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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 11:45HRS

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LIB DEMS MAKE FORMAL REQUEST FOR WATCHDOG TO INVESTIGATE LONDON MAYOR'S PARTY CONDUCT ...
LIB DEMS MAKE FORMAL REQUEST FOR WATCHDOG TO INVESTIGATE LONDON MAYOR'S PARTY CONDUCT

The dispute over Ken Livingstone's conduct at a party reignited spectacularly last night when the watchdog set up to monitor standards of propriety among mayors and councillors, the Standards Board for England, was asked to launch a full-scale investigation. If the board finds Mr Livingstone has behaved improperly, he could ultimately be suspended as mayor of London and barred from public office for up to five years, reports The Independent(p1). See LGCnetfor a statement from the Lib Dems.

MAYOR'S 'PLANNING' TO FORCE LONDON BOROUGHS INTO EXTRACTING MONEY FROM DEVELOPERS

Developers face a big increase in demands for contributions to facilities such as schools and affordable housing under tough new planning procedures being drawn up by London mayor Ken Livingstone and mooted in his draft London Plan. The mayor is also seeking new powers from deputy prime minister John Prescott that would allow him to intervene directly in negotiating planning obligations, also known as section 106 agreements, reports the Financial Times (p5).

EMBATTLED HOLMES PLACE MULLS OFFER OF MANAGEMENT BUY-OUT IN

The board of Holmes Place, the health club operator, was yesterday mulling a management buy-out proposal from its chief executive Allan Fisher and finance director. Holmes Place, which is firmly pitched at the premium end of the health club market, declined to comment on whether it had received any other offers. The performance of premium health clubs such as Holmes Place and Esporta - which issued a profits warning in January - has been in strong contrast to the growth rates and consistent profits from the mid-market operators such as Fitness First and LA Fitness, reports the Financial Times(p24).

Pensions: the£30bn black hole

FACED WITH£30BNPENSIONS BLACK HOLE, GOVERNMENT APOLOGISES FOR STATISTICAL ERRORS

The government last night fuelled rising public alarm about the state of occupational pensions when it apologised for newly-unearthed statistical errors which may have overestimated the scale of£86bn worth of annual savings by as much as£30bn. Even public sector workers, who may have considered themselves insulated from problems affecting the private sector, are being sucked into the crisis, with three-quarters of local authorities believed to have deficits in their pension schemes, which in the worst cases - such as Surrey CC and Hackney LBC - may result in council tax rises, reports The Guardian(p3).

IN BRIEF:

-- The chief executive of Westminster LBC, Peter Rogers, has a letter in the Financial Times(p18), supporting the LGA's stance in debating the merits of the government's comprehensive performance assessment system. He concludes: 'Ministers need to listen to the concerns of local councils in Bournemouth this week and consider whether naming and shaming is the right way to drive up standards in government.'

-- Guardian Education(p6) asks who better to take on the complex problems of London schools than the minister for young people and learning, Stephen Twigg.

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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