Under the above headline in the Financial Times (p23), the MP, LGC columnist and former local government minister David Curry writes about council tax ranking 'high on the Richter scale of voter discontent.' If the government fails to face down business opposition to transferral of this power to councils as part of the balance of funding review to be announced in July, 'a real opportunity to reverse the remorseless disempowerment of local democracy and give business a material stake in local communities will have gone begging.'
In Society Guardian(p6), Nick Raynsford defends himself against critics' allegations of betraying councils, and breaking promises, performing a u-turn on freedoms and flexibilities for councils rated 'Excellent' in the comprehensive performance assessment. 'Because of the behaviour of councils such as Wandsworth, which showed a total disregard for normal prudence, we made it quite clear we could not retain an exemption for good and excellent authorities in subsequent years,' Raynsford tells the paper.
KINGSTON CUTS COSTS BUT ALSO ANNOUNCES WRITE-DOWN OF ASSETS
Hull-based telecommunications supplier Kingston Communications has reported stronger-than-expected earnings, buoyed by cost-cutting measures that sliced£10m off its operating expenses. However, the company also announced a surprise, one-off£96m write-down of its network assets - a sign that it considers making a decent return on the original investment unlikely, reports the Financial Times(p28).
WESTMINSTER 'SLEAZE' IN EARLY NINETIES LEAD TO LOSS OF TRUST IN POLITICIANS
Public disaffection with politicians is caused primarily by perceptions of sleaze at Westminster rather than declining trust in government or public life, according to an academic study (see LGCnet). The study for the Constitution Unit, attached to University College London, challenges the assumption that declining trust in politicians can be explained by disappointment with the government, a collapse of trust across society or the prejudices of the tabloid press. 'We found none of these theories really works,' Professor John Curtice, who led the study, told the Financial Times(p4).
ELECTIONS 2004: BLOW TO LABOUR AND TORIES, AS ONE IN FOUR VOTERS MAY SWITCH PARTY
Both Labour and the Tories are heading for poor results on 10 June, with 25% of each party's voters thinking of switching to another party, according to this month's ICM opinion poll conducted for The Guardian(p2). The survey indicates that the percentage turnout in the European elections is likely to be little different from the low- to mid-twenties recorded at the last European elections in 1999 - although it may be boosted by the unknown effects of new postal voting schemes.
JARVIS DENIES CORRELATION BETWEEN PUBLICATION OF RESULTS AND CHAIRMAN'S ELECTION HOPE
PFI player Jarvis has put off publication of its financial results by up to six weeks and has started talks with its banks amid fears of a breach in its banking covenants. Publicity surrounding a profits plunge could have been an embarrassment for Jarvis chairman Steve Norris, who is standing as the Conservative candidate for London mayor on 10 June, reports The Guardian(p16). The company also admitted yesterday it was considering the sale of its holding in the Tube Lines consortium, which controls sections of London Underground.
AND FINALLY ... JU MPING THE GUM
Chewing gum is going on sale to Singaporeans legally for the first time in 12 years. However, in a unique measure The Guardian(p3). describes as 'dreamed of in vain by public cleaning departments throughout the rest of the world,' chewers will have to register as a gum user and show an identity card every time they buy a packet.
by assistant editor Neil Watson