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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT NEWS IN THE NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS

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NEARLY 70 MPs DEFY BLAIR OVER EDUCATION BILL...
NEARLY 70 MPs DEFY BLAIR OVER EDUCATION BILL

Labour was forced to rely on Conservative support to defeat an amendment on the education bill backed by 69 rebel MPs, reports The Independent (pg16).

Last night's rebellion, at the bill's report stage, came ahead of the bill's third reading in the Commons today.

Backbench Labour MPs had demanded that ballots of parents should be held before community schools become the new type of independently-run trust schools.

Education secretary Alan Johnson has pledged safeguards to protect the position of local authorities. He said 'high-performing' authorities and those with 'diverse provision' would be able to put forward plans to open new community schools. He also said Ofsted would be able to monitor trust schools.

TORIES RANKED TOP FOR SCHOOL AND HEALTH POLICIES

Voter support for the Conservatives' education and health policies has helped give the party its highest rating in 13 years, according to poll findings published in The Guardian (pg1).

The Tories now command 38 per cent support, compared with 34 per cent for Labour and 20 per cent for the Liberal Democrats.

The most dramatic change in attitudes has been on the NHS, while Labour lags two points behind the Tories on education.

The Guardian commissioned ICM to run the survey of 1,001 adults between May 19 and 21.

PUBLIC INQUIRY OPENS IN DESALINATION PLANT

A public inquiry opened yesterday into a proposed desalination plant which has been refused planning permission by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, reports The Times (pg26).

Plans for the£200m plant in east London, which would be Britain's first, are backed by Newham LBC, the Environment Agency and the Consumer Council for Water. But Mr Livingstone denied planning because the 'energy-guzzling and carbon-intensive' plant will be the 'tipping point of irreversible climate change'.

Mr Livingstone told the inquiry that Thames Water seems to prefer the desalination plant, to 'an endless campaign to stop people from flushing the toilet unnecessarily each time after urinating'.

The final decision will be made jointly by communities and local government secretary Ruth Kelly and education secretary David Miliband, after a recommendation by Bob Lyon, the planning inspector.

FIRST ASIAN MAYOR FOR LEEDS

Leeds has installed Labour councillor Mohammed Iqbal as its first Asian mayor, reports The Independent (pg6).

Mr Iqbal has represented the City and Hunslet ward since 1999 and helped articulate the Muslim community's sense of shock over the July 7 bombings.

FEUDING COUNCILLORS IN COURT

A parish councillor was attacked by a former council colleague with a broom and a shovel on a village footpath, a court heard yesterday, reports The Daily Telegraph (pg5).

Eric Swift, who was a councillor in St Briavels, in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire until two years ago, is accused of assaulting Arthur Thomas, former parish council chairman, who remains a parish councillor and is also a member of Forest of Dean DC.

The court heard that the pair, who had known each other for 30 years, fell out over a number of disputes, including the dismissal of the council's female clerk, who was a friend of Mr Swift. There was also bad feeling over an allegation that Mr Thomas had falsely claimed council tax relief. The court also heard that Mr Thomas believed that Mr Swift was having an affair with his wife.

Mr Thomas told the court that Mr Swift had struck him on the head with a shovel, knocking him to the ground. Mr Swift told the court he used the shovel as a shield after Mr Thomas attacked him with a broom.

Mr Swift denies assault causing actual bodily harm. The trial continues.

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