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NATIONAL PRESS - ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES - UPDATED 10:23AM

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TRANSPORT CHIEFS WARN OF THREAT TO SERVICES ...
TRANSPORT CHIEFS WARN OF THREAT TO SERVICES

Bus services will be curtailed by the end of the week unless the government provides new fuel supplies, the Confederation of Passenger Transport warned yesterday. London, Blackpool, Manchester and north Wales are likely to be the worst-affected areas, but services have already been cut back in some regions, The Financial Times(p2) reports.

CARDIFF HIT HARD BY FUEL SHORTAGES

A question mark was last night hanging over the provision of all vital servcies in Cardiff. The Welsh capital ran out of fuel on Monday evening and the crisis is biting. Ambulance services for many non-emergency services have been cancelled, and refuse collection and school bus services are likely to be next, according to The Financial Times(p2).

COUNCILS NOT TOO BADLY AFFECTED BY FUEL CRISIS

The Independent(p3) carries a roundup of some of the major problems that the fuel crisis will be causing for local authorities. Most councils said there had been no immediate disruptions. Social services, public health, services for the vulnerable and refuse collection have been made priorities and fuel can be obtained for them under emergency powers.

BROWN'S CALL FOR GREATER PRODUCTIVITY MET WITH UNION ANGER

Union leaders yesterday expressed anger and dismay at Gordon Brown's speech to the TUC conference, in which he called on them to play their part in improving workplace productivity, reports The Times(p11). John Edmonds, the GMB's general secretary, declared the chancellor's plea for workers to work harder and curb pay as 'half-baked ideas about a lack of effort'. (See also LGCnet for full test of Gordon Brown's speech.)

MATERNITY LEAVE COULD BE EXTENDED TO A YEAR

A proposal to extend maternity leave from six to 12 months is a front-runner for inclusion in Labour's manifesto at the next general election, according to The Independent(p5). The state could pay part of the wages of some mothers for the year. Options under consideration include restricting the payments to basic rate taxpayers or women receiving the working families tax credit.

OUTSOURCING FIRM SPELLS OUT THE BENEFITS OF PFI

The Financial Times(p28) carries a feature on the experience of Jarvis, the facilities management company, in handling private finance initiative deals. Henry Lafferty, chief executive Jarvis, Accommodation Services, says: 'The concept of PFI is right even without the finance. Output-based procurement makes sense. It is based on the customer saying 'this is what we want to do' - not 'this is what we want it to look like'.'

TRADING STANDARDS URGED TO USE CHILD SLEUTHS TO COMBAT UNDERAGE TOBACCO SALES

Councils are to be urged by the government to use children, working under cover, to trap newsagents and shopkeepers who sell cigarrettes to those under 16, and provide evidence which can be used in court, reports The Guardian(p11). The department of health and the department of trade and industry today launch a code - the tobacco enforcement protocol - outlining approaches proven to work in the fight againt underage smoking.

NEWCASTLE'S REGENERATION PLANS FACE LOCAL OPPOSITION

Newcastle communities are claiming they've been left out of regeneration plans for the city, according to a feature in The Guardian(Society, p2). The protests have been sparked by a regeneration masterplan, known as 'Going for Growth, which proposes large-scale demolition of housing. Supported by a growing minority of the governing Labour councillors and the Lib Dem opposition, the protestors say it is not enough to be consulted over plans they fear are a fait accompli. They are demanding to be involved in the decisions.

INSPECTORATE'S WENDY THOMSON CAN BE 'TOUGH AS WELL AS TENDER'

The Guardian(Society, p5) profiles Wendy Thomson, head of the best value inspectorate, which this week published its first seven reports on local authorities. While firmly committed to strong local government, Ms Thomson makes it clear she can be tough as well as tender. As a final sanction, she says she will issue authorities running failing services with a tight time-frame to improve them. And if that fails to work, she can make a recommendation to the government which can order another authority, or service provider, to take over.

ENGLAND'S 'CORE CITIES' CALL FOR LEVEL PLAYING FIELD TO COMPETE WITH LONDON

While London flourishes, England's other big cities feel they are losing out on investment, according to a feature in The Guardian(Society, p12). On one level, England's seven big cities, which begin their second annual conference in Sheffied tomorrow under the core cities umbrella, can claim great success in revitalising centres which seemed to have passed the point of no return but they say they need a 'level playing field' to help them compete with the capital.

By Lewis Williamson, LGCnet assistant editor

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