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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE NATIONAL PRESS

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COUNCIL LEADERS FIRE WARNING ABOUT POLICE MERGERS...
COUNCIL LEADERS FIRE WARNING ABOUT POLICE MERGERS

Plans to merge constabularies into super-forces will increase local communities' sense of alienation from the police, council leaders warn in a letter published in The Times (p18).

Their concerns come as home secretary Charles Clarke yesterday launched a four-month consultation on his plans to cut the number of forces in England and Wales from 43 to 24 (details here).

In the letter, the leaders of Essex CC, Cheshire CC, Cyngor Gwynedd Council, Hull City Council, and Newcastle City Council; and the mayor of Hartlepool, also warn that the cost of Mr Clarke's plans will result in 'a sharp rise in council tax'.

The letter is available here

COURT BACKS COUNCIL'S RESISTANCE TO LATE NIGHT DRINKING

Councillors and legal experts say a High Court ruling yesterday will help communities worried about crime and disorder to resist longer licensing hours, reports The Times (p15).

J D Wetherspoon lost an appeal against Guildford BC's decision to reject a three-hour licence extension every night in an 850-capacity pub. Wetherspoon argued the council's decision undermined new licensing rules but the judge ruled it was not unreasonable for the council to take account that the extension would disrupt the present staggered closing times in the busy area. Further Wetherspoon reaction here.

GREENS SET OUT AMBITIOUS LOCAL ELECTION PLANS

The Green Party hopes to increase its number of councillors to more than 100, reports The Independent (p7).

Unveiling its local election campaign yesterday, the party said it would field a record 1,294 candidates. It hopes to use David Cameron's emphasis on the environment to win seats. Currently the Greens have 70 councillors.

STAMPING OUT BAD BEHAVIOUR IN RESIDENTS `SHOULD TAKE PRIORITY'

Councils should take a leaf out of the book of the `Mum's Army' who are attempting to win 54 local election seats by campaigning against antisocial behaviour, according to a columnist in SocietyGuardian (p10).

Paul Wheeler, director of the Political Skills Forum, writes about the growing anti-yob movement and calls for a switch of focus from improving council performance to improving residents' behaviour.

'It's easy to see how councillors becoming 'moral guardians' could lead to unwelcome intolerance. But many local people do want the right to set standards of behaviour on their streets,' he writes.

UNION HITS BACK AT PUBLIC SECTOR `FAT CAT' JIBE

In a letter to The Guardian (p35), Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber has responded strongly to a comment piece written about public sector pensions by Max Hastings in the newspaper the day before.

Mr Barber writes that Mr Hastings' claims that all public servants are well-paid, with generous pensions that will kick in at 60 in perpetuity, will produce 'hollow laughter' in public sector workplaces.

'The fat cat jibe is even more misplaced when it comes to local government,' Mr Barber adds, pointing out that the standard local government retirement age is already 65 and the average local government pension paid to women pensioners is£31 per week.

COMMUNITIES COULD SELECT TORY HOPEFULS

Non-Conservative voting members of the public or community leaders could be drafted in to help select the party's parliamentary candidates under plans published yesterday, reports The Daily Telegraph (p12).

Party chairman Francis Maude said the changes would allow the whole community that a candidate seeks to represent, to have a say. Further details here.

Meanwhile the Conservatives' move to sign up to Labour's goal of eradicating child poverty has been praised in an editorial in The Guardian (p34), entitled `What would Margaret Thatcher think?'

CYCLE PATH SIGNS PROVOKE RESIDENT BACKLASH

Residents in Bingham, Nottinghamshire, have complained about 100 warning signs erected by their council on a cycle path less than a mile long, according to the Daily Express (p32).

About 40 of the signs are new, and cost£9,000 to put up, despite protests that the path was already a 'forest of poles'. 'Is it any wonder most people regard local government as an expensive joke?' said resident Stephen Hunt.

A councillor responded that the safety sign scheme followed national guidelines but promised it would be reviewed.

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