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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 13:50HRS

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RAIL CASH #1:£2.2BN RAIL BUDGET BOOST FOR TRANSPORT SECRETARY ...
RAIL CASH #1:£2.2BN RAIL BUDGET BOOST FOR TRANSPORT SECRETARY

Stephen Byers was last night handed a£2.2bn lifeline by Gordon Brown in the form of a new injection of cash for the struggling railway industry. The chancellor made his offer in weekend talks with Mr Byers, reports The Guardian(p9), during which the latter made it clear that the immediate task of restoring some order into the industry would be undermined without the extra money.

RAIL CASH #2: BYERS IN DISPUTE WITH TREASURY OVER DATE£2.2BN LIFELINE WAS SECURED

Stephen Byers was embroiled in a political row last night after the treasury disputed his department's claims to have secured an extra£2.2bn for the railways, reports the Financial Times. The transport secretary announced in response to a parliamentary question that the amount of money available under the 10-year plan had been increased from£179.7bn to£181.9bn, with department insiders saying Mr Byers had secured the money from the Treasury after high-level talks, but the Treasury said the cash had been agreed in April 2001, and there had been no recent talks.

HOME SECRETARY URGES POLICE CHIEFS TO SET EXAMPLE TO OFFICERS IN WELCOMING REFORMS

David Blunkett yesterday urged chief constables and a potential opponent of his pay and conditions package reforms, Metropolitan Police Federation president Glen Smith, to back his programme as it emerged he could face a legal challenge from disgruntled rank-and-file officers. Speaking at a home office conference in London, Mr Blunkett made clear that he wanted police chiefs to play a more positive role in ensuring broader backing for government policies. 'There has to be reform and there has got to be a can-do mentality ... reform is coming. It's coming with or without the nature of rewards that we have on the table,' he said, reports the Financial Times(p2) and The Independent(p2).

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT

Britain is developing an unstoppable 24-hour economy that is reinvigorating city centres but causing widespread alcohol-related problems for local residents, a report will claim today. The report, All Day and All the Night?, based on a survey by the LGA, says evening and night-time businesses are growing fast in smaller towns and big cities, reports the Financial Times(p2).

HOME SECRETARY IMPLEMENTING FRAMEWORK FOR ISSUING MORE ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR ORDERS

An overhaul of the way police and landlords can tackle anti-social behaviour, including 'neighbours from hell', was announced by home secretary David Blunkett yesterday. Police and landlords will be able to apply to the courts for immediate action to tackle teenagers who torment their neighbourhoods and to evict noisy residents under changes to anti-social behaviour orders announced yesterday, reports The Guardian(p6).

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER WINS CABINET BATTLES TO PUSH ON WITH REGIONAL ASSEMBLIES

John Prescott has won a long cabinet battle to try for regional assemblies in England. A white paper on regional government is expected to be published next month and those in Mr Prescott's camp are confident a first referendum, almost certainly in the North-east, will be held before the next general election. If the public vote in favour, a new regional assembly would be set up in the area, reports The Independent(p8).

TORY LEADER WOULD RESTRICT RIGHT TO STRIKE IN ESSENTIAL SERVICES

A Conservative government would introduce fresh restrictions on strikes in public services and restore the right of companies to dismiss instantly workers who take industrial action. Party leader Iain Duncan Smith signalled his wish yesterday to crack down on unions and force them to keep the trains running, reports The Independent(p8).

DIRECTOR LEAVES AS KINGSTON COMMUNICATIONS TRIMS COSTS

Hull-based telecoms group Kingston Communications, a 'player' in broadband technology, yesterday parted company with chief operating officer Ian McKenzie as part of a wider effort to cut back costs. The move came as Kingston said it expected capital expenditure to be less than£115m for the year to the end of March, some£15m below previous forecasts, reports The Independent(p19).

INQUIRY INTO CLIMBIE DEATH TOLD AGENCIES AGREED SECRET 'NO BLAME' DEAL

Health and social services authorities under investigation for the Victoria Climbié scandal came to a secret deal not to publicly fall out over the way they handled the eight-year-old's care, it was revealed yesterday. The health chiefs in north London thought they had come to an understanding that they and Haringey LBC would take a 'joint and positive approach' that would not involve attacking or blaming each other for mistakes, according to a letter written after the inquiry got under way, reports The Guardian(p13).

IN BRIEF:

-- The government is preparing to close up to 3,000 urban post offices in the biggest programme of cutbacks the network has seen. Ministers are completing a compensation scheme forsub-postmasters that could see a third of the 9,000 branches in town centres and suburbs disappear, reports The Independent(p1).

-- The City of London is the most prosperous area in the European Union and generates more wealth than any other region in the 15-nation block, outstripping Frankfurt and Paris comfortably, a league table published by the European commission showed yesterday, reports The Guardian(p12).

-- The letters page of The Guardian(p21) is awash with letters on the topic of elected mayors, including Nick Raynsford's criticism of Southwark for choosing 'a traditional poll in the depths of winter'.

-- Society Guardian(p2) reports on gated communities such as the one Margaret Thatcher chose to buy as prime minister, some of which have better facilities than many rural villages.

AND FINALLY ...

Nottingham city council has 'declared war' on the misuse of the apostrophe. Council leader Graham Chapman is refusing to authorise documents that misuse the apostrophe, declaring the problem 'has risen to unacceptable proportions' in official documentation. He and John Jackson, the council's chief executive, will give£2 to charity each time they get it wrong, and are 'encouraging' colleagues at the 14,000-strong organisation to follow suit. Cllr Jackson hopes the beacon he has lit will ignite similar flames across the city, even in the market, reports the Financial Times(p5)

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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