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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS

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GLASGOW URGES OTHER COUNCILS TO TAKE REFUGEES ...
GLASGOW URGES OTHER COUNCILS TO TAKE REFUGEES

Charities and refugee support groups yesterday said the Scottish executive should do more to ease tensions between asylum-seekers and local residents in Glasgow after the killing of a Kurdish refugee, reported the Financial Times (p3).

Their call came as Glasgow appealed for more help from other Scottish councils in accepting asylum-seekers 'dispersed' across the UK. Glasgow is the only council in Scotland to accept asylum-seekers in any numbers. In the past year the city has taken 5,000, with the Sighthill estate alone having absorbed 1,700 refugees.

City council leader Charles Gordon said 'dispersal' in the UK had not meant dispersal in Scotland. The council said it may now seek ways of spreading future arrivals more widely across the city. However, Mr Gordon appealed for other councils to 'lend a hand'.

'We know we've had a number of racist incidents, and we know what that says about Glasgow society', he said. 'But the fact that 31 other councils in Scotland have chosen to do nothing to assist asylum-seekers says something about wider Scottish society'. (see LGCnetfor today's Cosla statement).

The large influx to Glasgow follows the city's offer last year to the home office to make available about 2,500 council flats and houses for asylum-seekers under the dispersal programme. Most of the accomodation was in rundown estates. The sudden arrival of thousands of asylum-seekers in Sighthill, in particular, prompted resentment from locals in one of Glasgow's most deprived communities.

Many charities said the resulting tensions were an inevitable result of the home office's dispersal programme being inadequately backed by adequate preparation within the local communities.

'STOP REFUGEE DISPERSAL' PLEA

Ministers refused demands from refugee groups yesterday to halt their forced dispersal of asylum-seekers after the murder of a 22-year-old Kurdish refugee in Glasgow, reported The Times (p1).

Voluntary groups gave warning of more violence unless the government ended its 'disastrous' scheme that had seen nearly 30,000 asylum-seekers moved north in the past 18 months.

Home office minister Lord Rooker said the policy had been 'by and large very successful' and must continue. His officials say another 25,000 will be moved.

'There are some 700,000 empty homes in this country', Lord Rooker said. 'The vast majority of them, unfortunately, tend to be in the midlands or the north. There's not too many in the sunny commuter belt otherwise we would be dispersing there'.

The government would avoid some areas only on police advice. 'We will not pull out of areas simply because people say it's an area where there could be racists', he added. But the Scottish Office said that no more would be sent to Glasgow's Sighthill estate.

Refugee agencies complained that too many asylum-seekers were being forced to live in inner city slums. Alisdair Mackenzie, co-ordinator of Asylum Aid, said: 'The home office was told from the start this was badly thought out. Asylum-seekers are just being dumped where there are empty houses that no one else wants to live in'.

Community leaders and police in Hull meanwhile appealed for calm after another 22-year-old Kurdish refugee had his throat slashed.

KENT PROTESTS TO BLUNKETT ON CHILD ASYLUM-SEEKERS

The huge numbers of foreign children who are transported to Kent to claim asylum will rapidly grow to unmanageable numbers county council leaders warned last night, reported The Independent (p5).

More than 1,200 unaccompanied minors have had to be taken into care by the county in the past two years and at least 100 new child asylum-seekers are arriving every month. Kent has protested to the home office about delays in the system which mean many children are left in care for several years before their cases are heard.

The cost -£15m a year - is paid by the treasury. But Kent CC director of social services Peter Gilroy warned that his department, as well as education and health services in the county, would not be able to cope with the influx of estranged children indefinitely. The county wants to team up with five or six other local authorities which are able to take responsibility for a handful of youngsters each month. This would avoid the controversial dispersal policies that have been deployed for adult asylum-seekers.

While the treasury meets the cost of caring for the youngsters, Kent has had to employ extra social workers, support staff and translators to cope with them. By contrast, council leaders say that countries such as France or Italy regularly ship child asylum-seekers back to their home countries..

