.

What is important for local government is that a significant amendment to the legislation, giving people in counties two questions on the ballot paper, was agreed.

Our campaign had hoped the government would decouple the issue of council restructuring from the setting up of elected assemblies. But at least people in the counties can now decide how they are governed and at the same time choose to vote 'yes' in the referendum. This is good news for local democracy, and we expect referend ums for the northern regions to be announced shortly.

Don Price

Campaign officer, Campaign for the English Regions

Save or starve

At the National Association of Pension Funds conference, finance secretary Ruth Kelly announced yet another government review to ascertain the level of compliance with the Myners review.

In the more than two years since Myners, pension funds have had to contend with a 30% fall in UK equities, market uncertainty due to terrorism and war, the proposed introduction of FRS17, further government reviews, increased media spotlight on the pensions crisis, credit ratings agencies and analysts making pension funds a priority - the list is long and challenging to say the least.

The pension fund crisis is likely to take years to resolve. Faced with this situation, the government needs to look at what should be done to address the real issue - convincing people to start saving.

It is time for all stakeholders - the government, sponsoring companies, staff and the investment industry - to work together on delivering a real solution.

Mark Samuelson

Head of institutional business development,

Investec Asset Management

Remember when . . . ?

Surely Mel Usher's excellent list of signs of aging in your issue of (LGC, 9 May) should have included 'You remember when Mel Usher was a chief executive'?

Roger Morris

Chief executive and town clerk, Northampton BC

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