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LGC - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Politico's correction ...
Politico's correction

While I am grateful to Barbara Cohen for her key role in the selection process for the promoting racial equality beacon councils, her article (LGC, 19 April) overlooks the connection between the beacon assessment criteria and the requirements of the Race Relations (Ammendment) Act 2000.

The three councils awarded beacon status under the promoting racial equality theme - Harrow LBC, Leicester City Council and Manchester City Council - all went through a rigorous and robust assessment process. The independent beacon advisory panel looked in particular for evidence of effective actions, successful outcomes and user satisfaction. All the councils demonstrated that their work to promote racial equality is integrated into their policy, service, regulatory and employment functions.

On 8 April I announced that the government would repeat the promoting racial equality theme in round six of the beacon scheme. This will provide an opportunity to take stock of progress and identify those councils which continue to lead the way.

Nick Raynsford

Local government minister

Defending democracy

Your article 'Livingstone attacked for poor democratic record' failed to look beyond the London Assembly's spin (LGC, 26 April).

As London's directly elected mayor I have to make tough decisions. The way I do this is completely based on being informed so that I make the right decision. This is the point completely missed by the assembly's scrutiny committee.

I engage with Londoners continuously - community groups, stakeholders, business organisations, trade unions, voluntary sector organisations and Londoners individually - in a way which means I am constantly listening. As the district auditor reported, 'The GLA has made a purposeful and creative start to consultation.'

When consulting on the draft transport strategy 3.1 million leaflets were delivered to London households and 250,000 leaflets at rail and Underground stations. A major advertising campaign was used to encourage the public to give their views. Over 118,500 inquiries and responses were received.

Also, take the consultation programme for the congestion charge. As a direct result of the consultation carried out I made several amendments to the scheme. For example, originally the proposal was to charge HGV vehicles£15 but after consultation I decided to bring the charge down to£5.

Contrary to the impression given by LGC, my office meets regularly with the London boroughs and an effective working relationship has developed.

Ken Livingstone

Mayor of London

Sneak and grab

Gordon Brown's 'adjustments' to the national insurance contributions in the last budget have been described as another stealth tax. Everyone who does not qualify for government intervention will henceforth pay another 1% of his or her income to the Treasury. It might not sound much; but, when the sums are done, it ends up raising as much revenue as an extra 3% on income tax.

Unfortunately, it does not end there. The1% rise in employer's contributions will cost Cambridgeshire CC£810,000 more next year; that is equivalent to an increase of 0.6% on the council tax.

Meanwhile, in the same budget, we have been threatened with 'fines' for not eliminating 'bed blocking'.

Well done, Mr Milburn. Everyone with an IQ greater than their weight in kilograms knows that bed blocking is primarily driven by social services underfunding - taking money away from councils is hardly a solution.

Keith Walters (CON)

Leader, Cambridgeshire CC

Resistance is futile

The London Assembly report Reaching

out should be a wake up call to the mayor of London (LGC, 26 April).

The mayor and his advisers have a strong idea of what they want - but do not always realise that they do not have the resources or power to achieve their goals alone. They need to listen and work in partnership with key London organisations such as the Association of London Government.

The association has mixed experiences of working with the Greater London Authority and the mayor - difficulties arise when the mayor fails to listen to councils. For the last two years, he has proposed setting his share of the council tax at unrealistic levels that most Londoners could not afford. On both occasions the association has spoken up for Londoners and lobbied the mayor to get these reduced to a sensible figure.

Despite our differences on this, there is no reason why the association cannot have a positive relationship with the mayor on other issues. We all want the best for London, the mayor can only reach his ambitious goals by listening and involving London councils and their representatives.

Richard Arthur (lab)

Vice-chair, Assocaition of London Government

Social care ills

Anthony Douglas' piece on incentives to recruit and retain social workers (LGC, 26 April) raises some interesting points. Many of the reasons why people do not choose a career in social work are the same as why so many people leave the profession - high case loads, poor image, over-reliance on agency staff and excessive bureaucracy.

Local government has been actively seeking solutions to these problems and Care to stay?, a report produced last summer by the Employers' Organisation, presents many examples of good practice and ways forward to finding longer-term solutions.

www.lg-employers.gov.uk

Belinda Adams

Senior Consultant, Employers' Organisation

Orderly conduct

James Sheerin is quite right to say in his letter (LGC, 19 April) that councillors must give a written undertaking to comply with the members' code of conduct within two months of its adoption by the council (s52 (1) of the Local Government Act 2000). If any councillor fails to do so, then they cease to be a councillor.

However, nothing is as clear as it seems. Members of Merthyr Tydfil CBC, all of whom failed to sign an undertaking within the two month period, have been rescued by the High Court. Mr Justice Elias decided in that case that the councillors' failure to give the undertaking to comply with the code, within the time scale prescribed, did not automatically bring about the termination of their membership of the council. The court's decision is apparently made on the basis that the councillors were not aware of the time limit. While this may be a surprising decision, as ignorance of the law is usually no defence, I suspect that it is unlikely to be challenged.

The Merthyr Tydfil case is a useful reminder of the need to provide advice and training for members on the requirements in the code of conduct.

Robin Mosley

Senior Associate, Eversheds Local Government Group

Missive link

I see from the Ellistonian missive in last week's LGC that our Tone, or Phenobarbi as he is known in concentric circles, casts some doubts on whether the Society of Personnel Officers president's call to take up the national agenda can bear fruit. I suspect it will flourish and produce a bumper crop of fruit, given the aid of Tone's generous and frequent application of natural fertiliser to the activities of personnel professionals.

As ever, the Ellistonian command of language, which now includes Latin, is a revelation. Doubtless, he will soon attempt to convince us that an innuendo is an Italian suppository.

Dennis Roberts

Chief executive, NationInternet

Tractor driving

'You'll never stop us singing!' I never thought I would see Tony Elliston (LGC, 26 April) representing reactionary forces. But I would much rather see Ipswich striving to change the natural order of things just to prove it is not just about money and resources.

David Sheepshanks has done a great job in making Ipswich Town FC a truly inclusive and positive club. He has remained at the forefront during difficult times these past few months and he will no doubt be looking for positive things from this experience. Ipswich Town will be back.

Maybe this is what the Audit Commission meant by the terms 'coasting' and 'striving'. In Ipswich, both council and club are striving to make things better. Is not this preferable to councils and clubs who prefer to coast complacently along despite having more resources?

James Hehir

Chief executive, Ipswich BC

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