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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 12:15 HRS

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UNIONS FURIOUS OVER REGIONAL SALARY PLANS ...
UNIONS FURIOUS OVER REGIONAL SALARY PLANS

Unions, including the TUC and the TGWU, have reacted angrily to the chancellor's Budget plans for public sector workers' salaries to be subject to regional variations, reports the Financial Times(p1). However, TUC general-secretary elect Brendan Barber, acknowledges that London and the south-east, in particular, do have additional pressures on pay.

TOP HEALTH CLUB LEAVES STOCK MARKET

Fitness First has announced that it is to exit the stock exchange, after accepting a management buyout valuing the health club chain at £204m, reports the Financial Times(p24). The 346-strong club chain has announced the move in the wake of falling consumer spending and growing competition.

PPP PARTNERS FALL OUT OVER GLUE SPILLAGE

Less than one week into the London Tube's public-private partnership was completed, the three companies responsible for running the network are arguing over responsibility of a minor incident and its resulting costs, reports The Guardian(p19). Highlighting fears that safety could be compromised over disputes concerning responsibility, London Underground and the Tube's two infrastructure maintenance companies are at loggerheads over a recent glue spillage which closed the Central Line once again.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS CRITICISE 'VAST WINDFALL' ON STAMP DUTY FOR DEVELOPERS IN DEPRIVED AREAS

According to the Lib Dems, the chancellor's budget announcement of an exemption on stamp duty in 2,000 'disadvantaged areas' will award property developers a 'vast overnight windfall', reports the Financial Times(p9). Among the areas which the Lib Dems say will receive an 'indiscriminate, flat rate subsidy to landlords', are prime locations in London's City and Canary Wharf.

LABOUR SET FOR SUBSTANTIAL ELECTION LOSSES

On 1 May, Labour could lose 200 to 300 council seats, with the Tories gaining between 150 and 200, and the Liberal Democrats winning up to 250 extra seats, according to London School of Economics' local government expert, Tony Travers, reports The Times (p16). Mid-term blues and the war in Iraq are principal reasons cited for expected large losses, which could number twelve councils.

'EXCELLENT' COUNCILS: SHOULD NOT REST ON THEIR LAURELS

Merrick Cockell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea LBC has a letter in 'The Times' (p25) arguing that the 22 'excellent' councils, such as his still have plenty to achieve in the face of central government trying to 'micro-manage too many local government responsibilities'. Cockell cites various projects on his desk, such as a City Academy and a supplementary borough-wide police force, as examples of ambitions that such councils can still be realising.

UNION ASKS HEADTEACHER TO QUIT FOLLOWING INSPECTION

The National Union of Teachers has asked a headteacher in Mid-Wales to stand down following a scathing report on pupil behaviour and attitude by Estyn, the Welsh inspectorate, reports The Times Educational Supplement (p12). Although the majority of the teaching was deemed to be satisfactory the NUT has requested the resignation of the headteacher at Newtown high school in Powys, insisting that current management cannot remedy the 'breakdown in the disciplinary structure'.

By reporter Gareth Gardiner-Jones

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