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

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PRESCOTT SLAMS CRITICS HE BELIEVES ARE TRYING TO SCUPPER SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES SUMMIT...
PRESCOTT SLAMS CRITICS HE BELIEVES ARE TRYING TO SCUPPER SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES SUMMIT

Plans for hundreds of thousands of new homes in a series of new small towns will further 'overburden' the south of England and undermine less wealthy regions, a committee of MPs has warned. However, claims made by the environmental audit committee's Tory chairman, Peter Ainsworth, that building on this scale will strain the environment and create problems for years ahead were condemned yesterday by John Prescott, the deputy prime minister. He believed that its release was being timed to undermine his three-day summit on sustainable communitiesin Manchester, and told The Guardian(29/1/04, p6): 'I have never seen such ill-informed conclusions, ignorant of what the government is doing on sustainable communities and tackling housing need.' The committee's report is available here.

SENIOR INSPECTORS LEAP TO DEFENCE OF ISLAMIC SCHOOLS

Senior colleagues of chief inspector of schools David Bell have attacked him for issuing a warning about Muslim schools without checking the facts, The Times Education Supplement (28/1/05, p2) learned. They say Mr Bell presented his personal view that private Muslim schools posed a threat to Britain's social cohesion as inspection evidence.

COUNCIL REPORT BLAMES SCHOOLBOY'S DEATH ON FIGHTING CULTURE AND COMMUNICATIONS FAILURES

A culture of fighting between teenage boys, rather than bullying, was blamed for the death of 14-year-old Luke Walmsley, who was stabbed outside a classroom in November 2003, reported The Guardian(28/1/05, p8). Clashes between rival teenagers preceded the tragedy in Birkbeck school, according to a report commissioned by Lincolnshire CC (available here), and the inquiry highlighted communication failures between agencies over the behaviour of Luke's murderer, Alan Pennell, who is now 16 and serving a life sentence. Police concern about Pennell's history of fighting and self-harm had not been properly recorded.

UNISON PENCILS IN EASTER DATE FOR PENSIONS STRIKE

A formal ballot is now required in Unison's dispute over changes to the pensions of its members, but an initial strike has been pencilled in for 23 March, with the threat of more. Unison's head of education, Christina McAnea, told The Times Education Supplement (28/1/05, p12), 'there is huge strength of feeling about this.' Schools in 62 local authorities will miss the strike as they will have broken up for Easter, but more protests can be expected to follow. Left-wing National Union of Teachers executive members are backing a motion proposing strike action over pensions, to be discussed this week.

IN DEPTH: NORTHERN RENAISSANCEDRIVING REGIONAL ECONOMIES

Cities outside London have staged a remarkable comeback since the late 90s with a cultural and business revival that is now driving regional economies, according to research for The Guardian(p8). the research by Brian Robson, director of the Centre for Urban Policy Studies at the University of Manchester, shows that cities in the north and the midlands can now be seen not so much as 'problem cases' but centres of opportunity. However, the research also points to a widening north-south divide and says the government's determination to create four big growth areas in the south sits uneasily alongside the commitment to 'erode' regional disparities. At the summitin Manchester today Mr Prescott and local government minister, Nick Raynsford, will unveil a five-year strategy aimed at giving communities more control of neighbourhoods and reducing the power of town halls.

PRODUCERS OF GRE EN ENERGY PLAN PLAN MORE PROJECTS

Developers are planning a massive rise in green energy projects to take advantage of government climate incentives, according to an industry survey. The study by international energy information provider Platts discovered that more than 21 gigawatts of large, renewable energy power projects were planned - equivalent to just under a third of Britain's current total electricity capacity, reports the Financial Times(p6).

REPORT EXPECTED TO SPUR INTEREST IN NEW, NON-COUNCIL PARK MANAGEMENT

That parks 'need not be run by councils' is The Guardian(p8) take on tomorrow's report from the Commission on Architecture and the Built Environment to be launched at the sustainable communities summit.

BAA STRUGGLES TO FIND£2BN TO FOOT STANSTED EXPANSION BILL

Thousands of home-owners around Stansted airport face another decade of uncertainty because of a likely delay to the development of a new runway, reports The Times(p15).

BRITAIN'S LARGEST PRIVATE LANDOWNER PREPARES TO SURRENDER COASTAL BEAUTY SPOTS TO THE SEA

Under its new policy of 'managed retreat', tracts of National Trust land and buildings at an estimated 50 sites, ranging from beach huts in Dorset to coastguard cottages, in Sussex, will be covered by the tides reshaping the British coast, reports The Independent(p16).

NEW MISSION FOR ARCHITECT OF GOVERNMENT'S NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE SPENDING PLANS

Sir Derek Wanless will today launch an investigation into the 'Cinderella' services of social care, focusing initially on the needs of older people in England and which will parallel his earlier work for the Treasury, reports The Guardian(p2).

INCREASE IN ONGOING ELECTORAL FRAUD CASES RAISES FEARS FOR NEXT GENERAL ELECTION

Police forces throughout Britain will be warned to be on the alert for widespread electoral fraud in the run-up to the general election, with the Electoral Commission pressing senior police officers to take the issue seriously, reports The Guardian(p2). The Association of Chief Police Officers is writing guidelines, with the help of the commission, to send to every force and returning officer in the country amid concerns that many local forces do not have the expertise to detect organised vote-rigging.

SIX WEEKS OF TALKS WITH COUNCILS AND OTHERS BEAR FRUIT FOR JARVIS

Support services group Jarvis 'took a step back from the brink of financial collapse' yesterday when it secured refinancing on all 14 of its private finance initiative construction contracts and a one-year extension to its banking facilities, reports the Financial Times(p21).

  • FT Sustainable Communities accompanies today's Financial Times, considering aspects of the sustainability agenda without mentioning the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's summit.
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