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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS

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CASH CRISIS THREATENS ANTI-CRIME DRIVE ...
CASH CRISIS THREATENS ANTI-CRIME DRIVE

Plans to use more police officers to deal with crime and anti-social behaviour risk being undermined by a funding crisis, local authorities have warned the government, reported the Financial Times (p4).

The warning was issued ahead of the publication today of Home Office figures which are expected to show that despite a drop in overall crime, voters' fears remain high amid high levels of violence and concerns about the use of guns.

Ruth Henig, who chairs the Association of Police Authorities, warned of the risk of a £350m police funding shortfall next year which could force a choice between a significant increase in council taxes or a reduction in police visibility.

A survey of police authorities shows that to implement the national policing plan, they will require an increase in central government funding of 6% next year, after a rise of just 3.7% in 2003-04. The current forecast of an increase of 2.5% for police authorities to spend on local policing next year would mean a funding gap of about £350m.

WELSH COUNCILLORS OFFERED CASH TO STAND DOWN

'Golden goodbyes' worth up to £20,000 are to be offered to ageing councillors in Wales to stand down to encourage a younger breed of politician, the Welsh Assembly agreed, reported the Financial Times (p4).

Councillors with at least 16 years' service will be entitled to up to £20,000, provided they quit before next year's local elections.

The proposal was put forward by Sue Essex, the assembly's local government minister, who complained that the typical Welsh councillor was white, male and of above average age.

TORIES OPPOSE INQUIRY INTO LONDON GOVERNMENT

The London Assembly has launched a far-reaching inquiry into the governance of the capital, examining the city's boundaries, the future of local government and the provision of public services, reported the Financial Times (p4).

But Conservative members opposed the 18-month inquiry, claiming that its main purpose was to underpin proposals by mayor Ken Livingstone to scrap the existing 32-borough structure and replace it with five regional centres.

LIVINGSTONE ACCUSES LONDON POLITICIANS OF NEGATIVITY OVER OLYMPICS BID

London mayor Ken Livingstone accused senior London politicians of being negative about the 2012 Olympic bid yesterday after they expressed doubts about several of its technical aspects, reported the Financial Times (p6).

The mayor and Barbara Cassani, the bid chair, were defending the Olympic bid to members of the London Assembly at a City Hall hearing. Tory members criticised the £550m contribution that London council taxpayers would have to make towards hosting the games. They said the games should be a national event and the costs should be shared across the country.

They also believed that by holding most of the events in east London, other parts of the capital would miss out. Tony Arbour, Conservative member for south-west London, said: 'We have supinely accepted that we in London should have to pay extra for something that is going to be of national benefit and a regional benefit to a small part of London'.

Mr Livingstone, who along with assembly members is seeking re-election next June, replied: 'I suggest you start thinking as a Londoner rather than winning a few votes scrabbling around by being miserable and negative'.

Liberal Democrat members also voiced concerns.

Ms Cassani said that the team would put forward at least 10 London boroughs to host Olympic events. Although it was important for the credibility of the bid to resolve a funding crisis of the national athletics stadium at Crystal Palace, its distance from east London - where the main stadium will be built - made it unlikely to be among the proposed games venues.

The mayor, however, hinted at a rethink when he said that enhanced transport links on the East London line and the Croydon tramlink would make Crystal Palace 'easily accessible to the vast majority of Londoners'.

TEACHERS' PAY DEAL PUTS £100-PLUS ON COUNCIL TAX BILLS

More than 25 million householders face average council tax rises of at least 10% next year to cover education costs, local authority leaders said yesterday, reported The Times (p2). The average increase will be well over £100.

With predictions on Wednesday that police costs could add 2.5% on household bills, council taxpayers could expect average rises of 13% for the second year running - five times the level of inflation.

County council leaders have written to education secretary Charles Clarke that current spending plans for 2004-05 will not cover teachers' pay and pensions and that the rest will have to be met by raising council tax. They have warned that if next year's education allocation is not increased, councils will have to raise their taxes by an extra 3 to 4%. This is on top of the 7% that ministers have factored in for council tax rises.

