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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 13:05HRS

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IN DEPTH: COUNCIL STAFF MUST WORK LONGER TO QUALIFY FOR FULL PENSION ...
IN DEPTH: COUNCIL STAFF MUST WORK LONGER TO QUALIFY FOR FULL PENSION

Council workers will have to work until 65 to qualify for full pension rights from April 2005, in the first sign that the government is attempting to scale back on the cost of civil service pensions, reports The Daily Telegraph(p27). A spokesman for the local government team at the ODPM said: 'All benefits accrued up to April 2005 are unaffected.' Local Government Pensions Committee chairman Roy Wilson said: 'A fair balance needs to be struck between the benefits which are provided to scheme members and the costs which are incurred by the employers and local taxpayers.' Unison said it would strongly oppose the changes, which will go before Parliament this autumn, and accused councils of failing to fund the scheme adequately in the 1970s and 1980s. A spokesman said that the average local government pension was only£3,000 a year.

EMPLOYERS BACK CHANGES TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT PENSION SCHEME(EO)

'UNFUNDED PUBLIC SECTOR PENSION LIABILITIES ARE CLOSE TO£600BN'(LGCnet)

IN DEPTH: NEWHAM CONTRACT CERTAIN TO ENCOURAGE COUNCILS TO EXPLORE SOFTWARE COST BASE

Newham LBC's decision about its IT needs (see LGCnet) could have implications elsewhere. Eddie Bleasdale, whose company designed the open-source alternative for Newham LBC, said: 'Every time it goes public that one of our clients is moving to open-source, Microsoft comes in with all guns blazing.' There are longer-term technical problems with IT such as security and other technical issues but government is 'not serious' about addressing them, he said. Microsoft is understood to be getting about£500,000 in the deal, reports the Financial Times (p3). MEanwhile, Microsoft is set to combat the threat of open source software to its position in the UK public sector by signing a new three-year deal with the government that offers greatly enhanced services and support to its basic software packages, reports the Financial Times(p3).

POLL SHOWS FAMILY REVOLUTION AS PARENTS REJECT 'WORKAHOLIC BRITAIN'

A 'hidden' social revolution in the public's attitudes towards the flexible working needs of parents with young children is uncovered in this month's ICM opinion poll conducted for The Guardian(p1). The survey shows that a fundamental shift has taken place in the attitudes of the new, younger, workforce towards the balance between work and family life from their parents' generation.

THE ROWLING STONES

Edinburgh City Council culture officials are drawing up a list of potential candidates they believe may warrant greater civic recognition, and possibly a commemorative statue, as part of plans to boost public art in the city, reports The Times(p13). Leader Donald Anderson, who commissioned the report, believes that Robert Louis Stevenson is 'perhaps the most obvious case to be made for commemoration'. But he added: 'There may be a case for new public art celebrating the contribution of modern-day figures to Edinburgh life, such as JK Rowling and Harry Potter's links to Edinburgh. 'We're going to bring a report forward which will include an audit of all the public works of art, including monuments and sculptures, that exist at the moment, and proposals for developing a programme of new works.'

BRITISH TELECOM HOLDS 30,000 PHONE BOXES TO RANSOM

British Telecom is hanging up on the public phone box by threatening to close up to 30,000 across Britain unless local councils help to pay for them. BT has told Edenbridge town council in Kent that it will have to pay£3,000 for the upkeep of four payphones if they are not to be removed. The council's Mike Downing told The Times(p13): 'We are horrified because the phones they want to take away all serve particular needs within our community.' Other councils are trying to stop BT closing 9,000 phone boxes before the end of next year.

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