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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 13:10HRS

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ELECTIONS 2004: LEGAL CHALLENGE; LONDON'S 500,000 INVALID BALLOTS ...
ELECTIONS 2004: LEGAL CHALLENGE; LONDON'S 500,000 INVALID BALLOTS

  • Birmingham City Council leader Albert Bore is demanding that the prime minister rethink the government's approach to postal voting, as a growing number of candidates prepare to challenge the local and European elections results. Sir Albert will write to Tony Blair to say that postal voting 'looks and feels wrong'. Birmingham is one of several councils where the integrity of postal voting has been in question and The Times(p1) understands that the results of five wards are likely to be challenged in the High Court by the Liberal Democrats.

  • More than half a million voting forms for the London mayor and assembly elections were filled out wrongly, prompting warnings that the capital's voting system needs to be overhauled. The announcement of the results on Friday night was held up as returning officers scrutinised the hundreds of thousands of forms that had been incorrectly completed, reports The Independent(p10). Read the result of the London ballot on LGCnet's Elections 2004 mini-site here.

  • The Independent (p1) carries comments from 10 of the 548 Labour councillors who lost their seats on Super Thursday, including Halton BC deputy mayor Dennis Middlemass and Bolton MBC leader Robert Howarth.

  • A leading article in The Guardian(p19) claims that: 'By forcing through compulsory postal voting for apparently self-interested reasons, when the systems were not in place to support it, the government simultaneously undermined both its own claim on the voters' trust, and the voters' faith in the voting system.'

  • 'These election results spell the end of Labour's flirtation with the 'new localism',' according to a leader in The Guardian (11/6/04), 'at least until the general election next year, will lead to a much more aggressive tone in relations between town hall and Whitehall.'

  • A leader in The Times(p17) concerns what London mayor Ken Livingstone should do with his second term in officem 'to declare independence from the RMT union and convince London that it must pursue with a passion the honour of organising the Games.'

  • Ministers are reluctant to extend the remit of the Greater London Authority until at least another mayoral term, but London mayor Ken Livingstone will use his election victory to argue the case for taking greater control of areas such as housing and the arts, reports the Financial Times(p3). The bill due this summer on powers for elected regional assemblies will offer clues as to his likely success.

    LABOUR TO PRESENT 30-YEAR TRANSPORT PLAN, DESPITE FAILURE OF 10-YEAR VISION

    Ministers are drawing up an unprecedented 30-year transport strategy, despite criticism that they have not met targets set in their 10-year plan, reports The Independent(p10). The news emerged yesterday as employers told the government that there were 'profound deficiencies' in Britain's transport system four years after the 10-year plan was launched, for which the Confederation of British Industry said at least£70bn extra was needed to sort it out. Read the CBI's Transport Spending and 10-Year Review here.

    COUNCILS INVEST PENSION FUNDS IN PRIVATE FINANCE INITIATIVE DEALS

    Council pension funds have for the first time invested in projects being built under the PFI, reports the Financial Times(p4). The move, likely to upset council workers opposed to PFI, is a further sign that pension funds are recognising that projects using the initiative, with their 25 to 30-year income flows, are a useful investment tool as they seek to diversify out of equities into bond-like instruments.

    HEALTH SECRETARY ARGUES THAT PUBLIC SERVICE CHOICE IS A LEFT-WING CONCEPT

    Ministers are preparing to release proposals to give people more choice with 'personalised' public services as they mount a fightback after Labour's poor results in last Thursday's local and European elections, reports The Independent(p10). The drive will be launched this week by health secretary John Reid, who will argue that 'choice' is a left-wing, rather than a right-wing, concept.

    MINISTERS BELIEVE EFFICIENCY SAVINGS SUGGESTED BY GERSHON REVIEW 'NOT ATTAINABLE'

    Senior ministers have been fighting a rearguard action against cuts outlined in the£20bn Gershon efficiency plan during fraught spending round negotiations, leaked documents seen by the Financial Times(p5) reveal. The chancellor has been warned by colleagues that some of the savings demanded are 'not attainable' or would carry a high political cost. With less than a month before the spending review settlement is due to be finalised, the confidential minutes show fault lines in the cabinet over the centralising philosophy underpinning the Gershon approach.

    FORMER MINING TOWN HIGHLIGHTS BENEFITS OF RACIAL TOLERANCE

    The Independent(p22) reports on the 'run-down' area of Doncaster which is 'providing an impressive breeding ground for multicultural tolerance.' Doncaster MBC mayor Martin Winter told the paper: 'Our mining heritage means we received a great number of people from Scotland and Durham. Local people have seen the benefits of different people living together. [The problems other towns have] are not about immigration. They are about racism. The houses in this district would be empty if asylum-seekers had not moved in. They have offered landlords income and security of tenure and local people see they have nothing to fear. These are respectable people with strong community values, work ethics and they are adding to our communities.'

    GOVERNMENT PROCUDEMENT PROCEDURES MEAN LESS TRANSPARENCY

    Private procurement by the government has reduced the availability of statistics, leading to poorer planning and reduced accountability and control, according to an academic. Jean Shaoul of Manchester University, speaking at a meeting of the Royal Statistical Society todaynoon, will say that the loss of data means analysts outside government have all but given up tracking public expenditure, reports the Financial Times(p5). 'In a democracy you expect to be able to see where government money is going,' she will say.

    OXFORD CODE OF CONDUCT ADDRESSES STUDENTS' ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

    A code of conduct backed by on-the-spot fines, drawn up by Oxford University to curb the wilder excesses of post-exam student behaviour, has been welcomed by councillor Paul Sargent of Oxford City Council, who told The Times(p5) that the code was a necessary response to the concerns of local people, who were tired of sustaining collateral damage. The council joined Thames Valley Police in helping the university to draft the code. 'This has worked in defusing the situation,' he said. 'It's absolutely fabulous.'

    AND FINALLY ...

    New York city councillor Yvette Clarke has proposed a bill to force public venues to provide twice as much toilet space as they do for men, reports The Guardian (p15).

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