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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PAPERS

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NAO FINDS GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS USE UNRELIABLE DATA...
NAO FINDS GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS USE UNRELIABLE DATA

Government departments are failing to collect reliable data to show whether they are meeting their public service targets, says the National Audit Office.

The NAO says the Department for Education does not have good systems in place for minotoring how children perform in schools. On 12 out of 14 key education targets, information is likely to be unreliable, the NAO says. It questions whether the department is properly monitoring the take-up of sport in schools or the performance of children from poor backgrounds relative to those from wealthier families.

The NAO also criticises the Environment Department for being unable to monitor whether services are improving in rural areas.

The Guardian, page 10

PARKING OMBUDSMAN CALLS FOR COMMON SENSE

Motorists must be given a reasonable amount of time to buy a parking ticket, the parking ombudsman has told local authorities.

In a ruling yesterday, Caroline Sheppard, the chief adjudicator of the National Parking Adjudication Service (NPAS), said people should not be given parking fines moments after stopping their cars. She urged local authority parking attendants to take a common sense approach and allow motorists five minutes grace to find a pay and display machine and, if necessary, ask other people for change.

Her ruling follows complaints from motorists who were fined immediately after parking. The High Court has already ruled that going to a shop to get change does not constitute a defence against a parking fine.

Ms Sheppard also said councils should not automatically fine motorists whose pay and display ticket has fallen off the windscreen.

The Daily Telegraph, page 5

SURESTART CENTRES FAIL TO REACH NEEDY FAMILIES, SAYS STUDY

More than half of local authorities running SureStart children's centres have not monitored their centre's performance or checked costs, according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO).

The NAO study published today says SureStart centres are failing to help the families that need them most. The most disadvantaged families, such as those with teenage mothers or disabled children, are the least likely to visit centres, so services must be taken to them, the NAO says. But only nine out of the 30 centres visited by NAO had identified which households most needed services for pre-school children and actively tried to reach them.

The Guardian, page 7

EVEN LARGER OFFSHORE WINDFARMS PROPOSED

More than a dozen offshore windfarms around the coast of Britain have been proposed, some planned to be larger than the London Array scheme in the Thames estuary, approved yesterday (see LGCnet).

On the east coast, power company npower wants to build a giant wind farm at Triton Knoll, in the Wash. If built, this would be the world's biggest offshore wind farm. The Welsh Assembly is considering plans for a windfarm off the north Wales coast, at North Hoyle.

Planning permission has already been granted for a massive onshore wind farm at Whitelee, near Glasgow, while proposals for onshore wind turbines on the Isle of Lewis are controversial. The local authority is in favour of investment in renewable energy, but residents oppose the turbines.

The Guardian, page 9

LONDON BOROUGH WINS CASE OVER FOOD PASSED OFF AS ORGANIC

An up market restaurant in west London has been fined after Kensington and Chelsea LBC environmental health officers discovered it was falsely claiming that meat in its dishes was organic.

Three dishes on the menu at Julie's Restaurant and Bar were listed as using organic meat. But when environmental health officers inspected delivery records they found the meat came from cheap, non-organic sources, saving the restaurant more than£4,000.

At West London magistrates court yesterday, restaurant owner Johnny Ekperigian was fined£7,500, plus costs, and told he faced jail if he committed a similar offence again.

Fiona Buxton, Kensington and Chelsea cabinet member for public and environmental health, said: 'For many visitors to the restaurant, this has led to a betrayal of lifestyle'. The Soil Association, which certificates organic food, called on more local authorities to carry out investigations, as it believes many restaurants are cashing in on the public interest in organic food and listing food as organic when it is not.

The Daily Telegraph, page 5

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