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LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE REGIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 15:00 HRS

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WEST MIDLANDS LAUNCHES IMAGE CAMPAIGN FOR EU INVESTMENT ...
WEST MIDLANDS LAUNCHES IMAGE CAMPAIGN FOR EU INVESTMENT

Major players in the economy of the west Midlands are set to launch a ten year image-boosting campaign aimed at directing more European Union funds towards the region, reports the Birmingham Post (p3). The development agency Advantage West Midlands, together with council and business representatives from the region, believe the strategy is essential to ensure that the area continues to attract funds for regeneration once poorer nations join the EU. Consultants have already been appointed to advise on ways of ensuring that the west Midlands becomes 'a premier European region'.

NEW INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT IN DONCASTER GETS GREEN LIGHT

A new international airport at Finningley, near Doncaster, has been given the go-ahead and flights could begin as early as autumn next year, reports the Yorkshire Post(p9). Following a six-month public inquiry, the ODPM has given the go-ahead for an £80m plan by developer Peel Airports for the former RAF base. The proposals have also attracted the support of Doncaster Chamber, which combines the Chamber of Trade and Chamber of Commerce.

BIRMINGHAM CULTURE BID WORTH £1BN

The team in charge of Birmingham's bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2008 has announced that selection of the city, quoted as being the UK's favourite for the title, would generate almost £1bn would be generated in Birmingham and surrounding area, reports the Birmingham Post(p3). The figure, contained in the bid team's latest report to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, includes £383m in funding for planned projects, £143m in private s ector sponsorship and £380m in additional tourist spending.

LONGER HOURS FOR MSPS AS SURVEY REVEALS UNPOPULARITY

Jack McConnell, Scottish first minister, unveiled plans to force MSPs to work longer hours as a survey revealed the extent of the lack of public confidence in the Scottish Parliament, reported Scotland on Sunday(13/4/03, p1 and p11). The plan, designed to boost the image of Holyrood among the public, coincided with the results of a survey of over 1,600 readers of Scotland on Sunday and The Scotsman which found that 54 per cent think Scotland should have less MSPs and only 26 per cent consider the parliament to be a success.

SCOTTISH COUNCILS TO FINE ROADSIDE POLLUTERS

The Scottish Executive has announced the granting of special powers to local authorities and police to test and fine perpetrators of excessive emissions from road vehicles, reported Scotland on Sunday(13/4/03,p8). The Executive has made £500,000 available to councils choosing to implement the system, designed to lower greenhouse gas emissions, which will see police able to stop motorists at random, and oblige them to have their vehicle emissions tested by council officials in a mobile unit. Drivers found to be exceeding permitted levels of pollutants will be given two weeks to lower their exhaust emissions or to face a £60 fine.

KEY WORKERS GIVEN SQUATTER HOMES

A scheme in Islington, North London, has begun to allow teachers, nurses or health workers to live in vacant buildings in a bid to provide low-cost temporary accommodation, whilst keeping squatters out, reported the Highbury & Islington Express (11/4/03, p8). Under the service, run by an Islington-based Dutch tenant, which already has 5,000 low-paid workers in Holland housed this way, single, full-time workers can occupy a few north London homes for as little as £25 a week. T he tenant, Camelot Property Management, is looking for more properties to operate under its scheme, which, it said, saves around £5,000 per month in security costs in vacant buildings.

SCOTTISH COUNCILS CALL FOR ENGLISH BUSINESS RATE DEAL

Glasgow and Edinburgh City Councils have demanded the same new freedoms on business rates made available to English councils and announced by Gordon Brown in last week's Budget, reported The Herald (11/4/03, p11). The 'growth incentive' scheme, rewarding councils which nurture businesses, only applies to England at present, and was ruled out by the Scottish Executive in its recent Cities Review.

POLICE FREE TO RECRUIT FOREIGNERS

London's Metropolitan Police is the first police force to take advantage of a change in the law allowing foreign nationals with the right to live and work in the UK to become police officers, and has now launched a recruitment drive to attract these people, reported the Birmingham Post (12/4/03, p7).

BILL FOR NEW SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT ESTIMATED AT £400M

Jack McConnell, Scottish first minister, has admitted that the bill for Holyrood, the new Scottish parliament building, will probably reach £400m, when original estimates placed costs at around £10m, reported Scotland on Sunday (13/4/03, p4).

By reporter Gareth Gardiner-Jones

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