A survey of local records has found most councils are unlikely to meet the two-year deadline set by the Climbié inquiry in January for an IT system capable of monitoring children's contact with welfare and law-enforcement agencies. The figures show major disparities between NHS and council data on children and families. In one case it found Hammersmith and Fulham LBC's social services department recorded nearly 3% of its clients as alive when the NHS said they were dead, reports The Guardian(p13). A spokeswoman for the council said the mismatch was because of 'flaws in the NHS database'.
A 'split' has emerged between the prime minister and the chancellor over which airport in south east England should get a new runway, according to The Independent(p1). It is reported that with two months left before the government announces the location of the first new runway in the region for more than 50 years, Tony Blair is backing expansion at Stansted and Gordon Brown is supporting Heathrow. The Treasury argues that the economic case for the west London airport is overwhelming, based on estimates suggesting a runway there would earn at least £16bn more than one at Stansted. But privately the prime minister points out that with an election expected within two years, expansion at the relatively isolated Essex airport would affect far fewer voters.
NETWORK RAIL TAKES OVER MAINTENANCE
Network Rail formally announced today that it was taking charge of maintenance work itself in the biggest shake-up of the railways since they were privatised, reports The Guardian. This follows a series of track problems that have undermined confidence in private contractors such as Jarvis and Balfour Beatty. Rail unions welcomed the move, which they described as a big step toward 're-nationalising' the railway. Meanwhile Railtrack's announcement caused construction company Jarvis's shares to drop by 47p to 240.5p, reports The Daily Telegraph (p38).
COMMITTED TO 'COST EFFECTIVE' PUBLIC SERVICES - LGA
Local Government Association chair, Jeremy Beecham, has reiterated his support for cost-effective public services. In a letter to the Financial Times(p20), he said a previous article (see LGCnet) was incorrect in saying ministers were going to 'impose the new national procurement strategy on local government', because he says the strategy was jointly written by local and central government but also 'embodies a shared commitment to change and improvement'.
NO HOUSING BY LOCAL SOCIAL SERVICES
Two local authorities in London are not required to provide residential accommodation for families so that children can be housed with their parents in circumstances which met the children's needs, according to a high court ruling concerning Lambeth and Barnet LBCs, reports The Times (law report, p49).
LONDON MAYOR VOWS TO EXPAND CONGESTION CHARGE ZONE
Unveiling the first official study of the London congestion charge, the mayor, Ken Livingstone, confirmed that he would seek re-election next year with a promise to double the size of the congestion charge zone by expanding it to the west of London. The new area would be dissected by Edgware Road, which would be exempted from the £5 charge, reports The Guardian(p9). (See LGCnetfor more on this report).
TEACHER'S UNION MOV ES CLOSER TO TESTS BOYCOTT
The National Union of Teachers is preparing to ballot its members over a national tests boycott after a poll found 82.5% were in favour, reports The Guardian. Education secretary Charles Clarke reacted angrily to the poll and urged NUT members to vote against test-related 'strikes', saying that a boycott would 'damage a generation of children' and represent an 'absolute betrayal' of pupils and parents.
ACPO TO REVIEW DIVERSITY STRATEGY
In a bid to combat racism in the police force, ACPO has said it will review its diversity strategy within three months; a process which has begun but will be accelerated. Its president, Chris Fox, will meet the National Black Police Association within the next week to develop an agreed action plan for the future, reports The Guardian(p7). The move follows a recent BBC television documentary which showed deeply entrenched racist attitudes among rank and file police officers. Meanwhile another police officer at Greater Manchester force quit last night. Click herefor more on this report.
REVIEW BODY MAY FREEZE TEACHERS' PAY
The School Teachers' Review Body is expected to back education secretary Charles Clarke's call to freeze teacher's pay for more than a year next month, according to reports in The Times Educational Supplement (p4). The STRB's report is to be handed in by Monday, much earlier than previous years, as part of changes to the pay cycle designed to give schools more time to plan their budgets. Click hereto read Charles Clarke's evidence to the STRB.
MORE SUPPORT FOR SCRAPPING TEACHER TRAINING DAYS
Campaigners for a six-term year are backing a scheme which will allow local authoritie s to force schools to scrap in-service training days, in favour of training after school, at weekends and even during the holidays, reports The Times Educational Supplement (p13). The Local Government Association, which is spearheading the changes, says the move to reduce teachers' school year by five days would save local education authorities millions of pounds in transport costs.
LEAs ACCUSED OF IGNORING SPECIAL NEEDS PUPILS
Charities have accused local education authorities of 'cynically denying' support for special needs pupils, knowing only a few will take them to court, a feature article in The Times Educational Supplement (p18) reports.
By reporter Bansri Shah