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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS

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BRADFORD CONSIDERS RACE QUOTAS FOR SCHOOLS ...
BRADFORD CONSIDERS RACE QUOTAS FOR SCHOOLS

Bradford, the city hit by the worst of last summer's race riots, is to consider introducing the first ethnic minority quotas in British schools to try to heal the rifts caused by classroom segregation, reported The Independent (p1).

Proposals from education authorities in the city would mean that no single ethnic group would be allowed to take more than 75% of places in any of the 26 state school sixth forms and three sixth form colleges. If the plan is adopted, all-white, middle class schools in Bradford and surrounding towns would have to allocate a quarter of sixth form places to ethnic minority places. The same would apply to schools where the overwhelming majority of students are Asian.

It would be a controversial solution to what most accept is a desperate problem: only six of the city's schools have achieved an ethnic mix of 75:25 or better in the year since the riots. But although this minimum ratio was a key recommendation of the Cantle report into the disturbances in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley, it took many by surprise when it resurfaced in documents to members of the policy-forming education policy partnership ahead of a meeting later today.

'We will review catchment area boundaries with a view to ensuring greater interaction between different ethnic groups of young people', states the proposal, part of a strategy for post-16 education by the Learning and Skills Council - the government body that funds further education - and Bradford city council's education directorate.

After criticism from teachers and politicians yesterday, the council appeared to step back from its plan stressing that the proposals were only a 'working draft'. The council would not reveal details of any amendments.

Ted Cantle, author of the report on the riots and former chief executive of Nottingham City Council, urged Bradford council not to be 'intimidated' by desegregation. 'There'snothing magical about establishing this mix. It's only in the last 10 years that schools have become intensively monocultural. This is doing nothing more than restoring the balance', he commented yesterday.

TUBE CONTRACT PAYMENTS MAY TOP£300M

Two private sector consortia negotiating deals to refurbish the London Underground stand to gain hundreds of millions of pounds in success fees and recovered costs when they sign the contracts, reported the Financial Times (p1).

Tube Lines, which is in the final stages of negotiating one of three infrastructure contracts with LU, is seeking£109m shortly after signing, and£60m. Metronet is understood to be seeking a similar payment for two contracts.

The size of the payment is likely to embarrass the government, which says the consortia will profit from the proposed public private partnership only if they deliver a better service. Shadow transport secretary Theresa May said the 'extraordinary' payments were 'yet another incredible development in an altogether strange bidding process'.

The payments were condemned as 'inexcusable' by Bob Kiley, head of Transport for London, which will take responsibility for the Underground once the contracts are signed. The PPP will give the consortia 30-year infrastructure leases, with trains run by LU, supervised by TfL.

London mayor Ken Livingstone is seeking a judicial review of the PPP. The European Commission is also investigating whether it breaks procurement rules.

BUSINESS BACKS CONGESTION CHARGES

Seven out of 10 business people would support more road or congestion tolls if accompanied by road building, according to a survey by the Institute of Directors, and reported by the Financial Times (p2).

The report is the latest backing for wider road-pricing, following support from the IoD leadership, the RAC Foundation, the Freight Transport Association, the government's Commission for Integrated Transport and others.

Eight out of 10 said the government's decision to put Railtrack into administration would damage private investment, and three-quarters wanted more runway capacity in south east England.

WHITEHALL ATTACKED FOR FRIDGE MOUNTAIN BLUNDERS

A 'deeply disturbing...debacle' of Whitehall and ministerial incompetence resulted in£40m being wasted by the botched implementation of EU rules for disposing of old fridges, a commons inquiry concluded yesterday.

The Labour-dominated environment select committee dismissed as 'ill-judged' attempts by the government to blame the European Commission for the fridge mountains created by the EU banning old fridges from being exported or sent to landfill. Environment minister Michael Meacher was wrong to tell the commons in January this year that the government had been 'badly let down' by the commission, the committee said. 'In the light of the clear evidence we have received, that phrase was ill-judged'.

The 'overwhelming responsibility for mishandling the implementation' - where a lack of adequate recycling and incineration facilities led to mountains of discarded fridges - lay with the government, said the committee. Officials first failed to understand the implications of the draft European legislation, 'ignored or reacted very slowly to a host of warnings' about the implications, and failed to have any contigency plans to cope with potential problems. The 'ignorance and uncertainty' of the department for the environment, food and rural affairs did not prevent ministers from agreeing to the measure'.

The committee said: 'We find it deeply disturbing that the government signed up to the measure whilst still suffering from 'knowledge gaps' about its full impact'.

The report paints a picture of ministers kept in the dark by bumbling officials, while business vainly tried to gain access to them. White goods retailer Dixons complained to the committee it 'repeatedly dealt with officials who seemed not to take our concerns seriously'.

The government is urged by the MPs as 'a matter of urgency' to look again at the plethora of other European laws on waste disposal in the pipeline. See LGCnetfor 'FRIDGE MOUNTAIN: ENVIRONMENT MINISTER BLAMES EUROPE'

BROWN TO FUND SOCIAL HOUSING BOOM

Gordon Brown is preparing to herald the biggest publicly funded house-building programme for a generation amid growing evidence that a shortage of cheap homes is pricing key workers out of the property market, reported The Times (p13).

The chancellor's comprehensive spending review next month is expected to authorise increasing the budget for social housing by hundreds of millions of pounds. Ministers are also considering a series of planning changes and incentives to increase the number of affordable homes built by the private sector in areas such as London and the south east.

Last year just 162,000 new homes were built, fewer than at any time since the second world war, fuelling a property boom in which house prices could rise by as much as 20% this year. Just 21,000 new council or housing association homes were completed last year and the social housing stock continues to shrink as tenants exercise their right to buy. A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said that Britain faced a shortage of a million homes by 2020, while figures this week showed that a record 81,000 families were living in bed and breakfast accomodation.

Ministers fear the government's public service reforms could be knocked off course because teachers, police and nurses cannot afford to live in areas of high property prices.

Housing minister Lord Rooker is expected to announce shortly a new cross-government body to overcome the obstacles in the way of new housing developments. This would force regional development agencies and the Highways Agency to work in tandem with his department and local authorities on planning issues.

London mayor Ken Livingstone will publish his housing plan tomorrow. It will include a demand that 35% to 50% of all new developments should be 'affordable housing'. He also wants almost all new building to be on derelict brownfield land.

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