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LGC-LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Compelling evidence ...
Compelling evidence

I write very much to endorse what John Ransford from the Local Government Association had to say concerning the tenth report of the chief inspector of social services. (LGC, 17 August)

But two aspects of the report need careful consideration. First, there are the frequent references to some of the best examples of social work practice - often with detailed descriptions of named projects in named councils.

And second, there are clear indications that one of the most personnel-sensitive services in the public sector is facing a crisis in recruitment and retention, which could easily undermine all the hard work and energy that is put into providing them.

These acknowledgements, as well as less transparent references to some of the financial pressures which social services have faced over the past two or three years, makes the report a compelling read for all those seeking an up-to-date snapshot of our improving, and increasingly successful, social services departments.

Mike Leadbetter,

Senior vice-president,

Association of Directors of Social Services.

Blunt views

Some comment from employers is needed to balance your story on arbitration (LGC, 17 August).

From time to time even the most effective negotiators fail to agree and an external source of help can be useful to remove any obstacles. In 1999 the National Joint Council used the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service for this purpose in the annual pay negotiations.

But outside local government, other large public sector employment groups do not have unilateral, one-sided access to binding ACAS arbitration.

In the light of recent experience, the employers' view is that unilateral access to arbitration in the local government context is too blunt an instrument and one which distorts the negotiating process.

We have therefore concluded that the constitution of the NJC should simply allow for either side to refer to ACAS in cases of failure to agree.

It would then be a matter for the two sides of the NJC to decide in each particular circumstance what sort of process should be used - conciliation, mediation, or arbitration; and, if the latter, whether or not it should be pendulum arbitration, where the 'winner takes all'. The employers do not seek to rule arbitration out, but only to ensure that if it takes place it would be by agreement between the two sides of the NJC and not simply because one side has requested it.

Charles Nolda

Executive director, Employers' Organisation

Prisoner of Cardiff

Church leaders in Wales would like to thank local government and finance minister Edwina Hart for the considerable conviction she has shown in making representations to the Home Office on Wales' opposition to detaining asylum seekers in Cardiff prison.

She made particular reference to the religious needs of the detainees and said she was reassured by staff that every effort was being made to meet the religious and health needs of the detainees.

She made it clear she believed prison staff should not have been forced into this position by the Home Office. Prisons are not the place for asylum seekers and church leaders strongly share this view.

Archbishop Rowan Williams has said he is delighted the National Assembly has made it clear the detention of asylum seekers in prison is unacceptable. He shares the Assembly's concern that staff in Cardiff prison have been forced into the unacceptable position of having to treat asylum seekers according to the same regulations that govern the treatment of remand prisoners by the Home Office.

We look forward to hearing the outcome of Ms Hart's meetings with immigration officials and Lord Rooker.

Reverend Aled Edwards

Churches liaison officer,

National Assembly for Wales

Glasgow committed

Most of the demands issued by asylum seekers from the Sighthill area of Glasgow are already being addressed by the city's council (LGC, 17 August). Some involve other agencies and one could only benefit Sighthill at the expense of the rest of Glasgow.

We shall continue to work with and hold meetings with representatives of Sighthill. The work the council is doing for asylum seekers is designed to benefit everyone in their communities.

Glasgow City Council uses the money it receives under its agreement with the National Asylum Support Service to provide mainstream services such as housing, education, social work and interpreting and translation. The council makes no profit from this agreement and our books are open to inspection.

Glasgow is the only place in Scotland to have opened its doors to asylum seekers under the dispersal scheme. The council is fully committed to providing asylum seekers with proper homes and support.

Cllr Archie Graham (Lab)

Glasgow City Council

Unfair game

I am writing to express serious concerns regarding your article (LGC, 27 July) on the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games.

It implies the games could affect the delivery of services and the provision of facilities in the city, and they will have negative impacts such as increases in council tax for Manchester residents. This leads directly to incorrect conclusions about the games and alleged negative effects on the council, Manchester and its residents.

The article includes the views of Manchester's Liberal Democrat leader Simon Ashley, but does not make clear they represent a complete about-turn of the Lib Dem group's position, which was based on their vote in favour of the decision to bid for the Commonwealth Games, on the basis that the council underwrote the costs, at a meeting of its policy and resources committee in 1995.

There has been considerable debate around the subject of the Commonwealth Games. No doubt this will continue and we would see it as the responsibility of all sectors of the media to contribute to this.

But articles of this nature only serve to undermine the preparations for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Richard Leese (LAB)

Leader, Manchester City Council

Lovely pair

The profile piece on myself was great (LGC, 17 August), everyone has enjoyed reading it, but it's not true I am single. In fact, I have a long-standing partner.

Len Duvall (Lab)

Greater London Assembly

We do need some education

Last week's NUT survey (LGC, 24 August) illustrates that teachers dealing with drug and alcohol issues are often not getting the support they need from managers. DrugScope believes all schools and councils should have a coherent and well thought-out drug policy in place before any problems arise. The policy should include a commitment to effective drug education through the curriculum, as well as clear procedures to follow when incidents do occur.

While exclusion may be necessary in some cases there is plenty of evidence, from many schools which have successfully put in place other sanctions, that exclusion can be used very sparingly. The lessons from such experiences need to be more widely promoted. Research shows children are more vulnerable to drug use and other crime once they are no longer in school.

Roger Howard

Chief executive, DrugScope

Leave us teachers alone

Rather like the seasons, the best news stories recur with reassuring regularity. Just as we expect the exam season to be accompanied by exposés on how exams today are easier than when newspaper editors were still in short pants, so we know that the start of term will see a re-run of the same end-of-term scare stories about teacher shortages.

Teaching is of course a stressful profession. Many are called, but few make it through. This is probably a good thing. The profession needs the best young graduate teachers - as the medical profession needs the best surgeons.

The difficulties highlighted by Ofsted head Mike Tomlinson this week need a more thoughful response. Incentives for experienced teachers and new entrants are proving successful. However, haemorraging the best of the freshly qualified teaching force, as the chief inspector points out, is a depressing fact of life. Government and local councils need to propose strategies to retain and re-motivate them.

The high costs of housing in the south east are but one of the key factors that need quick corrective action. Head teachers need help now, and councils as well as government have to provide help, but the real evidence of teacher supply suggests our schools are waving, not drowning.

Neil Fletcher

Head of Education, Local Government Association

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