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

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FIRE DISUTE #1: SETTLEMENT 'HAS TO BE WITHIN FRAMEWORK' OF LETTER TO LGA CHAIR...
FIRE DISUTE #1: SETTLEMENT 'HAS TO BE WITHIN FRAMEWORK' OF LETTER TO LGA CHAIR

On the FBU's suspension of its strike planned for tomorrow, the prime minister's official spokesman said: 'If this is a sign they are prepared to negotiate seriously on the whole issue of modernisation, then that is good news,' but he emphasised: 'A settlement has to be within the framework set out in the deputy prime minister's letter to Sir Jeremy Beecham last week,' reports The Guardian(p1).

See also: STRIKE ACTION SUSPENDED - ACAS TO FACILITATE EXPLORATORY TALKS(FBU) and

EMPLOYERS WELCOME EXPLORATORY TALKS WITH ACAS(LGA) on LGCnet

FIRE DISPUTE #2: GOVERNMENT WILL NOT BUDGE OVER MODERNISATION LINK

The government last night welcomed the decision of the union to return to the talks table, but made it plain that it would never budge on its insistence that anything over a 4 per cent pay rise must be paid for by changes in work practices. A senior government source said: 'They may want to change the venue, but the rules of the game remain the same,' reports The Times(p10).

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT SIMON HUGHES ENTERS PARTY'S RACE TO BE LONDON MAYOR

The battle to challenge Ken Livingstone for the post of London mayor hotted up significantly last night when the Liberal Democrats confirmed that the party's home affairs spokesman, Simon Hughes is to stand against transport expert Susan Kramer. With the Tories this week declaring that 11 hopefuls are in the field, the Lib Dems have the high-profile MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey, Mrs Kramer, and the leftwing environmental campaigner, Donnachadh McCarthy, reports The Guardian(p10).

HEADS SAY COUNCILS ARE DEPRIVING SCHOOLS OF£100M IN STATE AID

Fifty local councils are underspending on school services by a total of more than£100m a year, a new survey suggests. The results, published today, show one in three of the country's local education authorities is spending less on its schools than the amount allotted by the government, reports The Independent(p4).

BRITAIN WILL BE FIRST COUNTRY TO GIVE SMALLPOX JAB TO EMERGENCY MEDICAL UNITS

The smallpox vaccine will be given to 700 key medical staff, frontline health workers in the NHS and the Ministry of Defence who would be deployed in the event of an attack. The government also disclosed yesterday that it was seeking enough vaccine to inoculate the entire population 'should this be deemed necessary'. The chief medical officer, Liam Donaldson, said yesterday that Britain was leading the way in emergency planning, reports The Independent(p1).

IN BRIEF:

-- The 'Lighter Touch' audit regime introduced by the government is threatening the existence of hundreds of England's smallest parish councils. Many have been forced into debt already through having to spend most of their income merely on having their accounts examined. Such is the concern that the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), representing 10,000 parish, town and community councils, is calling for an urgent review, reports The Daily Telegraph (p9).

-- The deputy director of the Employers' Organisation for Local Government, Rob Pinkham, has a letter in The Independent (p17) on local pay deals, highlighting the role of the National Joint Council

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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