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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PAPERS

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By Roxanne Blakelock...
By Roxanne Blakelock

FIRE MERGER PLANS ATTACKED

Plans to reorganise the fire service have been criticised by MPs on the communities and local government select committee, The Times reports (pg24). It is concerned about the lack of information about funding and the lack of confidence in the scheme within fire brigades. The government says it plans to go ahead with the scheme. Full details here.

NEW RESTRICTIONS FOR LOCAL AUTHORITIES ON CLAMPING CARS

Local authorities can no longer clamp cars for minor offences, The Times reports (pg25). The Department for Transport states that local authorities should focus on clamping only persistent offenders and wherever possible they should remove the vehicle rather than immobilise it, to avoid obstruction. DfT announcement.

Transport secretary Douglas Alexander said: 'Only the most persistent offenders will have their vehicles immobilised', The Daily Telegraph reports (pg1). Camden LBC this month ended clamping for all except those who refuse to pay fines.

LOCAL AUTHORITIES CAN SEIZE EMPTY HOMES

The government yesterday revealed new plans allowing local councils to seize homes for seven years if they have been empty for six months, The Daily Express reports (pg 1). Furniture and permanent fixtures can also be claimed.

The Department for Communities and Local Government yesterday published new instructions for local councils on how to seize empty properties. Councils will be able to put an Empty Dwelling Management Order on any home left unoccupied for six months or more. Luton BC may be the first local authority to carry out such an order.

A spokesman for the DCLG dismissed claims that the new guidelines were sneaked out.

FAST-TRACK PLANNING FOR NUCLEAR POWER STATIONS

The government yesterday announced its plans to speed up the development of nuclear power stations, The Daily Telegraph reports, (pg 1). Industry secretary Alistair Darling acknowledged local concerns, which will be raised at planning enquiries, but said that these needed to be balanced with national energy requirements. Plans for wind farms and small wind turbines on homes have been streamlined so that 'wherever possible' wind turbines can be built without needing planning permission.

Some backbench Labour MPs have pledged to fight these changes to the planning system, The Independent reports (pg6).

ID CARDS PUT ON HOLD

The introduction of ID cards has been delayed, The Financial Times reports (pg2). The government admitted yesterday that the cards might not be introduced until 2008, pending a review of the Home Office. The Home Office admitted it could not give a date when the cards will first be issued, The Guardian reports (pg4).

REID CRITICISED FOR DELAYING POLICE MERGERS

The former home secretary Charles Clarke yesterday criticised his successor John Reid for delaying the police force mergers, TheTimes reports (pg4). Clarke said that the decision was 'weak and damaging'. But the Home Office stated that it was not going to shelve the entire plan for mergers, The Guardian reports (pg 12).

The police minister Tony McNulty will address the issue in a speech to local government chiefs today, The Daily Telegraph reports (pg 12).

COURTS TO BE MORE OPEN

To improve the 'democratic accountability' of courts, councillors and MPs will have more access to them, The Times reports (pg 22). Children will now eventually have access to their family court files when they reach the age of 18. More details here.

GOVERNMENT CONDEMNS CUL-DE-SACS

The government criticises cul-de-sacs in its draft guidance, 'Manual for Streets', The Times reports (pg 8). It recommends instead a series of blocks arranged in a grid. A spokesman for Barratt Homes, one of Britain's biggest residential developers, defended the cul-de-sac saying that homebuyers and many planning authorities liked them.

CRISIS TALKS OVER EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE FESTIVAL

There is debate over whether Liverpool should focus on its own identity during the city's European capital of culture festival in 2008, The Guardian reports, (pg 11). Some think that it should be an explicitly international event. The leaders of the city's main arts organisations and culture company managers yesterday decided that a 'broader vision' for the event was the way to proceed.

NATIONAL REGISTER FOR BRIGHT CHILDREN

The government is launching a register for bright children at comprehensive schools, The Daily Telegraph reports (pg 6). Despite widespread publicity, some local authorities, such as Islington LBC have not registered any children with the National Academy, compared to others, such as Derbyshire which provided 1,851 members.

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