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NATIONAL PRESS - ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES - UPDATED 10:06AM

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BRUSSELS APPROVES£2.6BN FOR UK REGIONS ...
BRUSSELS APPROVES£2.6BN FOR UK REGIONS
The European Commission yesterday announced£2.59bn of financial support for 10 UK regions in 2000-06 with the aim of creating 277,000 jobs and safeguarding a further 100,000. The main beneficiaries will be: West Midlands, north-west England and north-east England. Other major winners are Yorkshire and Humberside and western Scotland. The aid will trigger more spending as funding is made conditional on further investment from the UK public and private sectors, reports The Financial Times(p4). For details of the announcements, go the the European Commissionwebsite.
LONDON MAYOR AND TRANSPORT BOSS FACE ULTIMATUM ON TUBE PLAN
The government last night presented London mayor Ken Livingstone and his transport commissioner, Bob Kiley, with an ultimatum in a last-ditch bid to get a workable deal on the capital's Tube, reports The Daily Telegraph (p33). 'The government is indicating to Kiley what its bottom line is and saying take it or leave it,' said a Whitehall source. 'It would be prepared to give greater powers of intervention to Transport for London without giviing it day-to-day control.'
TEACHERS VOTE FOR ACTION OVER STAFF SHORTAGES
As many as half a million youngsters face being sent home from school on reduced timetables from next week, after teachers voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action over staff shortages, reports The Guardian(p7). The results of the first ballots were announced yesterday among members of the two biggest teaching unions, the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, employed in state schools in Doncaster and London. (See also TEACHER SHORTAGE ACTION GOES AHEAD IN LONDON AND DONCASTER.
INSURANCE INDUSTRY IS SWAMPED BY FLOOD PAYOUTS
The Association of British Insurers yesterday warned that flood damage as a result of global warming could swamp the industry and force it to refuse to cover millions of homeowners, reports The Times(p3). Meanwhile, a spokesman for the DETR said ministers were considering proposals to force councils to refer planning applicaions to it if they ignored Environment Agency advice not to develop on flood plains.
EMPLOYMENT ZONE SCHEME TO BE EXTENDED
Labour will extend the contracts for its employment zones if it wins a second term, according to The Financial Times(p4). David Blunkett will today announced a£32m one year extension to the projects. He will tell a conference that an independent study of their first nine months' operation has shown they deliver twice as many jobs for the long-term unemployed as the conventional new deal for the over-25s, and at the same price - about£4,000 a job.
TOWER BLOCKS' STOCK IS ON THE UP AGAIN
The Guardian(Society, p2) carries a feature on the possible comeback and rehabilitation of tower blocks. Housing minister Nick Raynsford today opens a unique scheme in Portsmouth, where a city centre office block has been converted into 96 flats: a mix of housing association and private ownership. And a pressure group, The National Sustainable Tower Blocks Initiative, has been formed to persaude the public and professionals working in the housing sector of tower blocks' merits.
ESSEX FOSTER CARE CASE RAISES IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
Questions have been raised about the monitoring of multiple fostering and adoption placements, after a high court judgment which followed a£6m-plus investigation into the work Jeanette Roberts, who fostered or adopted more than 80 young people in 30 years. The Guardian(Society, p4) reports that children in Ms Roberts' care were found to have been 'clearly at risk'. Essex CC's social services department said the fact that the children were in a private residence, not a children's home, made it very difficult to act on concerns about childcare practices there. (See also LGCnet COUNTY COUNCIL WELCOMES PUBLICATION OF CARE PROCEEDINGS JUDGEMENTS.)
BANKING SCHEME AIMS TO HELP THE FINANCIALLY EXCLUDED
Housing officers are to become part-time bank managers in a new project aimed at tackling financial exclusion to be launched tomorrow. The Guardian(Society, p4) reports that the move is a bid to reach housing association tenants whose poor credit rating, or level of debt, has prevented them from accessing mainstream banking facilities. Under the plan, the Woolwich bank is allowing housing officers to authorise opening of its 'open plan' account. Tenants will not have to provide a passport or driving licence, nor will they be credit checked.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES GET TOGETHER IN BARKING AND DAGENHAM
With the advent the government's proposed care trusts, Barking and Dagenham LBC has come up with a novel approach to avert social services being hijacked by the NHS, reports The Guardian (Society, p119). The council's director of social services, Julia Ross, has been made chief executive of Barking and Dagenham's new primary care trust. The move means that she will in effect be managing a combined health and social care operation when the PCT gets underway in April. See also UK FIRST: SOCIAL SERVICES AND HEALTH CARE TO BE LED BY SAME MANAGER
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