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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 12:55HRS

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PUBLICATION OF DEVOLVING GOVERNMENT WHITE PAPER EXPECTED SOON ...
PUBLICATION OF DEVOLVING GOVERNMENT WHITE PAPER EXPECTED SOON

Tony Blair is to lend his personal backing to a plan to set up assemblies for the English regions, but the new form of local government is unlikely to start sitting until after the next election. A regional white paper will be published after tomorrow's local elections. The prime minister has written the introduction, despite his previous ambivalence about directly elected assemblies, reports The Times(p1).

ROAD REPAIR BACKLOG WILL MAKE£7.5BN HOLE IN COFFERS

The backlog of maintenance on British roads is getting worse and will cost£7.5bn to put right, the Institution of Civil Engineers has announce today (see LGCnet), after forty local authorities responded to its survey. David Varley, a general manager in transportation services at Surrey CC, said their backlog grew because most extra money was focused on primary roads, which make up only a third of the county network. The DTLR said the£31bn in the 10-year plan was a 23 per cent real rise in the roads budget compared with previous years, reports the Financial Times(p4).

NEW CIVIL SERVICE HEAD CALLS FOR MORE OUTSIDERS IN WHITEHALL

Britain's new top civil servant sided with Tony Blair against Whitehall last night and called for more outsiders and political advisers to be brought in at senior levels, reports The Times (p1). Sir Andrew Turnbull, the incoming Cabinet Secretary, revealed the radical shift in an exclusive interview with The Times (p14), the first since his appointment.

POSTAL VOTING BOOST TO TURNOUT IN LOCAL POLLS, BUT VOTE-RIGGING CLOUD OVER OLDHAM

From votes already cast, it appears that postal voting has dramatically increased turnout in the local elections, contra to the prevailing view among politicians that the public is disaffected with democracy. However not all votes are going smoothly, as Greater Manchester police yesterday interviewed people in connection with allegations that fictitious names have been entered on the electoral roll, reports the The Guardian(p8).

IN BRIEF:

Pictured are Andy Smith, public sector business development manager at Oracle, (left) with Chris Crane, consulting partner local government, BT Consulting (right)

- In The Independent, John Curtice, deputy director, ESRC Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends, analyses average turnout in local elections between 1973 and 2000.

- Under the headline 'Stay-at-home citizens', Paul Whiteley, professor of government at the University of Essex, looks at the global picture, asking in The Independent(p15): 'Why are people in the developed world so reluctant to vote?' One of his theories, that 'people are becoming more rational, and because of this they don't vote,' is of particular interest.

- Alex Folkes, press and campaigns officer for the Electoral Reform Society, has a letter in the Financial Times(p18) in favour of proportional representation, 'to re-energise and restore the life of the council chamber.'

- Society Guardian(p6) looks at central government's controversial attempt to make the lowest tier of local government more accountable. Parish councillors now have to sign a new code of conduct, and for many, it's a resigning issue.

AND FINALLY ... NATION'S FAVOURITE GARDENER STANDS ACCUSED OF PROMOTING HEALTH RISK

This week, as part of national compost week, TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh is encouraging Britons to throw vegetable peelings on compost heaps and spread compost in their back gardens. Because of the dangers from fungal spores, regulations require compost heaps to have a licence and an environmental risk assessment if the compost heap is within 250 metres of a dwelling or workplace, and the policy has put the department of the environment and the environment agency at loggerheads, reports The Guardian(p5).

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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