Draft proposals from the Boundary Committee of England*, which is working to a tight timetable set by deputy prime minister John Prescott, prompted a claim from the new shadow local government and regions secretary, David Curry, that taxpayers would pay dearly for Mr Prescott's grand design for English devolution, reports The Guardian(p10). Significantly, the committee's final recommendations will be made to Mr Prescott on 25 May, nine days before local and European elections which are certain to focus on plans for elected assemblies in the north-west, Yorkshire and the Humber and the north-east.
STAFF 'TOLD TO SIGN FOR LONGER WEEK'
Aspiring employees are being forced to sign a clause curtailing their right to work a 48-hour weekly maximum, according to an independent report on the European Union working time directive. The European Commission will use the news as ammunition in its battle to impose a stricter interpretation of workers' rights in Britain, reports the Financial Times(p5).
The conclusion is likely to be included in a toughly worded Cambridge University report on the directive, which points to 'evidence of the opt-out being included as a standard term of employment contracts and so, in effect, being compulsory.'
HOUSING DEVELOPER DEMANDS URGENT ACTION OVER PLANNING CONSTRAINTS
Wilson Bowden, one of the country's leading building firms, yesterday demanded the government take 'urgent action' over the shortage of brownfield land or 'imperil' its own housing targets, reports The Daily Telegraph (p32). The company has reviewed English Partnerships' analysis that there are 65,000 hectares of brownfield land available and claims that there are only 7,330.
STAFF VETTING CHECK FEES RISE AGAIN
Fees for staff vetting checks by the embattled Criminal Records Bureau are to rise again just five months after they doubled, Home Office ministers announced yesterday. The £4 rise, which will come into effect in April, is part of a revenue-raising package designed to self-finance the public-private partnership between the Home Office and Capita, reports The Guardian (p12).
SOCIAL WORK CAMPAIGNER DIES
The Guardian(p29) published an obituary for Bill Freeman, a social work pioneer who championed the rights of children in care. Mr Freeman was president of the Association of Children's Officers in 1968 - a time when the Seebohm report was recommending the amalgamation of several local authority services, including children's departments, into social services departments.
by assistant editor Neil Watson