The Scottish education minister, Jack McConnell, has postponed his announcement of a deal on teachers' pay and conditions as the Scottish executive and council engage in a war of words over a£200m gap in funds to pay for the package. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities claims money earmarked for education is being taken to fund the Sutherland report's recommendations on care for the eldery. But the executive said this was 'absolute rubbish', adding that it was prepared to pay£800m over three years to fund the McCrone deal, reports The Herald(p1).
CONCERN OVER HIGHLAND ROADS CONTRACT
The convener of the Highland Council, David Green, has written to the Scottish executive warning of the long-term implications for fragile rural communities if a£100m contract to manage and maintain trunk roads in the region is awarded to a private contractor, reports The Herald(p19). He highlights the fact that 175 council staff are currently employed doing the trunk road work, many of whom live in some of the remotest parts of Scotland. These communites would suffer if the public/private consortium, Caledonian Roads - which embraces Perth and Kinross, Stirling, Argyll and Bute and the Highland council areas - were to lose the contract, he says.
LABOUR ACCUSED OVER ELDERLY CARE
The SNP's health spokeswoman, Mary Scanlon, yesterday accused Labour of giving its attachment to the public sector a higher priority than the provision of proper care for the elderly, reports The Herald (p6). Ms Scanlon said councils appeared to prefer to leave elderly people 'laguishing' on waiting lists rather than find them accommodation in the private or voluntary sector. Her comments follow a recent court ruling which found that councils have an obligation to provide nursing and residential accommodation for elderly people who cannot afford to pay for it themselves.
POISON PEN ATTACK ON WALSALL
Walsall MBC's leader Mike Bird has challenged the author of an article which likened the town to 'Ceaucescu's Romania with fast-food outlets' to repeat his claims under his real name, reports The Birmingham Post (p3). Writing under his pen name of Theodore Dalrymple in an American art magaizine, Dr Anthony Daniels, a Birmingham psychiatrist, said: 'It is possible that there are uglier towns in the world than Walsall, but if so, I do not know them.' But Mr Bird said: 'I have no time for people who remain anonymous and haven't got the guts to stand up and be counted. He should keep his ridiculous view to himself.'
DURHAM CITY CLEARED OVER LAND DEAL IMPROPRIETY
The district auditor has criticised Durham City Council for the way it acted in a controversial land deal but also said there was no evidence of impropriety, reported The Northern Echo (3 January, p5). A fraud squad investigation last year led to the arrest of the council's chief executive, Colin Shearsmith on suspicion of defrauding the authority - but ended with no charges being brought. In a statement issued by the council, Mr Shearsmith said: 'This report draws a line under this issue. I acknowledge the comments made by the district auditor within the report and his recommendations for the future.'