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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 14:05HRS

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BYERS IN U-TURN OVER 'RESIGNATION' OF PRESS AIDE ...
BYERS IN U-TURN OVER 'RESIGNATION' OF PRESS AIDE

Stephen Byers was forced into an embarrassing and costly retreat yesterday over the spin row that engulfed the DTLR. Contrary to his earlier protestations, he admitted that his press chief, Martin Sixsmith, never resigned. He also agreed to pay Mr Sixsmith a compensation package thought to total about£200,000. Mr Sixsmith left the department in February along with Jo Moore, Mr Byer's controversial special adviser, but always maintained that he had not resigned, and the row over his departure seriously damaged the transport secretary's credibility, reports the Financial Times(p4).

ACTION AGAINST BARINGS AUDITOR RESUMES

The high court action against the former auditor of Barings Bank resumed yesterday after a break of several months and many millions of pounds in legal fees. Deloitte & Touche denies negligently failing to pick up on the activities of Nick Leeson, the Singapore-based rogue trader whose actions brought the bank down, reports The Times(p25).

STUART DRUMMOND IS NOT ALONE: JAPAN'S SURPRISE MAYOR VOWS REFORM AT LOCAL LEVEL

Hiroshi Nakada, Japan's youngest mayor, took office in Yokohama city hall last month after a shock victory over the Liberal Democratic party incumbent, a former construction ministry bureaucrat who had already served 12 years. The 37-year-old independent, who declared his candidacy just days before campaigning began, benefited from voter disgust with scandal-prone politicians from the traditional parties, and was elected on a pro-transparency platform that included a promise to make public how much he spent on food and drink, reports the Financial Times(p13).

ENTITLEMENT TO HOUSING FOR DESTITUTE ASYLUM SEEKERS

A local authority has a duty under section 21 of the National Assistance Act 1948 to provide residential accommodation for a destitute asylum seeker who suffered a disability which, of itself, gave rise to a need for care and attention which fell short of requiring provision of residential accommodation. The authority was not relieved of that liability simply because the National Asylum Support Service had offered accommodation. As it applied to destitute asylum seekers Abdelaziz Mani, Sukru Tasci and 'J', this was the ruling of Mr justice Wilson in the Queen's Bench Division against Lambeth LBC and Enfield LBC, published yesterday, reports The Times (p37).

IN DEPTH: MPs FURIOUS OVER FURTHER WEMBLEY NATIONAL STADIUM DELAYS

Culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell endured an hour of criticism from MPs from all sides after giving the Football Association an unspecified amount of extra time to reach agreement with its German bankers, after extending its two previous deadlines, to the outrage of West Midlands MPs campaigning for the stadium to be built at Birmingham. But the culture secretary said that it was the Football Association's choice to use the Wembley site, and that it would be wrong for her to wreck its chances now. She said the association had met three of the four conditions she set in December and was making progress on the£700m funding deal, reports The Times (p10).

IN DEPTH: FREE VOTE FOR MPs ON ADOPTION RIGHTS FOR GAY COUPLES

Health secretary Alan Milburn has said the government would back proposals to lift the restrictions on adoption by unmarried couples, risking a political row over family values. He told MPs he supported amendments to the Adoption and Children Bill tabled by David Hinchliffe, Labour chairman of the commons health select committee, to allow adoption panels to choose married and unmarried couples as suitable parents. Under the European Convention on Human Rights, it is impossible to exclude homosexual couples from the definition of an unmarried couple. Mr Milburn said the move was not about the right of people to adopt but 'extending the right of more children to be adopted,' adding: 'The government's objective is to increase the number of children to have the opportunity, through adoption, to grow up as part of a loving, stable and permanent family.' Currently, only married couples or single people can adopt. Although it is possible for someone in an unmarried or gay relationship to adopt a child, they cannot do so as a couple, reports The Daily Telegraph(p2).

IN DEPTH: UNPAID COUNCILLORS REBELLING AGAINST RULE CHANGE WAIT TO BE SACKED

Councillors on Broadway Parish Council, Worcestershire, have joined the revolt against the government's new code of conduct, saying they would prefer to be sacked than submit to 'over-the-top and intrusive' rules. Their chairman, Peter Riley, said: 'If I was a district councillor I would be earning up to£80 a week and would expect to sign up to some type of code. We work for absolutely nothing for the good of the community. Individually we have no powers and should not be subjected to the same regimes as the county councillors, who have considerable powers.' Last week Fittleton parish council, Wilts, resigned en masse over the code and individual councillors in other areas across Britain have stepped down in protest, reports The Daily Telegraph(p4).

IN BRIEF:

- Hartlepool's new mayor, Stuart Drummond, faced with the complexity of understanding the town's budget and electing a cabinet, told The Guardian(p3) on his first day in office, after rounds of meetings with his management team: 'I am here to listen and learn. I want to cooperate with all the parties. I don't want to get bogged down in political arguments or ideologies. I just want everyone to do the best for the town. I am not political at all.'

- Meanwhile, Middlesbrough mayor Ray Mallon wants to appoint a law and order commissioner, but policing is outside the control of the local council. He has also indicated that he wants to include some Labour councillors in his cabinet, but the party is split as to whether it should work with him or adopt a scrutiny role.

- Construction News (2/5/02, p10) uncovers what tripped up Birmingham City Council's housing stock transfer afler Glasgow's relatively clear run, and how 'it plans a clearer, more considered approach to win back the residents' confidence': www.cnplus.co.uk

- Society Guardian(p4) considers an initiative to relocate homeless families from the south to the north and kill two birds with one stone: growing housing waiting lists in the south and empty homes in the north. It reports on one mother trying to escape domestic violence, who describes a year of intimidation and hostility, her family being tyrannised by local youths as 'outsiders'.

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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