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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT NEWS IN THE NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS

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CALL TO RAISE SCHOOL-STARTING AGE...
CALL TO RAISE SCHOOL-STARTING AGE

The chair of the House of Commons education committee has called for children to start school at the later age of seven, reports The Independent (pg21).

Barry Sheridan said a later starting age was needed because 'we are stealing their childhood away from children in this country'. He also told the Professional Association of Teachers' annual conference that parental choice is creating a 'whole section of good schools but some bloody awful schools as well'.

His committee plans to launch an inquiry into testing in the autumn, he added.

The conference also heard that nursery staff who dress inappropriately and discuss hangovers in front of children are at risk of creating a generation of 'Vicky Pollards'.

KELLY CALLS OFF PRESCOTT 'VANITY' CONFERENCE

Ruth Kelly cancelled a conference seen as a showcase for the deputy prime minister soon after taking over his department, reports The Times (pg2).

The newspaper quotes figures from a story in Building Design magazine showing that the cancellation of the sustainable communities summit has cost the taxpayer more than£300,000 in consultants' fees and other expenses.

John Prescott hosted similar events in 2002 and 2005, and had planned to feature 'Deputy Prime Minister Awards' at the conference next February.

Department for Communities and Local Government junior minister Angela Smith said the department planned to communicate its agenda in different ways.

Shadow communities secretary Caroline Spelman said it was clear that the sustainable communities conferences 'were purely to massage [Mr Prescott's] inflated ego and his misplaced pretension of being a world statesman, rather than any attempt to improve people's lives'.

MINI-MOTO CLAMPDOWN 'JUST A HEADLINE GRABBING SHAM'

The Home Office stands accused of spin after announcing 'new' powers to tackle nuisance motorbike riders that are actually 18 years old, reports the Daily Express (pg22).

Home secretary John Reid said riders of mini-motos would face tough motoring penalties. But the powers have been available under the Road Traffic Act of 1988. The Department of Transport confirmed that 'the long standing view' is that mini-motos are classed as motor vehicles.

Shadow home secretary David Davis accused the Home Office on trying to grab headlines and called for available powers to be used, instead of being reannounced.

The Home Office said its announcement was designed to improve awareness of the laws. It has allocated£200,000 to target the problem in 28 'hotspots'.

TORIES URGED TO POSTPONE SELECTION FOR LONDON MAYOR

The Conservatives have been left without a big name candidate for Mayor of London 24 hours before applications close, reports The Independent (pg21).

LBC Radio DJ Nick Ferrari withdrew after being told his daily phone-in would have to be censored to avoid accusations of political bias.

Senior Conservatives are now calling for David Cameron to postpone the 'primary' stage of the contest - the first of its kind in the UK. All eligible Londoners will be allowed to vote for their preferred Tory candidate via telephone or text message.

CPRE CRITICIAL OF NEW HOUSE PLANS IN MIDLANDS

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has criticised plans to build 409,000 new homes in the West Midlands, reports The Guardian (pg17).

It says the proposals will amount to 'environmental vandalism', as they would consume almost 40 square miles of land, mostly on green fields.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the CPRE was 'scaremongering'.

COUNCIL OFFERS£50 TO ENTICE YOUNG PEOPLE TO MEETING

The Taxpayers' Alliance has hit out at a council for offering£50 to residents who turn up at a workshop on spending the local budget, reports the Daily Express (pg27).

Cotswold DC defended the move, saying it was more cost-effective than using a marketing company, to target a hard-to-reach group.

The Local Government Association added that the scheme was standard practice.

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