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Thongs, seals, unpaid holidays and a mystery fund - it's summer!

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LGC’s essential daily briefing.

It’s nice to know that in the depths of the summer silly season, communities secretary James Brokenshire has forsaken the beach and issued a torrent of initiatives like the rough sleeping strategy and the social housing green paper.

Maybe he prefers gardens. There have been so many initiatives called ‘garden something’, that cynics might think Mr Brokenshire’s new ‘garden communities’ programme is the latest example of an idea constantly repackaged to make it look as though something has happened.

‘Garden communities’ amounted to a fund of unspecified size for which councils can bid by an unspecified process for “potential” funding for staffing and environmental assessments and expert advice.

The nation’s gardens probably remain safe for a while from having communities built on them.

Maybe Mr Brokenshire should head to Somerset’s beaches. As Northamptonshire CC faces financial ruin and others such as Lancashire and Somerset CCs, and Torbay Council, teeter on the brink because of rocketing care costs, the latter has made the novel suggestion that staff should take two days unpaid leave over the next two Christmas breaks to help it save £1m. Since the logic of this is that council would save even more if staff took unpaid leave for even longer, the unions are understandably wary, with Unite’s acting regional secretary Steve Preddy calling the idea a “mean-minded move”.

Who knows, it could even lead to councillors forgoing their allowances for the periods in question? Officers and members of the public might decide against holding their breath on that one.

While some councils are struggling with the costs of adult and children’s social care, Tendring DC has been dealing with seals.

Staff in one week rescued three of the creatures stranded on its beaches, and the council has “a trained marine mammal medic” on its seafronts team.

Cabinet member for leisure and tourism Mick Skeels (Con) reminded residents that seals “may look cute [but] they can give a nasty bite and pass on a number of diseases”.

If Tendring residents begin to bark and grow flippers, the culprits will at least be easily identified.

Meanwhile, across the pond councillors in Ocean City, New Jersey, have rejected a proposed ban on the wearing of thongs on its beaches. Wearing a thong is legal in New Jersey though not in its state parks, which curiously ban “the display of buttocks where they may be seen by others”.

UK councillors are fortunate such fundamentals rarely make it onto their agendas, although they may well do in the future if these heatwaves become a regular occurence.

By Mark Smulian, reporter


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