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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS

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LIVINGSTONE UNVEILS VISION OF LONDON ...
LIVINGSTONE UNVEILS VISION OF LONDON

Ken Livingstone will today set out plans for the most far-reaching development of London since the city was rebuilt after the Great Fire in 1666, reported the Financial Times (p1/p3).

The mayor's proposals include creating office space for 600,000 extra workers and building 130 new schools. Drawing up and implementing the plan - involving an estimated£100bn of investment - are the mayor's most important powers. Aides say it is meant to trigger an office building boom equal ivalent to 74 Canary Wharf towers.

Turning the plans into reality will be heavily dependent on private sector funding. Billions of pounds of public funds will also be needed, mainly for transport links. The 400-page plan includes three new cross-London main line railways, 460,new houses and three new river crossings in east London.

However, officials say talks with ministers on the use of taxpayers' money are going well because of government concern about an infrastructure crisis in London. With the capital's population forecast to increase by 700,000 to 8.1 million over 15 years, the London Plan is the first attempt to impose a strategic development framework on the city for more than a quarter of a century.

The planning powers will become binding on London's 33 boroughs next year after public consultation. Deputy prime minister can seek changes only if the plan conflicts with national policy.

The proposals contain few costings, apart from a call for an extra£150m from the government to increase affordable housing, which will have to account for half of all homes built. John Ross, the mayor's senior economic adviser, said detailed talks with ministers suggested there was little disagreement about funding because of London's importance to the national economy.

The plan's launch is important for Mr Livingstone, who has come under fire for failing to deliver since his election in 2000. His image as a strong leader likely to win the 2004 mayoral election is crucial if he is to persuade Labour to let him rejoin the party before the election. See LGCnetfor details of the plan once it is launched.

FOOT-AND-MOUTH COST£8BN, SAYS AUDIT OFFICE

The foot-and-mouth crisis cost Britain about£8bn, some of which could have been avoided if the government had been better prepared and heeded warnings on how the disease could spread, according to the National Audit Office, reported the Financial Times (p5).

In particular, an inquiry by the independent public spending watchdog found that ministers and officials had failed to consider the likely impact on the tourist industry.

The NAO has made the first firm estimates of the cost of the crisis:£3bn to the taxpayer and£5bn to the private sector, including the tourist industry. It also concluded that the government failed to control public spending in defeating the epidemic and was overcharged by private sector operators.

The NAO said it was 'unrealistic' to expect any contingency plan to have coped with what turned out to be the world's worst outbreak of the disease. However, it criticised the former Maff for being badly prepared. Its plan, based on minimum standards demanded by the European Union, provided for an outbreak confined to a maximum of 10 premises. Yet last year, 57 premises were infected before the disease was even detected. Maff also failed to act on a 1999 internal report warning that it would be overwhelmed if there were outbreaks at several locations.

The government also gave little advance consideration to its impact on non-farming businesses, and failed to consult farmers and local authorities. See LGCnetfor full details of the NAO report.

ELDERLY ASKED TO REPORT CARE ABUSE

Abuse and bullying allegations made by people living in nursing and residential homes are to be published in annual welfare reports, reported The Times (p6).

Residents of the 30,000 care homes in England are being invited to complete a confidential 'comment card', asking whether they feel happy, safe and well-cared for and inquiring if they know where to go for help if not. Those with dementia or communications difficulties will be able to indicate their views to inspectors by pointing at pictures or diagrams, such as 'smiley' or 'frowny' faces.

Heather Wing, director of adult services at the National Care Standards Commission, said the measures were designed to stamp out abuse in nursing homes. The move will be regulated by the commission, a powerful body set up to regulate and inspect care services throughout England. It began work in April and is due to publish its first reportswithin the next two months.

Comment cards will be handed out to about 10% of reseidents, selected randomly. They will be able to return them by prepaid post. They may choose whether to put their names on the cards. Allegations of abuse will be investigated. They will be noted in inspection reports without identifying residents. Accused staff will be named in the publicly-available reports only if convicted in court.

LIVINGSTONE AWAITS TUBE HEARING

Ken Livingstone will hear today if he can proceed with a second judicial review of London Underground's decision to go ahead with the part-privatisation of the Tube, reported The Times (Business, p1).

