Tony Blair is facing the first sign of a coordinated backlash from trade unions over his plans to involve private contractors in public services, including health and education, if Labour win the general election. It emerged last night that the TUC executive met yesterday to express alarm at the extent of the prime minister's commitment to introduce private sector management and disciplines to the public sector. The executive agreed to prepare an alternative vision for the public services, but this will not be published until after the election, reports The Guardian(p1).
NORFOLK CC MAN OF LETTERS PRAISES PUBLIC SECTOR MANAGEMENT
The Guardian(p27) carries a letter from Cllr John Garrett of Norfolk CC, praising the management of executive, technical and scientific 'fractions' in government as far more efficient, effective and economical than in commerce and industry. 'British top managers in business gave us the lowest growth rate in the western world for decades,' he says, 'while rewarding themselves on an heroic scale. Government delivered scientific innovation, an effective health service ... and a highly efficient welfare benefits system.'
GOVERNMENT EAGER TO DECLARE BUSINESS AS USUAL OVER FOOT AND MOUTH PATHS
Landowners have warned that the government's new guidance to county councils to open footpaths as speedily as possible could have 'serious consequences', although in areas such as Cumbria, the county council would have to liaise with farmers opposed to the idea and paths could stay closed. The Guardian(p7) suggests 'a change of direction' in the further guidance from the LGA which suggests that the onus of responsibility should now shift from controls by councils to 'responsible behaviour by the public'.
HEAD TEACHERS DEMAND DEFENCES AGAINST PUPILS AND PARENTS
Head teachers are demanding the right to expel pupils whose parents harass or threaten teachers in a bid to curb abusive and violent attacks on school staff. David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said yesterday, in the week before his union's annual conference, that he would be writing to the secretary of state for education, requesting the minister to amend his department's guidance to cover breakdowns in parent/teacher relations, reports The Independent(p5).
MUSEUMS SCRAPPING ENTRY CHARGES INEVITABLE
Universal free admission to the national museum collections became a certainty yesterday when the trustees of the Natural History Museum bowed to the inevitable and voted to scrap the£9 adult admission charge. Their decision was followed within hours by the National Maritime Museum, which will also be free from December, and followed the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum both deciding to abandon their charges. Culture secretary Chris Smith, who described free admission as 'a bit of a personal crusade', was exultant, saying: 'It is very good news indeed,' reports The Guardian(p6).
SURREY CC OUTSOURCES EDUCATION MANAGEMENT
Surrey CC yesterday announced it was handing over management responsibilities at a school to profit-seeking private firm Nord Anglia, awarding it a seven-year contract to work in 'partnership' with the teachers and governors of Abbeylands comprehensive in Addlestone. The school will become another of the government's specialist schools from September 2002. Nord Anglia will receive a flat fee and extensive bonuses if it delivers a reduction in exclusions, and improves both academic results and the number of parents who make the school first preference for their children, reports The Guardian(p20).
MANDELSON ON BARNETT
Peter Mandelson told the Financial Timesyesterday he believes the Barnett formula is here to stay, contrary to what Labour has stated in writing. He feels there are other ways to get a better deal for the region than campaigning to scrap the 30-year old formula, enthusing about new ways to fine-tune community spending and 'do even better'.
BID TO PUT BLACK COUNTRY IN THE BLACK
An inward investment body for the Black Country has set up a£2m fund to attract employment to Wolverhampton, awarded city status earlier this year. The establishment of the fund, drawn from the third round of the government's single regeneration budget, is a response to the difficulty traditional industrial areas have in attracting new investment. Black Country Investment comprises four component investment boards sponsored by rival councils Wolverhampton MBC, Walsall MBC, Sandwell MBC and Dudley MBC, reports the Financial Times(p7).
by Assistant Editor Neil Watson