Department of health figures show that Kent has four times as many children claiming asylum in its care as any other English council. London boroughs such as Haringey, Hillingdon and Islington have 350 or more unaccompanied child asylum-seekers.

£100,000 FOR BOY INJURED IN SCHOOL RUGBY GAME

A pupil injured in a rugby match has won£100,000 compensation for the effect on his A-level grades, fuelling fears among teachers of a 'blame culture' in schools, reported The Times (p3).

Ramsey Elshafey, a former pupil at Newcastle-under-Lyme School, suffered neck and ligament damage after being lifted in the air and dropped on his head during a match against King's School, Macclesfield, in 1997. Mr Elshafey, who was 17 at the time, was awarded the money after claiming that the time spent recovering affected his grades and prevented him from following his preferred career in dentistry. He also said the accident left him unable to fulfil his promise to play semi-professional rugby.

Mr Elshafey, from Crewe, reached the settlement with King's School after the high court in Manchester found it liable for the 'negligent tackle'. In October he enters the final year of a business studies degree course at Durham University.

His solicitor Rob Elvin said the payment was compensation for a lost career. Mr Elvin said claims arising from accidents on school sports fields had increased sharply during the past 10 years, partly fanned by the growing number of schools covered by insurance. If King's School had not been covered, Mr Elshafey would have pursued a case against the player who tackled him, and he may not have had the resources to fund a claim.

Jerry Bartlett, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, said: 'This is an example of the vulnerability of schools to litigation and will contribute to the reluctance of teachers to engage in extra curricular activities. This will lead to a situation in which formerly enthusiastic teachers will become reluctant to involve pupils in outdoor activities'.

Last month the NAS/UWT advised members not to organise school trips after a high court ruling which held Woodbridge School, Suffolk, 50% responsible for an accident on a ski trip that left a pupil paralysed.

PROTEST AS CITY COUNCIL IS 'LET OFF' OVER WASTE POLLUTION

A local authority yesterday admitted illegally spreading toxic incinerator ash on footpaths and allotments in the first prosecution brought by the government's Environment Agency, reported The Guardian (p9).

Newcastle upon Tyne City Council admitted at Gosforth magistrates' court that it disposed of ash on allotments without a waste management licence from its incinerator in Byker. It admitted breaching two sections of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 relating to the depositing and transfer of the ash. The court was told that a further 11 of an initial 15 charges it faced would be taken into consideration.

Two other charges relating to the disposal of waste in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm to human health were withdrawn by the agency, to the fury of local protesters.

Val Barton, of the Campaign Against Incineration of Refuse, said: 'We feel as though everybody has been let off and it is diabolical. There are small children playing in the allotments and people looking after there gardens who are at high risk of contamination. This has all been thrown out of the window and I find that disgraceful.

'The Environment Agency has not looked into the human side of this case; it is as guilty as the rest of them. There are people at high risk of contamination and the agency has allowed this to carry on for six years...[it] did not look at babies or children under 10 years or even pregnant women'.

Contract Heat and Power Ltd, of Cambridge, which ran the incinerator, also faces charges.

The hearing was adjourned until 17 September when magistrates will decide whether to transfer the case to Newcatle crown court for sentence.

TEACHER SHORTAGE SPIRALS TO 4,600

Thousands of teaching posts remain unfilled less than a month before the start of the new school year, a survey by The Independent (p1 and p4) has found.

The study of all 168 local education authorities in England and Wales shows that - despite ministerial assurances - there are still 4,600 vacancies in state schools. The findings cast serious doubt over the prediction last week by school standards minister Stephen Timms that all schools would have the teachers they need by the start of September.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, warned that head teachers would find it impossible to find sufficient supply staff to fill all the vacancies. He said it had been the worst year on record for trying to fill empty posts.

Mr Timms admitted yesterday that schools 'will have problems in recruiting the teachers they need'. He said: 'We have never denied that vacancies have risen. Given the extra investment now in the system, it's natural that schools expand the number of posts on offer'.

He added that it was still 'a very busy time for teacher recruitment', with schools continuing to fill vacancies for the new term.

