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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 12:10HRS

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EMERGENCY PLANNING #1: BIG CIVIL DEFENCE SHAKE-UP ON THE CARDS...
EMERGENCY PLANNING #1: BIG CIVIL DEFENCE SHAKE-UP ON THE CARDS

New legislation setting out closer strategic co-ordination between central and local government and the public and private sector will be included in the Queen's speech next autumn. New funding arrangements for local authority emergency planning departments will also be detailed. The bill will contain new emergency powers for the government including the ability to declare 'community assistance zones' to help move people faster in the event of a catastrophic incident. Nick Rowe, emergency planning officer with Kent CC, told the Financial Times(p1): 'We've been moving from the concept of a dad's army of civil defence volunteers to the proper training and equipping of all relevant services for dealing with a range of worst-case scenarios.'

EMERGENCY PLANNING #2: ALL HOMES TO GET TERROR SURVIVAL PLAN

All households are to be issued with instructions on how to survive a major terrorist attack under new peacetime civil protection laws. Local government minister Nick Raynsford said its aim was to give the public greater information but not to cause panic. 'We want people to know we are ready for any eventuality without alarming the public,' he told The Sunday Times (8/12/02, p1).

IN DEPTH: LEYLANDII BILL COULD PUT A BUNSEN TO HEDGES

The government is promising support for moves to restrain the growth in popularity of the fast-growing conifer leylandii with a bill to be introduced in parliament on Wednesday. The bill will extend planning laws, which currently cover only man-made constructions such as buildings or fences, to 'organic' materials. Householders will have to apply to their local authority for planning permission to grow a hedge over two metres high, or risk being ordered to cut the plant back. In extreme cases, council officers could be given the right to wield a chainsaw over any hedge more than the limit which prompts complaints, reports The Guardian(p6). See also HIGH HEDGES BILL CLEARS FIRST HURDLEon LGCnet.

FIRE DISPUTE: NEXT STRIKE WILL GO AHEAD AS PLANNED

The next firefighters' strike is likely to go ahead as planned a week today, TUC general secretary John Monks warns today. Without substantial progress in talks at ACAS, Mr Monks says the dispute will reignite and though he regards a further major strike before Christmas with 'a degree of dread' he will back it. In an interview with The Guardian today, Mr Monks blames the prime minister for toughening the government's position and says the Fire Brigades Union was badly let down when the peace deal thrashed out last month was overturned, reports The Guardian(p1). He describes the controversial 16 per cent agreement, which was not fully costed, as 'a decent deal, arrived at in the middle of the night' which would have settled the dispute, and admits his surprise the next morning to find the government vetoing it. 'We had no idea that the employers and the government hadn't really got their act together.' He says the biggest problem in solving the dispute is the shift pattern, which allows firefighters to take other jobs during their days off.

TRANSPORT SECRETARY TO UNVEIL HUGE ROADS PROGRAMME

Transport secretary Alistair Darling will this week unveil what is expected to be the biggest road building programme since Labour took office in 1997. But he is expected to ignore calls to link the programme to an extension of road tolls between urban centres for fear of a public backlash. Environmentalists and transport experts say the new road space will quickly fill up without more road pricing to suppress demand, reports the Financial Times(p1).

PUBLIC PAY AWARDS SURGE AHEAD OF THOSE IN PRIVATE SECTOR

Public sector pay deals are outstripping awards in the private sector with some deals coming in as high as 15 per cent, according to Incomes Data Services. The average pay award hit 3 per cent over the summer for the first time in a year, the labour market analysts said in a report published today. But it said this masked a sharp contrast between the public sector, where settlements average around 4 per cent - one percentage point higher than in the private sector, reports The Independent(p17).

IN BRIEF:

-- The Guardian(Money, 7/12/02, p12) looks at the varying cost and time taken to provide the results of local authority searches. At£35.00, Cornwall CC provides the cheapest. Daventry DC's is the most expensive local authority search, at£200.00, and the national average is£113.92.

-- A letter from the leader of Islington LBC, Steve Hitchins, on the subject of the CPA appears in The Guardian(p25). Cllr Hitchins believes the paper's preview of possible results 'raises some important questions,' but concludes: 'I am disturbed that Islington council should be labelled before the results of the CPA have even been announced.'

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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