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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE REGIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 15:15HRS

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VOTERS CHOOSE COUNCILLORS OVER MEMBERS OF THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT IN POPULARITY CONTEST ...
VOTERS CHOOSE COUNCILLORS OVER MEMBERS OF THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT IN POPULARITY CONTEST

Councillors are more important to voters than MSPs, new official research has found.* While Holyrood was not credited with effecting change, councils were seen to have a direct, practical impact on people's lives. Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities president Pat Watters told The Herald(p1): 'We are obviously doing something right.

* ELECTIONS 2004: OFFICIAL REPORT ON SCOTTISH ELECTIONS 2003(Electoral Commission)

BIRMINGHAM MEDIA CHIEF TO SPIN OFF INTO SUNSET

Birmingham City Counci's head of communications, Myra Benson, has announced she is quitting her job after 11 years. Ms Benson is not renewing her contract when it runs out next June. Her decision to stand down 'triggers the start of a race to fill one of the most powerful and sensitive local government posts in the country, reported The Birmingham Post(29/11/03, p3).

POLL TAX 'MISTAKE'

The Conservative politician responsible for implementing the poll tax in Scotland admits it was 'a great political mistake'. Malcolm Rifkind 'will come closer than ever to apologising to Scots for the tax regime which caused social and political turmoil,' reported The Scotsman (1/12/03, p1).

POLICE ARREST COUNCIL OFFICER OVER CORRUPTION ALLEGATION

Detectives have arrested a Southwark LBC official, a police officer and two other people as part of an investigation into allegations of corruption over the licensing of ice cream sellers, reported the South London Press(2/12/03, p5). Officers from the Metropolitan Police direc torate of standards have been working with Southwark LBC after allegations were received in the summer. The four arrested have been bailed until February pending further inquiries.

REORGANISATION: BRINGING GOVERNMENT CLOSER TO THE PEOPLE, YET MAKING IT MORE REMOTE

'One of the many perverse consequences of John Prescott's desire to bring government closer to the people' read a leader in the Yorkshire Post (2/12/03, p2) on the Boundary Committee's draft proposals (see LGCnet), 'is a situation in which the voters of north Yorkshire could soon find their local representatives becoming much more remote.' The paper sees the plans for its area as, 'giving the heavily populated areas of West and South Yorkshire the power to decide ... what happens to their rural neighbours in North Yorkshire.' The Yorkshire Post (p4) understands that the Boundary Committee's recommendations for the region could be acted upon even if the electorate votes next year against the creation of a Yorkshire mini-parliament.

REDDITCH 'STILL LEADERLESS'

The Birmingham Post (2/12/03, p3) noted that Redditch BC is still without a leader and deputy after no nominations were made during an extraordinary council meeting on Monday. Until a new leader is elected, borough director Chris Smith will take on both roles, previously filled by Gavin Smithers and Pat Wilson respectively. Another call for nominations will be made during the next full council meeting on 8 December.

COUNCILLORS SET FOR PAY RISE UP TO 19%

Coventry councillors are set to vote themselves pay rises of up to 19%, reported The Birmingham Post (2/12/03, p5). The new rates to be applied to Coventry City Council are the recommendation of an independent remuneration panel, chaired by Birmingham University academic Dr Declan Hall.

COUNCILLORS ATTACK SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE OVER TRAVEL FUNDING CRISIS

Councillors attacked the Scottish Executive yesterday for ignoring a c risis facing 350,000 pensioners as they agreed to accept a last-minute funding deal for Scotland's largest free travel scheme. At a meeting in Glasgow, the 12 councils which run the scheme agreed not to carry out their threat to shut it down to avoid a £15m funding shortfall, reports The Herald(p14).

PFI STREETS PLAN CANNOT BE SCRAPPED

Preparatory work on a £2bn scheme to hand responsibility for improving Birmingham's roads to a private company will go ahead now that a procedural point has been clarified (click herefor background). Birmingham City Council's chief legal officer Mirzad Ahmad, quoting the Local Government Act 2000, said backbench councillors could not prevent the cabinet executive from carrying through agreed council policy, reports The Birmingham Post (p3).

UNISON 'CAN FUND STRIKE ACTION'

Brian Debus and Will Leng from Hackney Unison wrote to the Hackney Gazette (27/11/03, p19) to set the record straight on Unison's London weighting strike (click herefor background). 'The inference that Unison cannot fund the dispute is incorrect,' they wrote. 'Although funds have not yet been released for further seasonal strike action in Hackney schools, there are still plans for substantial strike action across London.'

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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