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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 10.55HRS

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COUNCILS TOLD TO CURB SPENDING OR FACE BUDGET CAPS ...
COUNCILS TOLD TO CURB SPENDING OR FACE BUDGET CAPS

Reports in The Guardian(p1) maintain that local authorities are set on a 'collision course' with John Prescott as he threatens to directly intervene and cap budgets unless councils cut spending within the next six weeks. Asked in an interview about the inevitability of capping, the deputy prime minister warned councils that if they continue to pursue high tax increases 'you can put your money on it'. The article adds that the government's 'hardening' attitude follows an unexpected extra £400m cash injection (see LGCnet), announced in the chancellor's pre-Budget speech, to keep curb council tax rises. Meanwhile, The Times(p15) reports that Conservative shire districts proved to be the biggest winners from this round of government hand outs. The report also provides a breakdown of how much funding each local authority will get. Read more on this here.

MIXED FEELINGS OVER KEN'S RETURN

Readmitting Ken Livingstone to Labour will not unite the London party, the chief whip of Hackney's Labour group has said. Writing in a letter to The Guardian(29), Luke Akehurst comments if Labour's national executive allow the mayor back into the party, it will show that there is 'one rulebook for ordinary members and another for celebrities who can jump in and out as it suits them'. Mr Akehurst also vehemently argues that Mr Livingstone knew what the penalty was when he ran as an independent and that he should serve his five-year exile 'like anyone else who puts their desire to hold offic e above party loyalty'. But in another letter on the same page members of the London assembly, MEPs on Labour's London regional board and the regional secretary's of trade unions GMB, TGWU and Unison proclaim that Mr Livingstone's readmission would be the 'strongest basis for achieving unity in London'. They also welcome steps taken by Nicky Gavron (the party's official mayoral candidate) to combine her campaign with Mr Livingstone's as 'good' for Labour and London. Meanwhile, The Times(p18) reports that the mayor will face a new 'loyalty test' from Labour's ruling executive before it decides whether to readmit him to the party, and that it will want Mr Livingstone to accept that the manifesto for next year's mayoral contest will be written by the party. Read more on this here.

LONDON MAYOR TO PROPOSE 12% COUNCIL TAX RISE

London mayor Ken Livingstone is set to propose an inflation-busting increase of 12% in the Greater London Authority's council tax guidelines outlined in its draft budget, to be released on Monday, adding 52p a week, or £27 a year to an average band D council tax in the capital, reports the Financial Times(p3). It states that the 2.5% increase is the second lowest since Mr Livingstone became mayor and is almost half the increase in both percentage and cash terms that took effect this year. Yesterday, the mayor wrote to the home secretary, David Blunkett, protesting that none of the £340m funding announced in the chancellor's pre-Budget report to keep council tax rises down next year is being made available to police authorities.

NO ID CARD CHECKING FOR SCHOOLS

Children of illegal migrants will not be denied access to free schooling after the introduction of identity cards, it eme rged yesterday, reports The Guardian(p10). MPs of the Home Affairs Select Committee were told that head teachers will not have to check the identity of children or their parents under the scheme, which is intended to ensure that only people who are legally in the country gain access to free services. But John Denham, the former Home Office minister who now chairs the select committee said that it seemed 'a little odd' that parents' identities would not be checked when enrolling their child in a new school.

LEAs TOLD TO TACKLE LEADERSHIP VACUUM IN SCHOOLS

Local education authorities are being warned that schools face a 'demographic time-bomb' which could leave them seriously short of head teachers in 10 years' time, according to new research published today by the by the National College for School Leadership. The report, Growing Tomorrow's School Leaders, urges LEAs to make the development of prospective leaders among younger staff a priority to avoid the looming crisis, reports The Guardian(p13).

FUNDING CONSULTANTS WARN OF SECOND SCHOOLS FINANCIAL CRISIS

Funding consultants at the Secondary Heads Association have warned that many schools and local education authorities could be heading for a repeat of this year's funding crisis, reports the Times Educational Supplement (p8). but a finance director at the Department for Education and Skills reassured delegates at the SHA conference this week that school funding was a 'grade A' issue for the government and there will not be a repeat of this year's problems.

TEACHING UNION THREATENS TO PULL OUT OF WORKLOAD AGREEMENT

The National Association of Head Teachers is to consider pulling out of the workloadagreement over funding concern s at a special meeting in the new year, reports the Times Educational Supplement (p8). David Hart, NAHT general secretary, has written to education secretary Charles Clarke twice this month seeking an urgent meeting and giving him an ultimatum over the agreement, which is seeking to reduce teachers' workload by giving support staff greater roles.

FIRE SERVICE SHAKE-UP ANNOUNCED

Fire authorities are set to be ranked in league tables by the Audit Commission who will set out detailed plans to start comprehensive performance assessments (CPAs) in the same way as it has done for local authorities, Nick Raynsford, local government minister, announced yesterday (see LGCnet). The shake-up of the fire and rescue service, outlined in the Draft Fire and Rescue National Framework, will also merge emergency control rooms with regional centres. Both moves, according to The Times(p15), go further than proposals in the government White Paperlast year.

By reporter Bansri Shah

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