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OPINION - LETTERS

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Share alike...
Share alike

Your article on shared services (LGC, 28 September) highlights the fact that 87% of councils wrongly assume they can only share services with their neighbours. It shows just how important it is to define what we mean by shared services and how this can be linked to a radical refocusing of services based around the needs of people.

During a debate at the LGC Summit, Northgate shared its views with David Myers, director of shared services in the Cabinet Office, Dr Eric Woods of Ovum and chief officers and councillors from local government.

If shared services are to be sustainable, we need to establish shared goals and objectives. This cannot happen in an ad-hoc fashion, and a number of issues need to be addressed. These include: developing financial models which can provide councils with the necessary capacity and incentives to develop innovative shared working arrangements; tackling significant barriers to shared services, including fear of loss of local accountability and reputational concerns; and encouraging new styles of partnership between the public and private sectors.

We need to encourage broader debate among a wider group of stakeholders. As part of this process, Northgate will be publishing the edited transcript of the LGC Summit session, available free to all LGC subscribers.

Dave Meaden

Managing director,

Northgate Public Services

Appetite for change

Jamie Oliver's challenge and innovation has already altered the way school meals are provided (LGC, 28 September).

When I visit schools in Westminster, I am pleasantly surprised to see children tucking into healthy food.

I believe the key is to engage children with their meals. We offer children the chance to have a say in their menus, and arrange tasting sessions so they can see greens can be tasty.

It may have taken a celebrity chef to raise awareness, but the local government community has shown it has a healthy appetite for the challenge.

Sarah Richardson (Con)

Cabinet member for children's services, Westminster City Council

Don't mess up waste

London Councils (formerly the Association of London Government) disputes

claims from the mayor's office that, without a single waste authority for London, the boroughs risk missing their landfill directive targets (LGC,

28 September).

The comments made in your story confuse national recycling targets and EU landfill targets - which are passed down to local authorities through the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme.

This scheme, whereby boroughs are allowed to offset their landfill allowance using future years' allowances, is coming to the end of its first year.

Although the figures are yet to be released, indications are that every London borough will comfortably operate within their EU landfill allowance allocations.

Meeting the waste targets of future years poses a significant challenge to boroughs - not least because of the capital's size - but it is an issue they are already working hard to address.

London boroughsare working in co-operation with residents and other councils to increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. We expect to see continued improvements in both when audited figures are released by the government later this year.

A single waste authority would separate the waste disposal and collection functions. This would complicate contractual arrangements, reduce financial transparency and damage democratic accountability. For ordinary Londoners, a single waste authority could end up recycling less, while costing them more to dispose of their rubbish.

Merrick Cockell (Con)

Chairman, London Councils

In the driving seat

Environment secretary David Miliband's speech to the Labour Party conference reconfirmed Nottingham's position as a national driver in the hunt for solutions to climate change.

A compilation of our proposals and events from recent months are to be presented at a public conference next week, which will involve businesses, community groups, campaigners, councillors and residents.

Michael Edwards (Lab)

Deputy leader, Nottingham City Council

Time to go fourth

The 2:1 vote at the Labour Party conference for the 'fourth option' on housing is the third time Labour has rejected the government's policy of conning and coercing councils into housing stock privatisation.

The votes are producing a review of policy within the department and Labour, while government plays a game of bluff by pretending there is no alternative to privatisation.

Communities and local government secretary Ruth Kelly's reply to the debate was a sad part of this great stalling operation. She argued the fourth option would mean£12bn of government spending, with all the inflationary horrors that would bring.

Her figure was plucked out of the air, and is totally wrong. The fourth option is based on allowing councils to keep their own money because government will stop filching£1.5bn a year from housing revenue accounts and allow councils to keep£0.5bn of right to buy sales.

The longer Ms Kelly keeps up her war on council housing, the greater the damage she does to the economy, to tenants and to everyone in housing need.

Austin Mitchell MP (lab)

ALG pilgrimage

The retirement of Martin Pilgrim next April after a 10-year spell at the helm of the Association of London Government marks the end of an era.

For over 20 years Martin has fought at the frontline of local government. Working at the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, he was expert in the trench warfare of finance. His finest hour came in engineering the famous Daily Mirror headline 'Sex and the poll tax'.

He forged the ALG into an effective organisation which commanded real attention and delivered real policies.

Local government owes Martin a great deal.

Rodney Brooke

Former secretary, Association of Metropolitan Authorities

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

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