Many of the worst affected councils are in the home counties. Surrey, which has already warned that some schools may have to introduce part-time education, had the highest vacancy rate, with 330 posts unfilled. But the survey shows that high vacancy rates have spread to all parts of the country, with authorities as far apart as Plymouth and Sunderland still having large numbers of posts to fill.

Norfolk CC also challenged Mr Timms' assertation that - based on LEA returns to the government - no schools had given an indication they would be introducing part-time schooling or a four-day week. Oriel School in Great Yarmouth has already told parents of the 600 pupils that all but those studying for GCSEs will have to work one day a week at home if six teaching vacancies remain unfilled.

The Independent's research does, however, hold some comfort for the government, revealing that inner city areas - particularly in London - have made great strides in filling vacancies. In Southwark, a trawl abroad for overseas teachers which has taken in Russia, Bulgaria and the Caribbean, as well as the long-established recruitment visits to Australia, has cut the number of vacancies to below 30.

Hertfordshire, which had 261 vacancies at the latest count, has set up a video conferencing link with Australia so that head teachers can interview overseas applicants on screen. Hampshire, which sent letters to parents asking if they wanted to become teachers to reduce vacancies, said it had received about 200 responses - cutting its vacancy figure to 56.

Mr Timms said there were now 12,000 more treachers employed in schools than in 1998 as a result of extra government funding for education.

£5M EFFORT TO KEEP RIOT TOWNS YOUTH OUT OF TROUBLE

The government is to spend£5m on encouraging youths in 'riot-torn areas' to take up sailing, mountain biking and other activities in order to keep them off the streets during the rest of the summer, reported The Independent (p7).

The plan has been drawn up by ministers after Britain's worst summer of race rioting in two decades and comes as home secretary David Blunkett today makes his first vist to affected areas. The money has been allocated by a cross-departmental ministerial working party as part of an effort to prevent further rioting this summer and in future. Funds are being provided to projects in towns and cities hit by riots, including Oldham, Burnley, Stoke and Bradford as well as other deprived areas at risk of outbreaks of public disorder.

The home office said the schemes were designed to prevent youngsters idling on street corners in the long summer evenings and to instil in them a sense of pride in their community. The home office, the department for culture, media and sport, and the department for transport, local government and the regions have provided funds for the 117 community projects being given extra money this summer.

Also see LGCnet.

BLUNKETT TO SHAKE UP POLICE CONDITIONS

Home secretary David Blunkett is to risk a row with police officers by scrapping their rota system, according to The Mirror (p2).

He wants to sweep away outdated rules which, he says, make police forces less efficient. Out will go the practice of shifts agreed a year in advance. At present, if leave is cancelled at short notice police officers can claim back the time they have lost, plus extra time off or overtime payments.

Chief constables in the 43 forces in England and Wales claim the regulations are inflexible, expensive and out-of-date.

A home office source said: 'At the moment, the presumption is an officer doesn't just get the time off that they have had to work, but additional days as well. It denies police chiefs the flexibility they need to deal with unforeseen circumstances, such as major investigations which require large numbers of officers.

'This has got to change. No other part of the public service works in this way. We are looking for sensible reforms which will make the police service fit for the 21st century'.

HOME OFFICE WANTS OLDER POLICE OFFICERS TO STAY ON

Police officers approaching retirement are to be offered more money to stay on for a further five years under new home office plans to retain experienced staff, reported The Independent (p4).

It is hoped that long-serving constables and sergeants in their 50s will be encouraged to stay on. At present, police in the lower ranks must retire at 55, and many choose to take their pension after 30 years' service. As a result, forces across the country are facing a retirement 'timebomb', with many officers due to leave this decade.

Home office minister Lord Rooker said the government was looking at plans to encourage officers delay retirement. Constables and sergeants would be allowed to take the lump sum normally given on retirement and would also receive a salary greater than their pension to stay on.

The home office has been impressed by a pilot scheme run by West Midlands Police that is offering officers an extra£9,000 a year to stay. The scheme would pay for itseld by reducing the amount spent on recruiting and training new personnel, government sources said.

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