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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 12:05HRS

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FIRE DISPUTE #1: FBU AND EMPLOYERS LIKELY TO MEET FACE-TO-FACE NEXT WEEK...
FIRE DISPUTE #1: FBU AND EMPLOYERS LIKELY TO MEET FACE-TO-FACE NEXT WEEK

Firefighters and employers are expected to step up the search for a solution to their dispute next week, with top officials likely to meet face-to-face for talks through the conciliation service ACAS. Representatives of local fire authorities and professional negotiators for local government yesterday presented their pay-for-modernisation plans to ACAS officials, including Rita Donaghy, the organisation's chair, reports The Financial Times(p2).

FIRE DISPUTE #2: 'IRRELEVANT' BAIN REPORT MAY HALT TALKS

Peace talks to resolve the fire dispute risk being frozen for nearly a fortnight after the head of a government-appointed review yesterday declined to bring forward publication of his final report. George Bain rejected a Tory request to issue the document next week. His office admitted it was incomplete, when a spokesman confirmed it would be released on 16 December. The executive of the Fire Brigades Union is to decide next week whether to go ahead with an eight-day strike from the same date, reports The Guardian(p7).

FIRE DISPUTE #3: 'Employers vowed yesterday to break the union militants' grip on the fire service,' reports the Daily Mail (p19).

HOMOSEXUALS AND BISEXUALS TO WIN SAME RIGHTS AS MARRIED COUPLES

Gay men, lesbians and bisexuals are to be offered the same rights as married couples under revolutionary Government plans to create legally-recognised civil partnerships. Barbara Roche, the Minister for Social Exclusion and Equalities, has concluded there is a 'clear and strong' case for allowing same-sex couples the chance to register their relationships. Mrs Roche told The Independent the proposals aimed to confer property and inheritance rights on homosexual men and women for the first time. Under the plans, to be published in the form of a consultation paper, those who register their partnership will also receive next-of-kin status, reports The Independent(p1).

TREASURY PUBLIC FINANCES VIEW 'MAY BE TOO OPTIMISTIC', CLAIM THINK-TANKS AND MARKETS

Treasury forecasts for the public finances may be over-optimistic and allow too little margin for error, independent economists warned MPs yesterday. Giving evidence to the Treasury select committee, economists from think-tanks and the financial markets warned of a threat to Gordon Brown's plans from over-optimistic forecasts of tax revenues, reports the Financial Times(p2). See GOVERNMENT DELIVERS FUNDING BOOST FOR LOCAL AUTHORITIESon LGCnet.

IN BRIEF:

-- The Guardian(p14) compares the spending of Barnsley MBC and Westminster City Council - 'two councils at the top of a national performance league, published next week.'

-- London mayor Ken Livingstone writes in The Independent (p21) that: 'The vital infrastructure projects that London requires cannot be provided by a borough-based administration either alone or only in co-operation with national government. No borough can construct an Underground line or major bridge, upgrade London's bus service, achieve an adequate level of financing for the police or resolve London's housing crisis.'

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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