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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 12:35HRS

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ELECTIONS 2004: POSTAL VOTING MADE EASIER TO BOOST TURNOUT ...
ELECTIONS 2004: POSTAL VOTING MADE EASIER TO BOOST TURNOUT

The government is to bring in early legislation to make it easier for people to vote - particularly by post - while strengthening safeguards against fraud and abuse, reports The Times (p2). Following a two-year programme of reviews after the last general election, the Electoral Commission will today recommend wide-ranging changes in electoral law to encourage higher turn-out and to increase public confidence in the secrecy of the ballot.

RECOMMENDATION TO CHANGE WAY ELECTORAL REGISTRATION SCHEME IS RUN(LGCnet)

STEPHEN BYERS SLATES PFI HOSPITALS' VALUE FOR MONEY

The first hospitals to be built by private enterprise would have been better value for money if they had been financed by the public sector, 'Blairite MP' Stephen Byers will say today, reports the Financial Times (p2). Mr Byers indicates that the change in the way the Treasury assesses PFI projects will allow the government to argue more convincingly that private funding offers a good deal. The new system will give ministers ammunition 'to tackle directly the accusation that the rules have been rigged in favour of PFI', he will say.

STEPHEN BYERS TO SPEAK ON PPP AND PFI(LGCnet)

SMALL BUSINESSES ASK GOVERNMENT TO PLAY FAIR IN PUBLIC TENDERS

The government is the customer with which every business wants to work. Each year it gives out £13bn worth of contracts for products ranging from aircraft to uniforms, reports The Times (p24). However, concern is mounting about the fairness with which these contracts are handed out, with a growing body of evidence showing that government departments are ignoring small suppliers, even when they offer better services and greater value for money to the taxpayer than their larger counterparts. Later this month a report by the body that promotes small businesses , the Small Business Service, will name those departments failing to follow fair procurement policies.

WATERMILLS SUITABLE FOR CONVERSION TO 'HYDRO-HOMES'

Watermills formerly used for grinding corn may become miniature hydroelectric power stations as part of a government pledge to encourage renewable sources of energy, reports The Times (p8). Campaigners said conversion of the 20,000 suitable mills in Britain could power up to 600,000 homes. OWners of the mill houses are being offered an alternative source of income.

OBITUARIES:

  • The Times (p27) prints an obituary for the architect who 'doggedly championed local interests' over those of big business. Max Nasatyr 'played a pivotal role' in the planning battle to save the Oxo Tower and prevent a 'vast speculative development of shops and offices in the area.'

  • The Independent(p14) considers the life of 'socially committed town planner' Jim Amos, who 'made an outstanding contribution to town and country planning in Britain and abroad' in his 50-plus-year career. The former Birmingham City Council chief executive (1973-77) 'believed passionately that planners should strive to improve people's quality of life and that causes of disadvantage and deprivation should be confronted; these matters were as important as physical ones.' His employers also included London County Council and the Liverpool Corporation.

    by assistant editor Neil Watson

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