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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 12:50HRS

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IN DEPTH: COUNCIL TENANTS FACE RENT INCREASES UP TO 16% ABOVE INFLATION ...
IN DEPTH: COUNCIL TENANTS FACE RENT INCREASES UP TO 16% ABOVE INFLATION

Council tenants are facing rent rises of up to 16% above inflation because the government is insisting their rents are aligned more closely with private property values. Even though increases will be phased in over several years, Labour runs a risk of alienating its core support on the estates. During the next few days, local government secretary Stephen Byers will finalise details of a huge reorganisation of rents affecting four million households starting in April 2002. Some councils are saying it will confuse and annoy tenants and impose inexplicable changes in weekly rents and service charges. Neighbours may see their rents rising by different amounts. Yet councils are divided. John Ransford of the local government association, where Labour is dominant, noted that in parts of the north and north-west there was more rented property than tenants wanting to live in it. 'We have long needed to grasp the nettle of rent anomalies,' he said. Rents would in future be more clearly connected with size and location, reports The Guardian(p11).

IN DEPTH: COUNCIL'S CHRONICALLY UNDER-USED RACE HATE HOTLINE TO CONTINUE

Test Valley BC is refusing to close the race hate hotline it operates for ethnic minorities, despite a lukewarm reception. Not one complaint of racial harassment has been received since it was set up six months ago. Marion Kerley, holder of the council's Social Well-Being portfolio, supported the hotline, saying in The Daily Telegraph (p5) that it would remain open. 'Just because we have had no complaints in six months does not mean there are no people out there with cause to complain,' she said. 'There is no great expense involved in running the hotline. It is an extension of the existing crime prevention line.' The community safety manager for the council, Jane Ashfield, is convinced there have been incidents of racial harrassment in the area, but that these have not been reported. 'I am disappointed we have received no calls of racial harrassment, but I am sure there are problems in the Test Valley and we are trying to promote the hotline for the next six months.'

GOVERNMENT TO LAUNCH 'QUALITY MARK' SCHEME FOR TEACHING SUPPLY AGENCIES NEXT YEAR

By the end of next year, supply agencies in England which want to be recognised by the Education Department will have to show that they give schools proper information about the qualifications and experience of the teachers they take on. Agencies which sign up teachers from abroad will also be required to demonstrate they have checked the records of foreign teachers, and that they lay on proper induction programmes to familiarise them with the demands of the national curriculum. The move follows occasional complaints from some schools about the varied quality of the 17,000 supply teachers. The government believes that this number will rise to about19,000 by the end of the year. Many heads are using more supply teachers to fill gaps, reports The Guardian(p11).

WHITEHALL PLANS AFOOT FOR PUBLIC AUTHORITY TO DECOMMISSION NUCLEAR PLANTS

Plans for a new public authority to take responsibility for take nuclear reactors out of service are being hammered out in Whitehall in order to push through the part-privatisation of British Nuclear Fuels. Government insiders have confirmed that the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry are working on plans for a liabilities management authority to take over the estimated£34bn costs of the decommissioning work. Ministers and officials at the DTI believe transferring BNFL's liabilities to a separate state body is the only syetem under which the planned partial privatisation can take place, reports the Financial Times(p2).

PROPOSED MEASURES TO TACKLE ABANDONED CARS CANNOT WORK UNLESS THE NEW POWERS ARE USED

The Executive Director of the RAC Foundation is quoted on the letters page of The Times(p17) on the subject of abandoned cars. 'New powers to speed up the removal of abandoned cars are welcome but will work only if local authorities can afford to act,' he believed. 'We proposed to the prime minister in April that some revenue from parking fines should be dedicated to a fund to help local authorities deal with this safety and environmental menace. If fines from speed cameras can be ring-fenced to produce yet more cameras, why not money from parking fines to remove yet more unwanted parked cars?'

IN BRIEF:

-Ministers will be given the power to set a council's education budget if schools are not getting enough money, as part of a new funding system that includes payments for pupils from so-called 'deprived postcodes'. The Times Educational Supplement (2/11/01, p2) covers the issue in more depth.

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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