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ROUND UP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES FROM THE NATIONAL PRESS

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By Adrian O'Dowd...
By Adrian O'Dowd

COUNCILS GIVEN NEW POWERS TO INTERVENE IN SCHOOLS

Local authorities will have radical new powers to issue warning notices and send in 'hit squads' to schools they believe are under-performing, reports The Independent (p24).

Education secretary Ruth Kelly is due to announce the proposals during her speech to the annual conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers(NASUWT)in Birmingham today.

Councils currently have powers to intervene in schools that have low standards or where pupils are thought to be at risk, but new proposals would extend such powers to the bottom 25 per cent of schools and some 'coasting' schools with good results.

Schools seen as under-performing will be sent warning notices by local authorities and will be given 15 days in which to respond with detailed improvement plans. If a council is unhappy with the rescue plan, the school will have 24 hours before a team is sent in.

PUBLIC SERVICES STRIKE ON HOLD TO ALLOW FURTHER TALKS

Council workers have suspended a planned national strike that was due to happen this month over pension reform, reports The Guardian (p16).

Unions announced yesterday they will call off the planned strike on April 25 to allow further negotiations with the Local Government Association.

Around one million staff went on strike last month to protest at the government's intention to abolish the 'rule of 85', which allows staff to retire at 60 if their age and length of service adds up to 85 years.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, writing on this issue in a column in The Guardian (p35), says: 'Members of every other public sector pension scheme have had their pension contract honoured - why should local government workers be treated any differently?'

COVERT PLAN TO BUILD ON SCHOOL LAND MAY BE BLOCKED BY COUNCIL

Planning authorities are likely to refuse permission for building on the grounds of an independent school that closed last week, reports The Times (p16).

A secret property development plan has been drawn up, claims the newspaper, for the 23 acres surrounding Newlands School in Seaford, East Sussex, but without any knowledge of teachers or parents.

The Chittenden family - landlords of the school - signed an agreement with a property company three years ago to develop the site over 21 years. But the conditional agreement to enter into a joint venture was confidential and meant the family had to deliver vacant possession.

Lewes District Council has not received any planning application for the grounds and says any attempt to build there will not be looked at favourably.

FINES OF£1,000 FOR 'LOLLIPOP RAGE'

Councils have joined forces to clamp down on motorists' aggressive behaviour by threatening£1,000 fines for ignoring school crossing patrols, reports The Daily Telegraph (p7).

The Local Government Association launched a campaign yesterday pointing out that the stop sign carried by school crossing patrols had the same poweras a red traffic light.

Any driver failing to take notice of such a sign could be fined£1,000 and get a three-point penalty on their driving licence, said the LGA.

Drivers are showing increasingly aggressive behaviour, known by some as 'lollipop rage', said the LGA, and were endangering children's lives.

COUPLE OF ADOPTED BOY IN SALT POISONING CASE FREED BUT FACE RE-TRIAL

A couple who killed their adopted three-year-old boy had their manslaughter conviction quashed yesterday but face a re-trial, reports The Daily Mirror (p11).

Ian and Angela Gay, from Halesowen, West Midlands, were accused of poisoning Christian Blewitt four years ago and convicted of manslaughter, but the Court of Appeal overturned that decision yesterday and freed the pair on bail.

The couple had been looking after Christian and his two siblings for a trial period before adopting him, when the boy died in 2002.

The court ruled that if the jury at the original trial had heard fresh evidence that suggested Christian might have died of a form of 'salt diabetes', they might have given a different verdict.

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