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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN MONDAY'S NATIONAL PRESS

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MINISTERS 'TRIED TO BLOCK SECTIONS OF TUBE REPORT' ...
MINISTERS 'TRIED TO BLOCK SECTIONS OF TUBE REPORT'

The government tried to block publication of the most politically damaging sections of a report on its partial privatisation of the London Underground, according to documents released by London transport commissioner Bob Kiley, reported The Financial Times (p3).

London Underground tried to block publication of the Deloitte & Touche report into the public-private partnership, but a judge ruled on Friday that it must be made public. LU has attempted to delete almost 30 sections from 19 pages.

The government insisted the report should not be published, citing commercial confidentiality of the private companies bidding to take over the Tube's tunnels, tracks, signals and stations.

An annotated version of the report, leaked by the London mayor's transport team, reveals that the sections London Underground asked the judge to delete are often not the most commercially confidential - but the most critical of government.

BLUNKETT SEEKS REFORMER TO FIGHT POLICE 'SCAMS'

A Chris Woodhead-style reformer is to be appointed to overhaul standards of policing and help tackle ' Spanish practices' which drain resources in the fight against crime, reported The Times (p1).

Home secretary David Blunkett has initiated a hunt for a 'big hitter' who can expect resistance to change from some senior police officers as well as from the rank and file.

Among those being tipped for the post are Andrew Foster, head of the Audit Commission; Kate Flannery, who works in the home office's inspectorate of constabulary. Other candidates may come from the academic world.

The plan is for a 20-strong unit to implement national standards of policing for the 43 forces in England and Wales. High on the agenda is curbing practices which see some officers retiring early on dubious ill-health grounds, and entitlement to extensive overtime pay.

There have been lengthy talks with the Police Federation, representing junior ranks. The federation is said to welcome reform but wants to see real evidnce of alleged abuses.

POLICE SICKNESS PENSIONS ARE TOP OF REFORM PLANS

Police sickness pensions are top of the home office plans to reforms 'Spanish practices' amid concern that they are still rising in individual forces, reported The Times (p2).

Senior officers are accused of accepting the abuses to get rid of lazy or useless officers. As a result millions of pounds are being paid by taxpayers and serving officers, whose contributions help fund pensions.

Pensions are costing forces 16% of their annual budgets. In 1990-2000 the pensions bill was£1bn- one quarter of the total paid in police salaries. At the root of the problem is a pension system that pays two-thirds of final salary after 30 years' work.. It becomes index-linked at 55, but being ill brings early rewards.

The home office found that in 1996-97 more than 44% of all police retirements were through ill-health. In Merseyside the rate was 76%. In 1999-2000 the national average had fallen to 31%, but forces varied from 56% in Greater Manchester to 5% in Staffordshire.

MICRO-FLATS IDEA FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS

Six young architects unable to afford homes of their own are approaching London mayor Ken Livingstone with their solution - micro-flats, reported The Guardian (p1).

Aiming at key workers and young professionals unable to take their first step on the property ladder, the architects want to bring to the city a concept first developed by Japanese architects in the late 1960s.

Each flat would cost about£40,000 to manufacture. The critical factor is the cost of land.

'On the right inner-city sites, in the King's Cross area, for example, we would hope to see a selling price of somewhere between£60, 000 and£80,000', said architect Stuart Piercy.

Costs would be kept down by manufacturing the flats in factories. They are designed to clip together so that blocks of flats could vary from three to however many could be squeezed onto a plot.

Each flat will have a double bedroom, living room with kitchen, shower and balcony..

'We imagine people living in them for four or five years before moving on', said Mr Piercy.

'TOXIC TOWN' PROTEST

The Independent (p6) highlights the protests - Greenham Common style - at the site of a big municipal rubbish incinerator near Swansea.

It reminds readers of the phasing in of EU directives will mean more incineration, rather than landfill - with Greenpeace claiming that at least 70 more incinerators are in the pipeline, either under construction, awaiting construction with planning permission, awaiting planning permission, or with a promise of government funding.

THOUSANDS OF TEACHERS LEFT OFF NEW REGISTER

Thousands of teachers will be working illegally when the new school term starts next month after their employers failed to register them with their new professional body, the General Teaching Council, reported The Independent (p7).

More than 16,500 teachers are not on the GTC list, according to the department for education and skills. The GTC concedes that many teachers will not be included on its register because they had been impossible to trace. The admission prompted accusations that the GTC will be unable to fulfil its role of policing the profession.

Every teacher in England is now legally required to be on the GTC register to be able to continue working in state schools.. The GTC was supposed to have a complete register by 1 June. The register will also be used to ask teachers to pay a£23 annual subscription to the GTC, which the two largest teaching unions are advising their members not to pay.

Teachers' employers - schools, LEAs, and supply agencies - have been asked to provide details of all their staff. But at the weekend the GTC and the DfES said no action would be taken against schools and LEAs that had failed to register their staff.

The register will be vital for the council's main role as a disciplinary body for teachers.

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