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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 12:40HRS

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MURDERED GIRL'S MOTHER CALLS FOR PUBLIC INQUIRY ...
MURDERED GIRL'S MOTHER CALLS FOR PUBLIC INQUIRY

The mother of Toni-Ann Byfield, shot dead while staying with a convicted crack dealer, called yesterday for a public inquiry following revelations that the social services and children's guardians failed to care for her daughter, reports The Independent(p2). Roselyn Richards claimed her daughter would still be alive if Birmingham City Council had properly discharged its legal responsibility for the child. Her comments follow the disclosure in the paperthat an inquiry today will criticise Birmingham social services, a government agency set up to represent the interests of children in court cases, and the immigration department for a catalogue of failures in the care of Toni-Ann.

REVIEW INTO THE DEATH OF TONI-ANN BYFIELD(ACPC)

LONDON BOROUGHS OF BARNET AND WESTMINSTER JOIN DEPRIVATION INDEX

The government list showing the most deprived districts of England (see LGCnet) shows Barnet - 'with a reputation for green spaces and affluence' - joining Westminster, north-east Lincolnshire and Norwich as newcomers to the survey, reports the Financial Times(p4).

BRITISH NATIONAL PARTY EUROPEAN ELECTIONS CANDIDATE SUSPENDED FROM TEACHING JOB

West Midlands teacher Simon Smith was last night suspended from his job at a Catholic secondary school after declaring his candidacy in the June European elections for the far-right, extremist BNP and posting his details on the BNP website for public scrutiny, reports The Guardian(p3). Solihull MBC said in a statement yesterday: 'It has become clear that, whatever the circumstances, the disruption to pupils' education has become far too great, especially at this time of year when many are preparing for exams. In these circumstances it is deemed appropriate to suspend the teacher to allow the school to return to normal.'

NEWCASTLE CITY COUNCIL'S 'EXERCISE MAGPIE' BIGGEST EVER CONTINGENCY FIELD OPERATION

Newcastle City Council's emergency planning exercise yesterday (see LGCnet) was the 'biggest-ever' field exercise, testing the ability of over 700 health and emergency services staff to deal with a chemical attack on 200 volunteers, reports the Financial Times(p6). Health minister John Hutton, who observed the exercise to test the plans and reassure the public, said it was an important part of the learning process for emergency services throughoutthe country. The minister did not accept as fair criticism last week's Royal Society claim that the UK was unprepared to deal with a biological or chemical attack on civilians because of lack of co-ordination. 'We have come a very long way in the last couple of years,' he said. However, the exercise's organiser, Nigel Lightfoot, director of the Health Protection Agency's emergency response division, accepted that improvements could be made.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT MINISTER LINES UP SIX BULLETS FOR COUNCIL CAPPING

Nick Raynsford's announcement this afternoon of which councils will face capping follows John Prescott telling cabinet colleagues at a meeting yesterday that the government has been more than fair to town halls since it came to power in 1997, reports The Guardian(p10). The paper's list of councils in line for capping comprises Telford & Wrekin Council, Herefordshire CC, Torbay Council, Nottingham City Council, Shepway DC a nd Fenland DC proved accurate (see LGCnet).

MILLIONS GET E-ACCESS TO WHITEHALL

The government yesterday unveiled a 'one stop' milestone in its drive to give millions of citizens direct online access to countless local and Whitehall official services via the internet and digital television, reports The Guardian(p10). Tony Blair's e-envoy in the Cabinet Office, Andrew Pinder, announced that the Directgov services offered by UK Online could now be accessed by subscribers to Sky's satellite digital TV services and Telewest's cable customers - as well as the direct.gov.uk website that has been running for six weeks.

CIVIL SERVICE BITES BACK OVER SHADOW CHANCELLOR'S CLAIMS OF PARTIALITY

Conservative shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin was severely rebuked last night by Britain's top civil servant, who accused him of making 'untrue' claims about the impartiality of the Civil Service, reports The Times (p10). Mr Letwin was criticised by cabinet secretary Andrew Turnbull, after complaining about what he said was a government attempt to fiddle the recording of public service performance statistics.

ODPM SELECT COMMITTEE APPLIES ITSELF TO FUTURE OF COUNCIL TAX

Facing the select committee for the ODPM, senior Treasury official Andrew Lewis told MPs looking into replacements for the council tax that a massive increase in taxes raised locally 'can and should be considered.' 'Council tax may have to double,' was the Daily Mail's (p2) take on the Treasury official's remarks.

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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