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

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PRIME MINISTER WARNS PARTY AND UNIONS ON KEY PUBLIC SECTOR REFORMS...
PRIME MINISTER WARNS PARTY AND UNIONS ON KEY PUBLIC SECTOR REFORMS

Tony Blair yesterday gave his starkest warning yet to both the Labour party and the unions that they cannot resist landmark reforms of health and education, saying there is 'absolutely no going back' to Old Labour doctrine. In a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times(p1, p3), the prime minister said the government was facing its 'most testing time' since its election in 1997. Faced with growing backbench and union unrest over foundation hospitals, top-up fees for higher education and greater involvement of the private companies in the public sector, Mr Blair said the government's 'mission' was to reform the 1940s settlement over public services. To do that it had to produce more diversity and choice.

POLITICAL CHIEF OF THE CITY CORPORATION RETAINS SEAT

Judith Mayhew comfortably shook off a challenger in elections to the Court of Common Council yesterday. Ms Mayhew retained her seat in Queenhithe ward with 42 votes out of 130. Her challenger, Pauline Mitchell, polled 16. The other two incumbents, Alastair King and Brian Mooney, also retained their seats, reports the Financial Times(p4).

COUNCIL'S BLANKET EXCHANGE BAN MELTS IN COLD SNAP

A pioneering 'blanket exchange' for a city's rough sleepers is likely to be agreed this week after the weather turning colder abruptly ended an unofficial council-negotiated ban on helping them out with camping equipment. Organisers of a soup run in Nottingham will meet Nottingham City Council staff on Thursday to agree a compromise over emergency bedding for the 20 to 30 people who sleep on city centre pavements or in derelict houses, reports The Guardian(p9).

BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL POISED TO GIVE TENANTS POWER

Birmingham is to launch a radical experiment in devolving power to the tenants of its 84,000 council houses and flats in line with the recommendations of an independent report published yesterday (see INDEPENDENT HOUSING COMMISSION REPORT: 'BIRMINGHAM TENANTS KNOW WHAT WORKS IN THEIR COMMUNITIES'). Its example will be followed by other councils struggling to maintain more than two million such dwellings, experts predicted. A commission chaired by Anne Power, of the London School of Economics, recommended that 35 local agencies run by tenants and council officers should manage and revamp Birmingham's crumbling council housing stock, reports the Financial Times(p5).

'DON'T GIVE IN TO FIREFIGHTERS', INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND WARNS CHANCELLOR

The IMF has told Gordon Brown not to give in to the firefighters or other excessive pay demands, saying that to do so would lead to spiralling wage demands across the economy. As the two sides in the firefighters' dispute entered their fifth day of arbitration, the IMF team described rising public sector pay as one of the biggest risks to economic stability, reports The Times(p1).

IN BRIEF:

-- Marvin Pomfret, serving a life sentence for holding a prison officer hostage, has been awarded nearly£100,000 damages because Bolton MBC 'failed to give him a suitable education'. His lawyers in the landmark test case claim that their client would have been saved from a life of delinquency had he been sent to a special residential school, but senior staff at the council did not act on the advice of experts and as a result he spent most of his youth in care homes, reports The Daily Telegraph (p5).

-- TUC general secretary has a letter in The Guardian(p19), welcoming the extension of survivors' rights in MPs pensions to unmarried partners. 'Yet it is disappointing that all public service workers are not gaining the same rights,' he writes.

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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