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

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IN DEPTH: 10+ COUNCILS TO PILOT ELECTORAL REFORM SCHEMES IN MAY LOCAL ELECTIONS ...
IN DEPTH: 10+ COUNCILS TO PILOT ELECTORAL REFORM SCHEMES IN MAY LOCAL ELECTIONS

The government is expected to give the go-ahead on Thursday to at least 10 of the 41 councils wanting to carry out innovative trials in May's local elections. Solihull MBC and others want to allow votes over the phone, but some councils favour internet voting, a combination of the two, postal ballots, or extending voting hours. The government has told those concerned that successful pilots could lay the groundwork for online voting at the next-but-one general election - a world first. Pressure group the Electoral Reform Society has warned about internet access and security, but its sister organisation, Electoral Reform Services, which runs elections and polls for many councils, predicted that turnout at elections could increase as a result of using more innovative systems, reports the Financial Times(p4).

GAY SEX LAW TO END LEGAL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST GAY MEN

Laws that outlaw men kissing in public and criminalise homosexual behaviour in private homes will be repealed by the government in a revamp of legislation against sexual offences. Ministers are preparing to announce the repeal of three offences which largely affect the homosexual population. The reforms are designed to put the treatment of gay men by the criminal justice system on a par with heterosexuals, reports The Independent(p1).

LAUNCH OF CAMPAIGN FOR PUBLIC SERVICES

Sir David Ramsbotham and Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspectors of prisons and schools respectively, are joining former anti-euro activists to launch a new organisation designed to be a 'consumers' campaign' for better public services. The pair are joining the advisory council of Reform, an independent group created by the former leaders of Business for Sterling and designed to bring anti-euro movement campaign techniques to improving public services, reports the Financial Times(p4).

TRANSPORT CHIEFS DESERVE AN END TO BUS MARGINALISATION

Regional transport leaders will today meet transport minister John Spellar to demand government action to halt decline in the bus industry. The chairmen of the six English passenger transport authorities will ask for a return to more highly regulated, quality contracts in the industry, as they claim problems are the worst since deregulation in 1986. They also want another£10m to save an estimated 2 million bus journeys that local authority transport officers claim will be axed next year, reports the Financial Times(p4).

REFORMS TO 'ARCHAIC' CITY OF LONDON VOTING SYSTEM FAVOUR BUSINESS OVER RESIDENTS

Moves to secure the future of a bill giving big businesses extra voting powerin the City were unveiled last night. MPs were told that the bill - to change the Corporation of London's electoral system - which has been limping through the commons since November 1998, would be amended to take account of a number of democratic concerns, reports the Financial Times(p3).

CHANCELLOR WILL HOLD BUDGET ON 17 APRIL

The Budget is to be held on Wednesday 17 April, chancellor Gordon Brown announced yesterday. Mr Brown's absence from the treasury since the start of the year, combined with an early Easter on 31 March, meant the Budget, normally in March, would be held later. The treasury said: 'Budgets have often been held in April. There is no reason, legal or otherwise, why the Budget cannot be held after the start of the financial year,' reports the Financial Times(p3).

LABOUR PARY FEELS THE PINCH FROM BUSINESS SUPPORTERS AND UNIONS

Labour ran up debts of up to£8m in the general election, forcing officials to consider radical funding options to put party finances on to a better long-term footing. Insiders say the problems are far worse than in 1997, with the party having little hope of raising the cash from businesses or new members, and unions warning they may cut funding, reports the Financial Times(p2).

IN BRIEF:

-- The Independent (The Tuesday Review, p6) focuses on the circumstances in which a head teacher's failure to discipline a bullying pupil outside school premises would be a breach of the school's duty of care, as reported on LGCnet.

-- Abandoned computers, televisions, vacuum cleaners and other electrical goods might soon join the dumped cars and fridges littering the streets, say local councils. They blamed the government yesterday for failing to decide how to implement European Union directives, reports The Daily Telegraph(p10).

-- The Daily Telegraph(p8) reports that road tolls similar to those planned for London to combat traffic congestion could be introduced in 35 local authorities.

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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