British politics and much of national life came to a halt as the unprecedented scale of the horror in America unfolded. The prime minister abandoned his planned speech at the Trades Union Congress in Brighton, which has been cut short by a day, and returned to Downing Street. The Conservative party suspended counting of votes in its leadership contest for at least 24 hours, and the result will be issued in a simple statement tomorrow, with no fanfare, reports the Financial Times(p6).
Tony Blair yesterday appealed to unions to stop 'misrepresenting' his policy on reforming public services and promised not to extend the role of the private sector beyond existing plans without consulting them. In particular, he said that poor public services were not the fault of staff. The prime minister told the Financial Times(p8): 'The fault lies usually not with those working in them. In hospitals in particular, I often think the staff work flat out but in a system that shrieks out for change; change in working practices, changes in technology, changes in co-ordination between social services and the NHS, changes in the way we treat the patient.'
SWINDON SCHOOLS MAY FACE PRIVATE INTERVENTION
The private sector is set to be offered a further role in the running of state schools following what is expected to be a damning report this week on Swindon's local education authority. On Friday, the government's standards watchdog Ofsted will publish a report on Swindon's education service. Insiders told the Financial Times(p8) that the report was 'pretty grim'. It is expected to rank Swindon's education service very poorly in several areas, inviting immediate intervention from the government.
AMEY KEY PLAYER IN PFI AND OUTSOURCING
The support services group Amey is involved in an unprecedented number of bids for private finance initiative (PFI) schemes and other outsourcing contracts. It is negotiating or bidding for 144 'potential opportunities', including 38 PFI schemes pr PPPs, its chief executive Brian Staples said yesterday, warning against union resistance to private outsourcing, reports the Financial Times(p24). A comment piece in the papers says: 'Despite growing union opposition to public sector outsourcing, Amey has been flooded with opportunities for local authority and other work following the lull during the general election. Even if the government backpedals a bit, the shift to the private sector looks unstoppable. Amey is well placed to win a lot of this work.'
SECURITY GUARDS AND TRAFFIC WARDENS COULD BE GRANTED POWERS OF DETENTION
Security guards and traffic wardens could be given new powers to detain troublemakers, to confiscate vehicles and to video offenders as they break the law, under proposals being considered by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary. Civilian wardens could be allowed to hold offenders until the police arrive, as well as take the name and addresses of suspected criminals. Mr Blunkett told a police conference yesterday that wardens could help tackle late-night drunks in city centres, vandals and troublemakers in parks and streets, reports The Independent(p14).
MIDDLESBROUGH TACKLES SKILLS SHORTAGE WITH OFFER OF EMPTY HOME TO MIGRANTS
Middlesbrough Council, with more than 300 empty properties on its books, is working with a recruitment agency to offer housing to people prepared to move to fill job vacancies in the town, to attract workers from in and around London to Teesside. As overstretched housing departments in London try to transfer people out of the capital to the thousands of empty homes in the provinces, Haringey in north London is the venue for an exhibition, the Moving On Roadshow, which will provide advice on ways in which people can transfer from London to homes in the midlands and the north. It will be held at the Tottenham Hotspur football ground from noon on September 20, entrance free, and Middlesbrough Council will have a stand providing details of job and housing vacancies. 'We want the people who fill our empty homes to have jobs to come to,' a spokesman for the Teesside authority told Guardian Society(p4).
DEMOLITION THREATENS HISTORIC BOYS' CLUB
Manchester's Salford Lads Club, opened in 1904 by Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell and a pilgrimage for fans of the Smiths' album The Queen is Dead, is threatened with demolition after it was refused National Lottery money for repairs. Salford City Council's youth services spokesman, John Warmisham, told The Independentthat he was amazed Lottery officials could consider knocking down the club. 'The building is an important part of Salford's history. We get tourists from all over coming to see it,' he said. Mr Warmisham added that the council would help the club to seek funding.
REFUSE DISPOSAL DISPUTE REVISITED AS CONFERENCE APPROACHES
A dispute about private companies running Brighton's refuse services, which left binbags on the streets this summer, threatens to erupt again in time for Labour's Brighton conference next month. Shop stewards for the 250-strong refuse collection team warned yesterday of slumping morale, as pension schemes are left in disarray and dustcarts are unable to leave their depots because of their poor condition, reports The Guardian(p17).
by Assistant Editor Neil Watson