Social services departments will be broken up into separate units for children and older people, under a plan for local government reform announced yesterday by Alan Milburn, the health secretary. He said child protection and family support should be run by children's trusts, based in local authorities, but with powers to contract services to charities, private firms, and not-for-profit companies, reports >a href='http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,813131,00.html'>The Guardian(p7). David Behan, president designate of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said: 'Departments are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. We should be embracing the future with confidence to debate all these things.' Mr Milburn told The Times (p2) that he expected the government's extra money for social services to be spent on front-line care. 'I do not accept, at a time when more money is going in, that somehow or other it is not going to get spent on social services,' he said. 'The simple point is that the current system is not working in the way it should. Many social services are doing a good job but too many people are being left out.'
TWO-TIER WORKFORCE TALKS TO CONTINUE
Deputy prime minister John Prescott said yesterday that talks would be renewed with the unions over two-tier workforces. Government officials said the existing agreement, which gave new workers 'broadly comparable' terms and conditions to transferred ones, might be extended from local government to the NHS and other parts of central government. That, however, would only come as part of a deal where the unions agreed to drop their campaign against PFI, reports the Financial Times(p4).
EXPERT WARNS AGAINST TRUSING COMPUTERS WITH ELECTRONIC VOTES
A world expert in electronic voting will today warn the government that trusting computers with the democratic process is a recipe for error and fraud. Rebecca Mercuri is assistant professor of computer science at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, who has given evidence to the US Congress. She is meeting the cabinet office in London today, and will urge reconsideration of alternatives to crosses on ballot papers, such as internet and text-message voting, because their results cannot be guaranteed to be secure and accurate, reports The Guardian(p14).
DROP IN WELSH SECOND HOMES CONFIRMED
The number of second homes in Wales has fallen sharply during the past decade, according to a new study, reports The Guardian(p15). The contraction has been greatest in the Welsh-speaking heartland areas of Gwynedd and the west coast,where nationalist agitation about second homes has been most intense. Research by the Bartlett school of planning at University College London for the Welsh assembly, published yesterday, shows the proportion of Welsh housing classed as second or holiday homes has fallen by between 10% and 12% since the early 1990s. A maximum of 19,500 Welsh dwellings are now second homes, compared with 22,000 in 1991.
SOARING BID COSTS COULD DAMPEN COMPANIES' ENTHUSIASM FOR PFI
The cost of bidding for big private finance initiative projects is now so high that Treasury officials fear too few companies will tender for the multi-million pound schemes. The fears became public yesterday as Michael Kayser, the finance director of Amey, quit amid rumours of clashes about accounting policies just five weeks after taking up the job. The troubled services group has seen its share price tumble after it changed the way it accounted for the huge bid costs incurred on PFI projects. At the same time, John Laing, another big provider, said it was actively looking to take over the portfolios of companies including Amey and WS Atkins (soon to become just plain Atkins), which has also hit trouble over its PFI business - a move that would shrink competition for such contracts, reports the http://search.ft.com/search/article.html?id=021017000749'>Financial Times(p1).
-- The Daily Telegraph (p1) reports that Conservative peers and bishops joined forces in the house of lords last night, to block government plans to allow unmarried, homosexual and lesbian couples to adopt children.
-- Dog walkers and pet sitters may have to apply for licences under new animal welfare legislation proposed by the government yesterday, reports The Times (p1).
-- Complaints by new residents have silenced the bells of St Mary's Church in the small country town of Totnes in Devon, after the vicar feared the chimes could be breaking European law, reports The Daily Telegraph (p7).
by assistant editor Neil Watson