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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 12:45HRS

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LABOUR PLANS GREENFIELD BUILDING PROGRAMME TO COUNTER RURAL JOBS ...
LABOUR PLANS GREENFIELD BUILDING PROGRAMME TO COUNTER RURAL JOBS

John Prescott plans to strip local councils of their power to block building on greenfield sites as part of a policy to create more rural jobs. He will target 'the Nimby (not in my backyard) mentality of shire councils' who can halt any development by designating an area worthy of conservation, reports The Times(p1). He wants to reduce the grounds on which they can reject new building.

BCCI CASE REACHES HIGH COURT

On 13 January, Gordon Pollock, counsel for BCCI's liquidators, will take to his feet in the high court and open the first of the 125 lever-arch files containing the hearing's core documents, reports The Guardian(p1). No one has successfully sued the Bank of England, however, which as the former regulator enjoys immunity against all claims save those alleging dishonesty, the paper notes.

SCHOOLS PROGRAMME OF PFI PLAYER JARVIS SAID TO BE IN TROUBLE

Brighton & Hove City Council has requested a high-level meeting with engineering group Jarvis to discuss 'outstanding issues' concerning the£105m private finance initiative to re-fit and help run Brighton's schools, reports the Financial Times(3/1/04). A council spokesperson told LGCnet: 'We're canvassing Jarvis for a date.'

DEATH OF LIFELONG CONSUMER CHAMPION

One of homelessness charity Shelter's most memorable and successful directors, Sheila McKechnie, has died of cancer. Dame Sheila, described by The Guardian(p21) as 'the most effective and influential consumer campaigner in the UK, and probably in Europe,' was director of Shelter from 1985-94.

IN DEPTH: 71% OF COUNCIL EMPLOYEES BUT ONLY 13% CHIEF EXECUTIVES ARE WOMEN

The Times(p6) follows up today's report from the Equal Opportunities Commission (see LGCnet), considering the balance of the sexes in the public sector and the most senior posts in local authorities in particular, where there is a particularly marked disparity. The civil service, museum and gallert management and the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales have all 'shown what can be achieved through positive action.' Coventry City Council chief executive Stella Manzie told the paper that women with children who do not receive support from their partners are unlikely to climb the ladder. 'What is critical for anyone in a senior position is that, unless they are single, they have a supportive family.'

RECONSTRUCTION MORE LIKELY THAN RESTORATION FOR WEST PIER, BRIGHTON

English Heritage has now pronounced that Brighton's West Pier is still worth saving, although the balanced has tipped from restoration to reconstruction. This is crucial, reports The Times(p28), as it will encourage the Heritage Lottery Fund, which needs to confirm an offer in principle of£14.2m - possibly more.

SICK MILLIONS

Six million people at any given time are officially too sick to work, says the Daily Mail (p1) of a report in the Economist magazine. The paper examines the circumstances of former Rochdale MBC part-time tree surgeon Mark Bardsley.

EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION. FAILURE, FAILURE, FAILURE?

Labour's impatience to deliver on its education reforms has led to the failure of major initiatives aimed at raising school standards, according to an analysis of the first six years of Tony Blair's 'education, education, education' government by The Independent(p1). The paper's conclusi on is that attempts to improve standards have been hampered by an inability to think through some of the major reforms.

'EXCESSIVE REGULATION ... UNDERESTIMATES' TELECOMS OPERATORS' CONTRIBUTION TO ECONOMY

Kingston Communications chief executive Malcolm Fallen is one of five signatories of a letter to the Financial Times (p14) in which telecommunications operators broadly support the government's intentions behind the Traffic Management Bill (see LGCnet), but air specific concerns.

NEIGHBOURS' CCTV ROW HAS POTENTIAL PLANNING IMPLICATIONS

The Daily Mirror (p21) considers a CCTV feud between west Midlands neighbours. The Pooltons and the Hendersons each have not only a camera, but a barrier erected on their property to limit the view available to the other family's camera.

IN DEPTH: STOPPING THE WHEELS FALLING OFF THE FITNESS INDUSTRY

A special report on gym-going in The Guardianconsiders extending the system of so-called 'activity buses' used in Manchester to transport people free to leisure centres. The joint initiative between Manchester City Council and Sport England targeted those from deprived backgrounds, many of whom allegedly do little exercise. However, the corporate affairs manager at Whitbread PLC, which runs the David Lloyd chain of health clubs, Dan Waugh, is pessimistic about culture secretary Tessa Jowell brief from prime minister Tony Blair to produce an 'ambitious and interventionist' fitness and sporting strategy. 'People with the worst health and fitness in the country are people who can't afford gym membership,' Mr Waugh tells the paper. 'There aren't Holmes Place gyms on Glasgow council estates. Tax breaks would have negligible impact on the problem.'

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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