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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 13:45

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FIRE DISPUTE: UNION TO SEVER LINK WITH LABOUR ...
FIRE DISPUTE: UNION TO SEVER LINK WITH LABOUR

The Labour leadership is set to lose the support of another group of workers tomorrow when the Fire Brigades Union is expected to become the first union to formally disaffiliate from the party, reports The Guardian(p9). Union activists yesterday voted to hold a ballot on limited strikes unless a pay row hanging over from the end of the long dispute last June was resolved by the end of July. Disagreements over working at night and bank holidays has meant that a 3.5% rise due last November remains unpaid and a 4.2% increase scheduled for July is in jeopardy.

CONDEMNATION OF INDUSTRIAL ACTION VOTE(Employers' Organisation)

PRESCOTT GIVES COUNCILS NEW POWERS FOR SPEEDY RESOLUTION OF TRAVELLER INVASIONS

ODPM officials have told a Commons select committee that councils are to be given new powers by the end of the year to order an immediate stop to development by travellers on farm fields, even where they own the land, reports The Independent(p16). The news will be welcomed by many councils - South Somerset DC is one of the latest to suffer - as it will circumvent a lengthy planning process. The Commons select committee for the ODPM will publish evidence today confirming new powers, to be enacted before the end of the year, which will allow councils to issue temporary 'stop notices'.

ODPM MINISTERS CALL FOR NEIGHBOURHOOD EMPOWERMENT

Community groups should take on some of the powers of town halls to reinvigorate local government, two ministers have proposed. Local government minister Nick Raynsford and ODPM under-secretary of state Yvette Cooper insist their proposals must not end up undermining the traditional role of local government, or spread social inequality, reports The Guardian(p14). Writing separately, in a John Smith Institute pamphlet (available here)

discussed at a Downing Street seminar, the pair suggest new neighbourhood bodies 'could be handed responsibility for local parks, the street scene, community safety and local regeneration'. In a Demos lecture, former health minister Alan Milburn floated the idea of allowing local groups limited levy-raising powers as part of the New Localism agenda, but Mr Raynsford and Ms Cooper oppose this, warning of inequality.

PRIME MINISTER'S ADVISOR URGES BALANCE ON SERVICE TARGET ACHIEVEMENT

Fundamental tensions lie at the heart of the government's campaign to reform public services, a key adviser to Tony Blair said yesterday, reports the Financial Times(p2). The prime minister's Cabinet Office adviser on public service reform, Wendy Thomson, admitted initial findings from a study of the education department's skills strategy had exposed a conflict between the need to meet both national targets and local demand.

POOR AREAS FACE LOSS OF AID BILLIONS

Older industrial areas face the loss of state funding for private sector projects worth billions of pounds a year under European Commission proposals, the government has warned. Plans by the EC's competition directorate would prevent national governments in the better-off, longer-standing European Union countries from giving financial support to developments in some of their poorer areas, reports the Financial Times(p4). A consultation paper issued this week by the Department of Trade and Industry estimated the Commission proposals would see the proportion of the UK population eligible for state aid fall from 30.9% to 9.1%.

GOVERNMENT COULD BE IN FOR A SMACKING FROM CHILDREN'S CHARITIES

Children's charities said last night they were confident a cross-party alliance of peers would inflict a series of defeats on the government today at the report stage of the children bill in the Lords, reports The Guardian(p14). A revolt is also brewing on Monday if the government persists in defending parents' unfettered right to smack their children. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and other charities want to outlaw violence against a child if it would be regarded as an assault on an adult.

GENERAL ELECTION DISSUADES GOVERNMENT FROM COUNCIL TAX REFORM

Ministers appear to have cooled on reforming the council tax in the short term because of the looming general election, according to members of a government-commissioned review. In a make-or-break meeting yesterday, the balance of funding review panel was presented with a draft report by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which members described as 'anodyne' and containing little more than a list of the options available, reports the Financial Times(p4).

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