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OPINION - LETTERS

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Movie capital...
Movie capital

London's councils are quite aware of the benefits filming can bring (LGC, 7 December) and work with various partners to ensure Londoners enjoy them.

Every London local authority has a dedicated filming contact and has signed up to the London Filming Partnership, an initiative supported by over 120 organisations and agencies.

Building on this, the capital is set to become even more film friendly with the enactment of the London Local Authorities & Transport for London Bill, which will make it legal for the first time to close roads in the capital for the express purpose of filming.

Charges for filming in London are not more expensive than elsewhere in the UK on a like-for-like basis and street filming in London is competitively priced with the rest of the country.

This is why London retains its competitive edge as one of the greatest cities in the world for film-making.

Martin Pilgrim

Chief executive, London Councils and director, Film London

So much for savings

It would seem that the double standards highlighted by Robert Palmer (LGC, 7 December) are by no means unique to Essex.

In Kent, the highways agreement between the county and the districts was also ended by Kent CC on the grounds that performance would be improved and savings of some£1.3m would be made each year by bringing the service back to county hall. The scrutiny process demonstrated that the proposed savings were unlikely to materialise.

Subsequently it emerged that the reorganisation brought with it a capital requirement of some£20.8m with a move to three depots across Kent. More recently, a further reorganisation has been devised which will see Kent's highways service run from two 'super depots', reducing the capital cost to£17.7m.

Apart from the costs of the change, at a time when the partnership with the districts was beginning to pay off, the whole project contradicts the demands from the Local Government Association's chairman, Lord Bruce-Lockhart, that central government should devolve powers to councils.

Mike Eddy (Lab)

Shadow leader, Kent CC

Virtual unitaries

Local area agreements are, we are told, the only show in town. But what about the districts? As the ink dries on many a local area agreement, attention turns to how on earth to deliver it. Districts have the opportunity to join in the reward money bonanza for achieving stretch targets. But how many are?

Implementing the agreements is complex and horrendously difficult. Take cleaner, greener, safer issues as an example. This involves many services and agencies - police, probation, street cleaning and leisure, to name but a few. It is hard enough to join up these services in a unitary or a met, never mind in a county with districts. There is a real challenge and an opportunity here. Close co-operation and genuine close working between county and districts is essential for success.

Is this another clever way to create virtual unitaries?

Philip Sayers

Director, Catalyse Consulting

ASBO history

Following its latest report on anti-social behaviour, the National Audit Office should be renamed the National History Office.

A section of the report focused on a survey of perceptions about anti-social behaviour, broken down by local authority boundary. My area, Mansfield, was named as the place with the second highest percentage of people who saw anti-social behaviour as a problem. However, the survey quoted was actually carried in 2002-2003, making it about four years out of date.

As a result of this dated information, the name of my district was dragged through the mud. It beggars belief that such an important document should contain information that is so old. In fact it is hard to see what relevance it has today, other than reminding us how far we have come. Mansfield DC set up its anti-social behaviour unit in 2003 and has been hailed by the Home Office's Respect team.

Since 2003-2004, total crime in Mansfield has fallen by about 9%. In that time the council has secured more than 102 acceptable behaviour contracts, 31 ASBOs, 29 interim ASBOs, 35 possession orders to evict trouble-makers from council properties and 62 anti-social behaviour injunctions.

At every opportunity, we have taken up the challenge to tackle anti-social behaviour and have been able to make a real difference to people's lives. It's a real shame that a lot of that good work has now been undermined.

Andre Camilleri (Ind)

Portfolio holder for public protection, Mansfield DC

Cuts are last resort

We have received notification from the government of the amount of money it will give us in the next year.

Suffolk CC plans to cover most of this£22m shortfall by cutting waste, and improving efficiency and the way we deliver services. There will be an impact on services in some areas, as we will have to choose between what we want to do and what we can afford. However, I must stress that cutting services is a last resort.

It would be wrong, therefore, to refer (as some commentators have) to£22m cuts.

We are making good progress in tackling and challenging costs. For example, we have been working with partners to keep inflationary costs down as much as possible. We are also linking with districts and boroughs more effectively to save money in areas like legal services.

Suffolk is already the top county in the country for meeting efficiency targets. We intend to build on this position of strength to secure the future of vital services while keeping tight control of costs.

Jane Storey (CON)

Portfolio holder for resources, finance and performance, Suffolk CC

Transforming sites

The link between 'brownfield blight' - often ugly, derelict areas which have a negative impact on the people who live in their immediate surroundings - and economic depression and ill-health is well recognised.

In contrast, the areas used in the practical case study approach of English Partnerships' Brownfield guide - such as the Sherwood Energy Village in Nottingham - have been transformed for local residents, attracting community and commercial investment often in excess of statutory funding.

Where once there were ugly, disused buildings and scrub land, now there are new homes, shops, community facilities, play areas, green spaces and nature reserves.

The guide is available via

www.englishpartnerships.co.uk/publications

Professor Paul Syms

National brownfield adviser,

English Partnerships

Please limit your letter to 300 words. LGC reserves the right to edit letters prior to publication

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