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LGC Letters

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LGC readers air their views

Lies and statistics

There are deep concerns in London over the way the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates population (LGC, 4 October). So grave are these that last week the mayor of London and I took the unusual step of explaining our concerns in a joint letter to the chancellor.

The latest figures from ONS have reduced the capital's population projection for 2007 by 95,000. If these figures are used to determine funding levels through the comprehensive spending review and the first three-year settlement, there could be dire consequences for the capital's public services.

This reduction flies in the face of evidence on the ground, and came about because ONS decided to change the way it calculates international migration. If the ONS continues with this method, it will result in a 140,000 reduction in London's population projection for 2010 equivalent to the population of Kingston upon Thames going missing.

One of the biggest problems with the methods used is the ONS' outdated definition of an international migrant. ONS uses the United Nations definition first used in 1976 of someone who leaves their usual country of residence to reside in a new country for at least a year.

This fails to account for one of the key aspects of modern migration with migrants often moving into large cities for a short period, before moving on to work elsewhere in the capital or the rest of the country.

Councils are footing the bill for providing services without adequate government funding.

It is essential that London's public services are properly funded to support new migrants as well as long-standing residents, the chancellor must recognise these flaws before the first three-year settlement is announced.

Merrick Cockell (Con) Chairman ,LondonCouncils

Election admin woe

I am pleased a general election will not be held this autumn and believe I speak for most electoral administrators in the UK.

I had grave concerns for the integrity of the electoral process if this election had gone ahead and action must be taken to ensure we never find ourselves in this position again.

The register was so out of date that a considerable number of eligible electors would not have been able to vote.

There were problems relating to postal voting, linked both to the registration problem and the new postal voter identifier process which caused many problems at the May elections, and which has yet to be introduced in Scotland

There were also issues relating to the ability and capacity of the commercial sector to provide the necessary printing and postal voting services within the extremely compressed timetable that applies to a general election.

Finally, the new constituency boundaries would have led to considerable logistical and administrative problems, primarily in respect of sharing postal vote information.

This was exacerbated as returning officers for such constituencies were not designated until last week.

There are two steps which would dramatically improve the situation and solve the problems; the introduction of individual, rather than household, registration and the introduction of a fixed-term parliament.

John Turner Chief executive,AssociationofElectoralAdministrators

'Yes' to fourth option

The 'fourth option' of direct investment in council housing was a key debate at the Labour Party conference.

Seventeen constituency Labour parties submitted motions supporting the 'fourth option' and despite all sorts of backroom manoeuvres, the issue couldn't be kept off the agenda.

We welcome housing minister Yvette Cooper's statement that all councils should achieve the decent homes standard. This has moved a long way from predictions of the end of council housing. Everyone will now be looking to see if government delivers concrete measures that satisfy the campaign's demands. The immediate problem the government faces is with the councils where tenants have rejected privatisation and the council needs additional resources for improvements.

Without announcing any specific details, the minister indicated that government was in talks with one council, Camden LBC, to find a solution.

She also said: "We must keep within our budget's, but that doesn't need to be a problem. Ring-fencing rent revenue and a small part of the profits made from 'right to buy' sales would enable government to meet the campaign's objectives.

It is crucial that tenants, trade unions, councillors and MPs resist any further privatisation of council housing and demand proper debate before any public land is sold off to developers.

Lesley CartyDefend Council Housing

Local services

In reference to the Young Foundation Transformingneighbourhoods report, I'm not sure how far councils should micromanage neighbourhoods (LGC, 4 October). But forging closer communities is something Warwickshire CC takes seriously.

The council is developing an approach to see how it can break down conventional barriers.

There is no 'one size fits all' and if the study is advocating a very localised approach, to target the needs of individual neighbourhoods, then working creatively with partners is the best way to achieve this goal.

Of course, there is a need to balance the establishment of localised arrangements with the capacity of the council and our partners to service and support those localities effectively.

If services are to be meaningful then they have to be locally understood and relevant.

Nick Gower-Johnson County partnershipsmanager, WarwickshireCC

Lack of consultation

Councils must strive for continuous improvement and respond to the needs of local people and communities. But major change in public services is not something to be entered into lightly. All proposals should be subject to fair, rigorous and transparent assessment.

The government's handling of unitary proposals has not been fair, rigorous or transparent.

It should have appointed an independent commission to carry out a full and thorough assessment backed up by proper public consultation. In contrast, it conducted a feeble one-sided consultation based on the case put forward by the bidding authorities in which the public have been sidelined and the views of stakeholders ignored.

The result has been a colossal waste of public money and some councils either marketing dodgy unitary ambitions or trying to defend public services from serious harm.

Brian Greenslade (Lib Dem)Leader,DevonCC

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