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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 12:20HRS

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PAY SNUB FOR TEACHERS ...
PAY SNUB FOR TEACHERS

Teachers in England and Wales are facing basic pay increases of no more than the rate of inflation next year after the education secretary, Estelle Morris, ruled that current salaries are 'acceptable in most parts of the country'. The inflation rate in July was 1.5%. Unions reacted furiously to Ms Morris's evidence to the schoolteachers' review body, the advisory body on salaries, where she also revealed that she wanted to reform the workforce and make it harder for teachers to rise up the pay scale, reports The Guardian(p1).

LONDON'S REGIONAL GOVERNMENT DEFIES GOVERNMENT AND WINS INVESTMENT GRADE RATING

The Greater London Authority will today announce that it has been awarded an investment grade credit rating, in defiance of government policy. The GLA has been rated AA+ by international rating agency Standard & Poor's, signifying that it has a 'sound' financial outlook, reports the Financial Times(p2).

HOME SECRETARY TURNS TO MIDDLE ENGLAND FOR ASYLUM CENTRE SITES

The home office is targeting 'urban middle England' in its search for sites to house new accommodation centres for asylum seekers to avoid putting them in deprived inner city areas where housing and schools are already under pressure, it emerged yesterday. The home secretary, David Blunkett, confirmed he was considering the Refugee Council's proposal for smaller asylum centres than the already planned four mega 750-places centres earmarked for rural locations such as Throckmorton airfield in Worcestershire, reports The Guardian(p10).

HEADS SAY ALL A-LEVELS SHOULD BE RE-MARKED

The examination system was facing its deepest crisis in memory last night as headteachers insisted every A-level grade should be reissued to calm mounting anger over the alleged downgrading of results. They rejected a move by Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education, to order the re-marking of 4,000 disputed A-level scripts brought to the attention of exam boards by heads who claimed pupils had been marked down to avoid claims of grade inflation, reports The Independent(p1).

ARMY FIREFIGHTERS WILL BE 'TOTALLY INADEQUATE' IN STRIKE

Only 12,500 military personnel - some with as little as five weeks' training - will be available to replace 35,000 frontline firefighters in the event of national strikes. An internal government paper obtained by The Independent(p2) reveals that 19,000 personnel could be mobilised, but 6,500 will be backroom and administrative staff. It also discloses that training for the replacement crews began on 28 August -- six days before negotiations between the Fire Brigades Union(FBU) and local authorities broke down.

UNIONS SQUARE UP TO CHANCELLOR FOR PFI BATTLE

Gordon Brown was battling last night to avoid an embarrassing defeat at the Labour party conference over the private finance initiative after three of Britain's biggest unions joined forces to call for a halt to the controversial programme. Emergency resolutions criticising the chancellor's 'discredited' policy and calling for a 'moratorium on any future PFI projects' have been submitted by Unison and the GMB with TGWU support, reports The Guardian(p14).

IN BRIEF:

-- Under the headline 'Why do we need LEAs?', The Independent(Education, p3) comments on Ofsted's first ever overview of the performance of local education authorities, published this week, which the paper says, 'is hardly good news for those working in town halls.' It concludes: 'It is far better to have a democratically accountable authority with local knowledge in charge of administrating support services than to set up yet another government-appointed quango to do the job. It is, however, entirely possible to envisage that LEAs will play a less strategic role in some areas in the future.'

-- The online services of Kingston upon Thames RB and Birmingham City Council are deemed 'invaluable' by The Guardian (Online, p13). The former's ISIS service, providing information on every address in the borough, receives praise, as does the latter's ability to deal with at least 100 'things', from running cemetaries to paying housing benefit to clearing wasps' nests despite the 'big IT problems' of metropolitan authorities.

AND FINALLY ...

'Mayor wanted - only gits need apply' is The Guardian's headline for an opinion piece which goes back to 1982 to flesh out its history of Tony Banks' bid to be London mayor.

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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