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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 14:25HRS

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TREASURY COMMISSIONS INTO PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS ...
TREASURY COMMISSIONS INTO PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS
The Treasury has commissioned a study to identify the source of savings and efficiency from contracting public services out to private sector companies. Gordon Brown believes the study will conclude that the private sector gets greater productivity out of its employees by reskilling its workforce and using efficient shift systems and better motivation - leading to less absence from work, reports The Guardian(Election 2001, p1). The move follows pressure from the unions and work by the Institute of Public Policy Research, suggesting that research is needed on the source of savings through contracting to the private sector.
PRIME MINISTER UNVEILS FURTHER PUBLIC SECTOR DEREGULATION PLANS
Tony Blair said in a speech yesterdaythat his better regulation taskforce had already examined the problem of 'red tape' affecting headteachers, but that this would be extended to universities, hospitals and the police. The prime minister also said Labour would have three fundamental goals in public services if it were re-elected. These were high minimum standards, services built around the consumer and putting frontline staff at the forefront of policy with the 'pay, training, support and incentives to succeed,' reports the Financial Times(p4).
WILL LABOUR USE 'STEALTH PRIVATISATION' TO ACHIEVE PUBLIC SECTOR GOALS?
An editorial in The Guardian (p23), also referring to the prime minister's keynote speech, wonders if his goal of world class public services in enmeshed in 'stealth privatisation,' where private sector providers support public endeavour. The paper is, however, more satisfied that, 'All parties want to increase public spending - the arguments are confined to whether their programmes add up.'
APPARENT ACCELERATION IN PACE OF GOVERNMENT SPENDING
Net outlays by government departments totalled£26.7bn in April - an increase of 7.4 per cent on April 2000, compared to a rise of 6.4 per cent over the fiscal year 2000-01. The strong increase follows a long period during which the government has generally undershot its spending targets. The pace of spending is largely driven by investment as big projects finally gain momentum, reports Financial Times(p2). Provisional estimates of April 2001's public sector finances are available on LGCnet.
LABOUR PARTY DOCUMENT SUGGESTS REFERENDUM ON NORTH-EAST ASSEMBLY
Labour yesterday held out the clear prospect of a referendum on an elected regional assembly in the north-east of England during the next parliament - the start of a process that could lead to a further seven English assemblies. The party's northern region policy document, launched in Sunderland, said: 'In our second term, we will give people across our region the opportunity to decide how they want to be governed,' reports the Financial Times(p5).
BLUNKETT WARNS SUCCESSOR TO RESIST MORE TEACHING INITIATIVES
The outgoing education secretary, David Blunkett has urged his successor to resist loading more initiatives on to teachers. In an interviewin Guardian Education, he has acknowledged that Labour's changes to the system 'felt like a major increase in workload'. Mr Blunkett is expected to go to the home office after the election, and either Stephen Byers, the trade secretary, or Estelle Morris, minister for school standards, is though likely to replace him, reports The Guardian(p5).
INCINERATOR OFFENCES ESCAPE PROSECUTION
Hundreds of pollution offences being committed by operators of household waste incinerators each year are escaping prosecution by the environment agency, says a Greenpeacereport. The municipal incinerators in built-up areas burn thousands of tonnes of waste a year emitting gases, chemicals and heavy metals into the atmosphere, and the 10 have breached their licences 553 times between them in two years, reports The Guardian(p8).
COUNCIL CHIEF EXEC DERIDES POOR 'CHANGE INITIATIVES IMPOSED FROM ABOVE'
Martin Easteal, chief executive of Chelmsford BC, opines on the letters page of the Financial Times (p22): 'It is not the public sector that is bad at change, but that there have been too many badly thought-out and ill-researched change initiatives imposed from above.' Tongue firmly in cheek, he proposes to counter this with an initiative another initiative, 'An 'office of the chief executive of government' (presumably Offguv). Meantime, those of us with real responsibility for the delivery of public services will continue to make incremental and sensible changes in service provision that last.'
WINDERMERE UNFIT FOR BATHING BY BRUSSELS' STANDARDS
Its beaches are getting cleaner, but Britain's river and lakeside bathing areas are the second dirtiest in the European Union, according to a new report. Freshwater bathing site compliance with standards set by Brussels has dropped for the second consecutive year, with two on Windermere marked for the first time as below the minimum standard and therefore unfit, the European Commission said yesterday, reports The Guardian(p4).
SEX DISCRIMINATION AND WORKING TIME CLAIMS HAVE INCREASED
Figures released yesterday by the conciliation service ACAS show that the last financial year saw big increases in the number of claims for sex discrimination, and under the working time directive which limits the working week to 48 hours, reports the Daily Mail (p8). If you would like a copy of the ACAS figures faxed to you, please enter your fax number here.
by Assistant Editor Neil Watson
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