The home secretary, David Blunkett, is to press ahead with plans to include the national anthem and union flag in new citizenship ceremonies (see LGCnet), despite objections from some local authorities, reports The Guardian(p11). A Home Office consultation paper on the format of the ceremonies found that a minority of 16 mainly local authority organisations objected to the use of such symbols as 'inappropriate'. Scottish councils have also told Mr Blunkett that they only reluctantly accept the need for such national symbols, and insisted Scottish flags and music must also feature in the ceremonies. The Times(p13) reports that Glasgow City Council has still to make a final decision on the content of the ceremony but an early recommendation opposed the singing of God Save the Queen and the display of the flag. A spokesman said no decision had been taken. Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council is considering giving new British citizens a keyring containing the city's coat of arms.
Governance in the public sector is moving up the political agenda - and important changes in the role of chief executives could be the result, reports the Society Guardian(p16). It says that management of public services will be under greater scrutiny, leading to the creation of the Commission on Good Governance of Public Services with a code of principles on the ethical dimension of publ ic service agencies being proposed in the autumn by the Office of Public Management.
GOVERNMENT SET TO MISS TEACHING TARGETS
Weak or 'inadequate' teaching is likely to mean the government will continue to miss its primary school improvement targets, David Bell, chief inspector of schools, said yesterday, reports The Guardian(p7). Launching the Ofsted report (see LGCnet), Mr Bell said too many teachers still had 'too poor a grasp' of English and maths to help struggling pupils. Meanhwhile, a leading article in The Times(p25), says the government was right to force primary schools to move back to more traditional teaching methods, which have led to clear improvements. But insists there is a long way to go to 'root out' the poor teaching that prompts Ofsted to suggest that one in eight of all lessons is unsatisfactory.
TOLL ROADS: A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME
The Guardian(p4) reviews the first day of the M6 Toll road around Birmingham predicting that Britain's first ever pay-per-drive motorway could be the shape of things to come. Opening the controversial toll road, criticised by environmentalists and hauliers, transport secretary, Alistair Darling, said it was a first step towards change in the way the nation's traffic is managed. Mr Darling is to publish a feasibility study next year on the prospects for road pricing across the country.
PRE-BUDGET REPORT EXPECTED TO SHOW DECLINE IN PUBLIC FINANCES
Speculation over the chancellor's pre-Budget report today starts with the Financial Times(p1) saying that Gordon Brown is expected to a dmit that public finances have continued to deteriorate. It also predicts that a housing supply review will be commissioned to look at obstacles to housebuilding and propose tax breaks for property investors. The Guardian(p13) says that according to the latest Treasury estimates Mr Brown has had to budget for an extra £6.6bn to cover unexpected increases in public spending, which has resulted in the ODPM being allocated an additional £1.3bn for programmes ranging from housing to the fire services. The department for constitutional affairs has been allocated another £955m to deal with Scottish and Welsh interests. Meanwhile, The Guardian(p13) reports that the Conservatives last night launched a pre-emptive strike against today's pre-budget report by condemning the Blair-Brown approach to public service reform as both 'doomed to failure and ruinously expensive'.
EDUCATION DEPARTMENT TO AXE 1,000 JOBS
Charles Clarke is to slash up to 1,000 jobs from the education department, a move which according to the Financial Times(p6) is underlining the government's determination to find efficiency savings ahead of a tough spending round. The newspaper says the job cuts at the education department are the latest in a string of announcements intended to show ministers are not waiting for the Gershon review before making savings.
By reporter Bansri Shah