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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS

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BRITAIN ACCUSED OF 'LOOTING' TEACHERS ...
BRITAIN ACCUSED OF 'LOOTING' TEACHERS

Britain was yesterday accused by an international development charity of 'looting' teachers from poor countries such as India to fill gaps in schools, reported the Financial Times (p3).

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Voluntary Service Overseas, called for a code of practice for schools and supply agencies along the lines of the one developed by the department of health.

'The morality of looting teachers from developing countries is being lost in the fervour to fill our own classrooms', said Mr Goldring.

'Try telling one of the 40 million Indian children who have no access to education that British children are more deserving of an Indian teacher's skills'.

The government said the exchanges were beneficial and teachers often returned to their home countries with new skills. The practice was long-established.

MORE QUIT LONDON FOR PROVINCIAL LIFE

Record numbers of pople have migrated from London to other parts of the UK, giving a 'thumbs down' to city living and, in many cases, cashing in on high property prices, reported the Financial Times (p3).

The capital recorded a net loss of nearly 70,000 to other parts of the UK in the year to June 2000, well above the 35,000 to 55,000 typically seen each year in the 1990s. The 163,000 people who moved into London were outnumbered by the 233,000 leavers, according to figures covering England and Wales released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics.

The city has benefited from increasing international inflows in recent years, and has natural growth of about 40,000 a year as births outnumber deaths. London's population has increased for two decades and has a strong life-cycle element as younger people come to work and study while families and the elderly leave, often to commute or retire.

But one demographer said the trend could be about to change if the flows to other parts of the UK continued to rise - mainly due to concerns about public services coupled with high house prices. The peak in flows from overseas is thought to be past and has the potential to fall sharply due to economic slowdown and a tailing-off in asylum-seekers.

Wales and the east midlands recorded their highest inflows for some years, proving to be the regions of most increased popularity.

As in recent years, the largest net gainer from internal migration was the south west, followed by the south east, east midlands and the eastern region. All other English regions have been net losers.

A common theme across most regions was the move from urban areas to rural or suburban surroundings. England's eight largest cities all recorded net losses due to migration.

BATTLE BEGINS OVER MAYORAL ELECTIONS

A consultative ballot begins in Birmingham today that could pave the way for a mayoral election next May, reported the Financial Times (p4).

The winner would be powerful. He or she would control Birmingham City Council, the biggest local authority in the UK after Ken Livingstone's Greater London Authority.

But the mayoral issue is already mired in controversy, and 87 of Birmingham's 117 councillors are fighting to prevent a directly-elected mayoral election. That does not worry council leader Albert Bore, a strong proponent of the elections. He commands the majority Labour group by a slender margin. If he runs, as expected, and wins, he would have a mandate for a reforming agenda opposed by many fellow Labour councillors.

These colleagues might block Mr Bore's selection as the party's candidate despite strong support for him from Westminster - particularly since Lord Rooker, former MP for Perry Barr, appears unlikely to run.

MINISTERS REFUSE VALUE-FOR-MONEY TEST BEFORE TUBE CHANGES

Ministers have rejected demands for an independent test of the value-for-money of the Tube's part-privatisation before the contracts worth£13bn are signed, reported The Times (p2).

The deals with the three private-sector consortiums will be fully scrutinised only after they become legally binding, a DTLR spokesman said. By then, the costs of altering or cancelling the contracts could be prohibitively expensive, he admitted.

The decision appears to contradict a pledge given by transport secretary Stephen Byers that the public private partnership would go ahead only if it proved to be cheaper than keeping the system in the public sector.

The National Audit office, which stated last November that the case for PPP was not proven, said yesterday that it would review the value for money offered by the contracts a few months after they had been signed.

LESBIAN TEACHER'S CLAIM DISMISSED

The court of appeal highlighted the lack of protection given to gay employees against discrimination when it dismissed a claim by a lesbian teacher who was forced to retire because of sexual harassment by pupils, reported the Financial Times (p2).

Shirley Pearce, who taught science at Mayfield School in Portsmouth for 20 years, took early retirement in 1996 after repeated verbal and other abuse from pupils. When she complained to the headmaster she was told to 'grit her teeth' and get on with her job.

Lady Justice Hale, one of three court of appeal judges who delivered a unanimous verdict against Ms Pearce yesterday, said there was 'no doubt' she had suffered discrimination. 'The pupils singled her out for particularly unpleasant abuse because she was a lesbian'.

But Lady Hale added there was no legislation expressly prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Since there was no evidence a male homosexual would have been treated any better than Ms Pearce, her claim under the Sex Discrimination Act was not valid.

Cases brought after the Human Rights Act came into effect in October 2000 could establish the right to such protection. Lady Hale said that the treatment of Ms Pearce had contravened her human rights, but the Act was not retrospective.

COUPLE USE FIRST GAY PARTNERS REGISTER

A retired actor and a male nurse will be the first homosexual couple in Britain to have their partnership registered in a civil ceremony, reported The Times (p3).

Ian Burford, a former member of the English Shakespeare Company, and Alex Cannell, a retired nursing manager, will sign the London Partnership Register at the headquarters of the Greater London Authority on Wednesday. The two, who are in their sixties and from south London, will pay£85 for a short ceremony and a certificate.

The register was created by London mayor Ken Livingstone, at a cost to council taxpayers of£100,000. Although it does not confer legal rights, the GLA is hoping that the register will be recognised by public bodies and could be used in disputes of wills, property and succession rights. A similar partnership scheme in Paris has attracted more than 10,000 gay couples.

ELECTION ADS TO HALT VOTER APATHY

Party political broadcasts could be scrapped in favour of American-style 30-second advertisements to try to reverse growing voter apathy, the Electoral Commission said yesterday, according to The Daily Telegraph (p1).

Allowing parties to show short, snappy adverts could improve turnout, said the commission. But politicians from all parties said it could lead to a dumbing down of debate and an increase in negative, attack advertising.

The proposal to abolish longer political broadcasts is one of a number being studied by the commission's party political broadcasting review, due to be completed early next year.

PROSTITUTE ZONE TO BE SCRAPPED

A 'tolerance zone' for street prostitutes in Edinburgh is to be scrapped at the end of November after objections from people living nearby, reported The Daily Telegraph (p6).

Prostitutes were moved to Salamander Street, Leith, a mixed residential and industrial area, earlier this month after their former haunt, close to fashionable restaurants and bars, was deemed to have moved up market.

The initiative was modelled on schemes in Holland. The area was chosen because there were no residential properties on the street. However, people living nearby objected to the move in a series of demonstrations.

Lothian and Borders Police are hoping to find an alternative zone within Leith, the dockland area of the city, but the failure of the scheme could threaten the future of the policy and result in police once again arresting women who solicit on the streets.

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