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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES FROM THE NATIONAL PRESS

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MORE THAN 140 LEAs GET CHANCE TO SET UP SCHOOLS IN EDUCATION BILL CONCESSIONS...
MORE THAN 140 LEAs GET CHANCE TO SET UP SCHOOLS IN EDUCATION BILL CONCESSIONS

Only 30 of the worst performing local authorities will be stopped from setting up schools, according to The Guardian (pg5).

Schools minister Jacqui Smith has set out concessions during the education bill's committee stage on the criteria which would prevent the secretary of state using a veto to stop authorities running schools.

It is estimated more than 140 LEAs will escape the veto.

Critics of the original bill believed it revealed an ideological antagonism towards local authority run schools.

LABOUR LEADERS DOWNPLAY IMPACT OF LOCAL ELECTIONS ON PM

Senior Labour figures are launching a pre-emptive strike to head off demands for Tony Blair to quit if the party suffers badly in the local elections next week, reports The Independent (pg11).

Home secretary Charles Clarke said the elections should not be seen as a referendum on the PM.

An accompanying commentary by John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, says Mr Blair enters the local elections with one simple advantage - Labour did very badly when the seats up for grabs were last contested.

VOTERS BACK BNP POLICIES BUT NOT PARTY ITSELF, SHOWS POLL

A Sky News poll survey shows nearly six in ten people support an end to all immigration - one of the BNP's main pledges, reports the Daily Express (pg2). But when told the policy was a BNP commitment, support for the policy dropped to under half (48 per cent).

One pollster warned that if the party succeeds in erasing negative views about BNP activists - some of whom have criminal backgrounds - then local support will grow for the party.

HOME OFFICE PLAN FOR SUPER-HOSTELS UNDER ATTACK

Probation chiefs have challenged the government to listen to police and local authority views over plans for super-hostels to house offenders, reports The Daily Telegraph (pg4).

The Home Office wants the larger buildings to be used as half-way houses for up to 100 offenders mid-way through their sentences. Offenders would be locked up overnight but free to come and go during the day.

But the Probation Boards Association said the plans were a bad idea and would face immense local resistance.

PLANNING RULES COULD CHANGE TO STOP HOMES NEAR PYLONS

Experts are likely to recommend a change in planning guidelines in a bid to prevent possible links between pylons and childhood leukaemia, reports The Daily Telegraph (pg1).

The newspaper claims an advisory group set up by ministers will recommend that new homes cannot be built within 230ft of power lines or in locations that expose residents to electromagnetic fields of a certain strength.

The group is due to report in June and may also analysis the cost of knocking down and replacing existing homes in potentially dangerous locations.

POLICE INVESTIGATE RACIST MOTIVE IN TEENAGER'S KILLING

Kent police have confirmed they are treating the stabbing of an 18-year-old in Sheerness as a racist murder, reports The Independent (pg1).

Christopher Alaneme, whose parents are from Nigeria, was stabbed as he apparently sought to protect his white friend last Friday night after taunts from a group of white teenagers.

The newspaper says Christopher has become the latest addition to the growing list of victims of racist violence in Britain.

HEADTEACHERS TOLD TO TRACK BRIGHTEST PUPILS

Headteachers are to be asked to track the progress of the top performing five per cent of 11-year-olds, according to The Times (pg29).

Education secretary Ruth Kelly will soon write to heads informing them of plans to set up a national register of the brightest pupils and give university admissions officers access to the information so they can pursue the brightest children, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds.

COUNCIL WINS BACKING FOR SEVERN ESTUARY PLAN

Bristol City Council has won backing from the Welsh Assembly for plans for a 10-mile long barrage across the Severn estuary, reports The Guardian (pg9).

The assembly said the barrage would offer an exceptional opportunity to tackle the UK's energy crises. It could produce energy equivalent to the two nuclear power stations.

However some environmental groups are worried that the damage caused by building it would outweigh its green energy production.

Bristol council has previously passed a motion urging the government to consider the scheme.

JUDGE LEFT SPEECHLESS BY COUNCIL'S CARPARK FINE CASE

A High Court judge said he was speechless after hearing that a council pursuing an unpaid parking fine is now letting motorists park in the space for free, reports The Daily Telegraph (pg1).

The case reached the High Court in Leeds after a man challenged Kirklees Council's£30 fine for not paying the 10p fee because he said he saw no pay-and-display sign. After hearing that the car park was now free, Judge Rodney Grant said he was 'speechless'. The case has costs£2,800 to date. It has been adjourned until later this year.

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