The mayor of London and Bob Kiley, his transport commissioner, are claiming that ministers have exposed Londoners to an unfunded bill of up to£5.5bn after the government refused to guarantee funds to pay for it.

The high court hearing comes as Mr Kiley's team at Transport for London revealed that the private sector companies involved in the London Underground public private partnership stand to gain hundreds of millions of pounds from the deal. Up to£300m in success fees and recovered costs - dubbed a 'golden hello' by Mr Kiley - stands to be paid out when the PPP contracts to refurbish the Underground are signed.

LIVINGSTONE FACES NEW LYING INVESTIGATIONS

Ken Livingstone is to be called before an emergency meeting of the London assembly over new allegations that he was involved in a drunken brawl which ended with a man being taken unconscious to hospital, reported The Guardian (p1/p3).

The London mayor will be questioned over accusations that he lied to the assembly on Wednesday when he gave his version of what happened in the early morning fracas after a 40th birthday party.

The controversy threatens to undermine Mr Livingstone's mayorality and is thought to have virtually closed the door on his prospects of returning to the Labour Party before the mayoral elections in 2004.

The assembly has the power to censure, though not unseat, the mayor should it decide he lied and could refer the issue to the new Standards Board for England, created to conduct in local government with the power to investigate any evidence that an official has brought an authority into disrepute.

COUNCIL LEADER CALLS FOR CRACKDOWN ON 'ANARCHY' IN LONDON'S WEST END

Westminster City Council leader Simon Milton compares the west end today to Times Square in New York 10 years ago, a magnet for drug-users and dealers, criminals and vagrants, reported The Independent (p3).

The astonishing thing about Mr Milton's claim, says the newspaper, is that although his council licensed the pubs, clubs and bars responsible for the entertainment saturation suffocating the area, he is shouting aloud about it.

'We are struggling to put our best foot forward and I realise that this is shooting ourselves in that foot', he said. 'But we can't brush the problem under the carpet. We have aggressive drug dealers on the streets, vagrants and beggars. There have been shootings in clubs, outside the Hanover Grand and on Golden Square . We can't ignore this. We have to adopt a policy of zero tolerance'.

Every night, tens of thousands of people flock to a relatively small area - up to 100,000 a night at weekend - and they can drink in many bars until 3am. But the Underground closes at 12.30 am, night buses are regarded as dangerous and unpopular and many licensed taxi drivers avoid the area, leaving it for 5,000 unlicensed cab drivers to pick people off the street illegally. Many of these drivers, when caught, are found to be carrying hard drugs and/or to have criminal records for violence.

At a meeting of the Greater London Authority this week at which plans to relax licensing law were being dicussed, Mr Milton pulled no punches.

The police deny the west end is getting worse, rejecting Mr Milton's claim there were only 15 officers on the streets on Friday and Saturday nights and point to the 14,000 arrests they have made this year compared with about 11,000 last year. A spokeswoman said Charing Cross and West End Central police stations had introduced new night shifts which produce about 25 officers on patrol from each station.

However, Simon Milton point out there are 42,000 police in New York city, compared with just 28,000 in London, a metropolis of about the same size. The west end, he says , is full. It needs better policing, more transport and fewer people. There should be an overspill into other parts of London.

BRADFORD OFFICIALS DISCUSS RACE PLAN

The only member of Asian origin on Bradford's policy-making education committee warned yesterday that the city expected 'radical solutions' to ethnic segregation, reported The Independent (p4).

Hamayan Arshad was speaking during a discussion on a draft strategy for improved post-16 education that highlighted the poor perfomance of those of Pakistani origin. The document recommended the introduction of the first ethnic ratios in British classrooms by ensuring that 'no school has a pupil population from one culture making up more than 75%'.

The city's Education and Performance Partnership said yeterday that the inflammatory word 'quota' - used in a draft of the strategy reported yesterday - would not form part of the final document, although it was unclear whether the ratios would stay. Mr Arshad, a school governor, said:'Quota is an emotive word but there is an expectation that there is going to be some very radical policy. Making the statement that we oppose [the word quota] does not satisfy that demand'.

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