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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 10.04HRS

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BROWN PUTS CHILDCARE AT CENTRE OF GOVERNMENT'S ECONOMIC POLICY ...
BROWN PUTS CHILDCARE AT CENTRE OF GOVERNMENT'S ECONOMIC POLICY

Gordon Brown has promised to put childcare at the centre of the government's economic policy, ahead of tomorrow's critical pre-Budget report which, according to The Guardian(p1), is a vital chance for the government to 're-energise' itself before next year's tight pre-election spending round. In an interview the chancellor signalls that the changes will be in the form of a three-pronged initiative, with the expansion of childcare centres, changes to the child tax credit system and a big increase in the supply of affordable childcare. Meanwhile, a leading article in The Guardian(p25), suggests that much of what Mr Brown says tomorrow will be assessed for whether it takes him closer to the premiership.

M6 TOLL OPENS

The M6 Toll around Birmingham ??? Britain's first pay-per-drive motorway, opens today. The transport secretary, Alistair Darling, will perform an opening ceremony this morning. But the £485m road, designed to relieve congestion around the city, has been condemned as a 'white elephant' by environmentalists and has drawn protests from lorry drivers, who have threatened to boycott tolls of up to £11, reports The Guardian(p5). Read more on this here.

OFSTED REPORT FINDS TRAVELLER CHILDREN EXCLUDED FROM EDUCATION

Children from traveller families are 'on the periphery of the education system', according to an Ofsted report (see LGCnet), which says up to 12,000 traveller children are not registered at school, reports The Guardian(p12). The report praises traveller education services run by local education authorities, but highlights tensions between many authorities' virtuous statements on inclusion and the way other departments in the same councils move on travellers camped illegally.

TORY COUNCILLOR DEFECTS TO INCREASE BNP SEATS

The British National Party has increased its council seats to 17 with the defection of a Yorkshire Conservative councillor, reports The Independent(p8). Geoffrey Wallace, a member of Calderdale MBC, said he had crossed to the BNP because the Tories were 'strangled by political correctness'.

WHITE PAPER TO REVIEW NOISE LEVELS AT HEATHROW

A long-awaited White Paper on the future of air travel in Britain is expected to pave the way for more intensive use of Heathrow airport which could have a dramatic impact on noise levels in the area, according to The Independent(p11). It is understood that the White Paper, due out on 16 December, will propose a review of laws which limit the level of noise suffered by nearby residents.

HIGH COURT JUDGE STOPS US GHOST FLEET BEING DISMANTLED IN BRITAIN

Environmental campaigners have won their battle to stop a US 'ghost fleet' of ships being dismantled in Hartlepool, Teesside after a High Court judge ruled that a licence modification granted by the Environment Agency to allow Able UK to scrap the ships in a contract valued at about £10m was 'legally flawed', and declared that the ships had no legal right to stay in Britain, reports The Times(p11).

VOTERS WILLING TO PAY TAXES TO FU ND PUBLIC SERVICES

Voters are much more willing to pay higher taxes to fund health, education and other public services, but are far less ready to contribute cash for the unemployed and the poor, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey. It found that the biggest single shift since the survey began analysing attitudes to the welfare state in 1983, is that a majority of Conservative supporters now favour higher taxes to spend more on health, education and social benefits, reports the Financial Times(p4).

AGENCIES CALL FOR MORE CASH TO TACKLE POLLUTION FROM FARMS

The Environment Agency and English Nature have warned yesterday that almost £400m of public money should be invested to tackle pollution caused by farmers to enable Britain to abide by European Union laws on cleaning up rivers and protecting wildlife habitats, reports the Financial Times(p4). It says that although pollution from specific sources such as factories has been largely dealt with, ministers acknowledge more remains to be done to combat diffuse pollution ??? such as nitrogen fertilisers and pesticides running off fields into rivers leaving waterways and wetlands badly polluted.

TORY SHADOW CHANCELLOR CALLS RECENT COUNCIL TAX RISES 'INTOLERABLE'

Conservative shadow chancellor, Oliver Letwin, has said current council tax rates are 'intolerable' and has encouraged the public to rise up against the increases. Speaking in an interview to The Daily Telegraph (p13), Mr Letwin says the Tories will not go to the polls at the next general election with a promise to cut taxes, but insists they will be in a better position than Labour to 'sort out' the p ublic services.

By reporter Bansri Shah

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