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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT NEWS IN THE NATIONAL PRESS

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POLICE INVESTIGATE POSTAL VOTE FRAUD ALLEGATIONS...
POLICE INVESTIGATE POSTAL VOTE FRAUD ALLEGATIONS

Detectives are investigating allegations of postal vote fraud in eight boroughs just a week before the local elections, reports The Times (pg2).

A 50-year-old woman has been arrested in Birmingham after a raid by police found a large quantity of postal voting forms.

Other investigations are focusing on London - in Harrow, Kensington and Chelsea, Merton, Southwark, Hounslow, Tower Hamlets and Barnet. George Galloway's Respect party claims to have evidence of electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets.

'TRIPLE WHAMMY' LEAVES LABOUR LOOKING SHAKY

Labour yesterday suffered a 'triple whammy Wednesday' which leaves an image of incompetence hanging over the government ahead of the local elections, reports The Guardian (pg1).

Opposition leaders are calling for home secretary Charles Clarke's head over the release of prisoners who should have been deported back home instead. Health secretary Patricia Hewitt also faces resignation calls after being forced off the stage at the RCN's annual conference midway through her speech on the 'success' of the NHS amidst job cuts. And deputy prime minister John Prescott has admitted an affair with his diary secretary.

CHARITY CALLS FOR STATE TO PROVIDE FREE CARE TO OLDER PEOPLE

Age Concern is calling for an end to the 'wicked' system which forces 70,000 older people to sell their homes to pay for care, reports The Daily Telegraph (pg8).

The charity said all the older people it had surveyed criticised what they saw as the artificial barrier between social and health care. Click here for more.

A report out yesterday from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation called for reforms such as a voluntary equity release scheme to pay for care at home (see LGCnet).

LOCAL AND NATIONAL TORY LEADERS AT ODDS OVER CONGESTION CHARGE

Conservative officials in London were left in the dark about the party's change of tack over the congestion charging scheme, according to The Guardian (Diary column, pg31).

Shadow transport spokesperson Chris Grayling revealed yesterday that the new green-friendly party had dropped its former opposition to the scheme, saying it wasn't perfect but had set a precedent for reducing traffic.

But this was news to London Tories, who believe their anti-congestion charge position will bring them votes next week. Following a flurry of phone calls, Mr Grayling issued a new statement saying that the congestion charge 'is a matter for local politicians and not national ones'.

TARGETS INTRODUCED FOR FIVE-YEAR-OLDS

Education secretary Ruth Kelly has announced new development targets that children should reach by age five, reports The Independent (p20).

She said toddlers would not face assessments but teachers and other childcare professional should observe their enthusiasm for learning and social skills.

But teachers' leaders are worried about labelling youngsters so early.

Ms Kelly has also announced plans to track the progress of the brightest 11-year-olds.

CHICKENS SLAUGHTERED IN NORFOLK AFTER STRAIN OF BIRD FLU FOUND

Defra officials last night ordered the slaughter of 35,000 chickens in Norfolk after some tested positive for the H7 strain of bird flu, reports The Times.

The strain is less virulent than the H5N1 one, and rarely causes death in infected humans. Defra statement.

Yesterday new research was published suggesting that Britain would have to double the stockpile of antiviral drugs ordered by the government to successfully control a flu pandemic.

COUNCIL OFFICIAL BERATES CIG-LITTERING DJ

Manchester City Council environment services chief Rachel Christie gave a DJ a dressing down live on air over his littering of a cigarette butt, reports the Daily Mirror (pg35).

Terry Christian, a DJ on BBC Radio Manchester, told of his£75 fine for dropping a butt on the street. Ms Christie phoned in to berate him for not using a cigarette bin and also for initially giving the wrong address for his fine to be sent to.

Meanwhile health ministers are considering exempting actors from the workplace smoking ban if it is integral to story lines, reports The Daily Telegraph (pg1).

MAYOR ACCEPTS BNP LIBEL PAYOUT

A mayor has accepted undisclosed libel damages over a BNP claim that he was struck off as a doctor for having sex with a patient, reports The Times (pg34).

Raj Chandran, a GP, and mayor of Gedling in Nottinghamshire, was unprepared to let the unfounded allegations go unchallenged, said his solicitor.

CLAMPDOWN LAUNCHED ON CARPARKING 'COWBOYS'

Wheel clampers will be prevented from charging exorbitant fees under a new code of conduct, reports The Times (pg28).

The code was drawn up by the British Parking Association and is designed to protect motorists clamped on private land.

Cars used by health workers on call who display a badge should not be clamped, nor emergency vehicles.

Further details here.

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