COUNCIL TENANT'S BODY UNDISCOVERED FOR MORE THAN A YEAR

An inquest in London was told that the body of Francis Ugboma, 57, a council tenant, lay undiscovered in his flat in Paddington for 18 months, reported The Times (p14).

Westminister coroner Paul Knapman adjourned the inquest after ordering Westminster City Council to investigate.

PUBLIC SECTOR WAGES SURGE

The pace of wage increases in the state sector has surged to its fastest rate for more than a decade in a development that will fuel fears that the chancellor's boost to spending on public services is being eaten up by higher pay and costs, reported The Times (Business, p35).

Public sector earnings growth leapt to an annual rate of 6.1% in the year to 31 August, up from the 5.3% year-on-year increase in July to the fastest rate of wage growth since late 1992. The headline rate of averag earnings growth in the public sector, based on three-monthly figures, also jumped, rising to 5.6% from 5.1%.

More detailed figures in the official data showed that before seasonal adjustment the rate of increases was even faster, at an annual 7% in the year to 31 August.

The rapid rate of wage growth in the public sector contrasted sharply with more muted increases in the rest of the economy. Headline earnings growth in the private sector is running at only 2.9% and at 3% in private sector services.

PURPOSE-BUILT HOMES FOR NEIGHBOURS FROM HELL

The first unit in England to house 'neighbours from hell' is to be built in Manchester, reported The Daily Telegraph (p16).

Five problem families will be moved into maisonettes in Miles Platting next year. Experts will be available to give counselling.

COVENTRY COUNCILLORS URGED TO THINK SKY BLUE

The power of football to sway political loyalties will be put to the test today when Coventry city councillors vote on whether to approve a £110m stadium development, reported The Guardian (p5).

Approval of the project - which would include the largest casino in Britain, exhibition halls and a fitness complex - requires the support of minority parties, including the three-strong Socialist group led by the former MP Dave Nellist. Planned for the site of a former gasworks, the Coventry Arena would have 32,000 seats and be a landmark for those entering the city from the M6.

Coventry City football club, known as the Sky Blues, has been at its Highfield Road ground for more than a century. The first division club, whose president is the Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson, has gradually reduced its debts to £26m, and believes the new site will boost attendances and its finances.

It has urged fans to lobby local politicians before tonight's vote. Its website calls on 'all supporters to make their voice heard by contacting their local councillor ahead of the meeting'. It has also listed councillors' home addresses.

There are 24 Labour councillors, but one has had to exclude herself because of her relationship with the club. Conservative group leader Ken Taylor has said he and his 22 fellow councillors will be opposed because they object to £105m of publi c money ghoing into a 'risky' venture.

The vote - technically to approve a £21m loan to complete the deal - will therefore dependend on the minority parties. There are two independents, two Liberal Democrats and three Socialists. None of them have yet indicated how they will vote.

SCHOOLS IGNORE ADMISSIONS CODE

There has been a trebling in formal complaints on school admissions referred to the government's chief adjudicator this year as many schools ignore a national code in order to select their pupils from better social backgrounds, reported The Guardian (p13).

Children in care should get priority, yet schools instinctively opt for 'the possh' for their intake, it was said yesterday. Giving evidence to the commons education select committee's inquiry into admissions, the chief schools adjudicator that referrals - a last resort after appeals - had 'shot up' from 78 in the year 2001-02 to 233 in 2002-03. This was because of a new code of conduct in january, specifying that children in care were among those to be given preference.

BUDGET CUTS COULD REDUCE SCHOOL DAY

Schools in England's largest education authority are warning they will have to reduce their teaching hours if planned cuts to next year's budget go ahead, reported The Independent (p4).

Headteachers in Kent are being urged to protest to school standards minister over a planned £33m reduction in the country's share of the national education budget.

Members of Kent's schools liaison forum, made up of headteachers and school governors, said the cuts will mean that some schools have to close for part of the week to make the necessary savings. It also warned more teachers would lose their jobs, class sizes will rise and pupils' education will suffer.

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