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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 11:55HRS

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'TOWN HALL LEADERS SUBMIT TO ARM-TWISTING' ...
'TOWN HALL LEADERS SUBMIT TO ARM-TWISTING'

Under the above headline, The Times(p6) reports that local government minister Nick Raynsford 'hauled in' a further group of town hall leaders yesterday in ' a desperate attempt' to keep council tax rises down (see LGCnet). 'His tactics appear to be working,' the paper notes, with several councils including Breckland DC, Warwick DC and Cambridge City Council revising their figures downwards in the past few days. Mr Raynsford has also written to all the fire authorities, which were proposing 20 per cent increases, and home secretary David Blunkett has put pressure on police authorities threatening rises of more than 15 per cent.

GIVE VOTERS POWER TO CAP COUNCIL TAX, SAYS BYERS

In The Times(p6), Local Government Association chair Jeremy Beecham dismisses Stephen Byers' Council tax plans (detailed on LGCnet) saying that he (Sir Jeremy) would become a pensioner in six years and hoped to live in his house for at least another 20 years after that, proving an expensive burden for the Treasury.

TORRIDGE PORRIDGE

Leaving Barnstaple magistrates court in Devon yesterday, after being ordered to pay Torridge DC£99 and£10 court costs, pensioner Elizabeth Winkfield said she would go to jail rather than pay her full council tax, reports The Daily Telegraph(p11). Miss Winkworth was one of 110 people issued with liability orders by North Devon ma gistrates on behalf of Torridge DC, one of the authorities collecting the tax for Devon CC. Torridge DC told the paper: 'With all other local authorities, we have a statutory duty to collect the council tax and have no choice but to apply the legislation as it stands.'

LONDON'S ELEPHANT & CASTLE TO HAVE ONE OF BIGGEST URBAN FACELIFTS IN ENGLAND

Southwark LBC's executive committee yesterday approved a£1.5bn, 170-acre regeneration scheme for Elephant & Castle (see LGCnet). The project will be one of the biggest urban renewal schemes in England, redressing what is widely seen as a post-war planning disaster, reports the Financial Times(p4).

ADOPTION OF EUROPEAN RECYCLING RULES WILL CAUSE EXPLOSION IN CAR-DUMPING

Thousands more abandoned cars will litter Britain as the country adopts tough European rules on recycling, the environment, foodand rural affairs select committee forecast yesterday. Until car manufacturers become responsible for recycling their own vehicles in 2007, owners will have to bear the cost of disposal under the EU directive, leading to fears of 500,000 dumped cars a year. The MPs on the committee found that govenment delays in clarifying what was expected of recyclers meant that only one of the 2,500 members of the British Metals Recycling Association was ready to meet European standards, reports The Times(p14).

COUNCIL TAX EXAMINED FROM ALL ANGLES

The letters page of The Times(p25) is dominated by correspondence on the council tax. LGA vice-chairman and Kent CC leader Sandy Bruce-Lockhart writes that what is needed is for the government to bring down public sector inflation, and 'state clearly that it will in future match its spending plans for local councils with grants.' Nick Raynsford writes that, when all budgets and council tax levels are finalised, it will be seen that the government's campaign to achieve a dramatic reduction in last year's big rises 'will have been a success; and secondly, that Labour councils will have budgeted more prudently than Tory ones.' The Liberal Democrat spokesman for local government, Edward Davey, promotes his party's policy of a local income tax, based on the ability to pay. 'Financial discipline will be the imperative, dictating councillors' security of tenure,' he writes. Southend-on-Sea BC leader Howard Briggs believes that Southend's 'too high' council tax increase of 6.8 per cent, 'is entirely due to our parsimonious government allocation.'

IT'S CURTAINS FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL'S PARCAKE DAY RACE

Okehampton Primary School's Pancake Day race has had to be cancelled because of because of a fourfold increase in the premium for public liability insurance. As there is insufficient room for the 550 pupils to compete on the school premises, they have used a pedestrian precinct in the town centre. Devon CC told The Times(p13) that were the event held in the school grounds the children would be covered by the school's insurance.

AND FINALLY ...

Brenda Gould from Newmarket, who listed her cows as voters on an electoral registration form, has been fined£210 by magistrates at Ely, Cambridgeshire, reports The Times(p9). She did not attend court, was convicted of providing false information to East Cambridgeshire DC. 'Mrs Gould completed her form indicating that her address had been split into two properties,' said a council spokesman. 'The other persons Mrs Gould claimed to be living in the second property were, in fact, her cows. It was the second time Mrs Gould had submitted false electoral information, as the form for the previous year had listed her cows, 'Henry and Sophie Bull', and her dog, 'Jake Woofles', as being eligible to vote.'

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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