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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE REGIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 16:45HRS

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COUNCIL'S RECORD FINE FOR ADMITTING LIABILITY FOR FAILING TO MAINTAIN BOILER ...
COUNCIL'S RECORD FINE FOR ADMITTING LIABILITY FOR FAILING TO MAINTAIN BOILER

A record fine of£350,000 has been imposed on a council's housing chiefs after two tenants dying from carbon monoxide poisoning. Noel Porter-Blake and his partner Anne Marie Worboys were gassed by fumes from a boiler that Hammersmith and Fulham LBC admitted liability for failing to maintain properly. Their deaths follow a similar identical incident five years previously in which another tenant died. No one from the council has been prosecuted or dismissed following the incident, but Mr Porter-Blake's family is expected to receive compensation from the council running into thousands of pounds, reports Evening Standard(p8, 10/1/02)

COUNCIL'S EMPLOYMENT SAGA CONTINUES AS LEMMIE SHORT-LISTED FOR TOP AMERICAN JOB

Valerie Lemmie, the American who almost became Birmingham City Council's chief executive, is reported to be in the running for city manager of Cincinnati, reports The Birmingham Post (p4, 10/1/02). News of Birmingham's search to fill its vacancy continues here.

COUNCIL COMMENTS ON BLACK-LISTED 'WHINGERS'

A 'Vexatious and habitual complaints policy' is to be drawn up by Southwark LBC in bid to stop time-wasting calls from a small group of persistent complainers. Cabinet member for finance and performance, Cllr Andy Simmons, said: 'We don't want to discourage complaints from the public; we encourage people to call. 'But we need to stop situations where several officers are dealing with the same people's problems,' reports the South London Press(p4, 11/1/02).

OGMORE VACANCY ELUDES CARDIFF LORD MAYOR

Cardiff lord mayor Russell Goodway is having to accept his dream of becoming a Labour MP is unlikely to be realised - as senior party members claimed on Friday that the Ogmore vacancy had been his last chance. 'There was obvious Labour relief yesterday that Mr Goodway had been passed over in favour of Swansea lecturer Huw Irranca-Davies,' reports The Western Mail(p1), about which the paper elaborates on here(p7).

COUNCILLOR AND HIS EMPLOYER COMMENT ON PUNCHING INCIDENT INVESTIGATION

Maltby councillor and former Rotherham Council deputy leader Jim Wright, who tried to hit a protester at a public meeting, breached a code of conduct but will not face disciplinary action, a council standards board investigation found on Thursday.

A council spokeswoman told The Western Mail(p9, 11/1/02): 'It was felt that as Cllr Wright had apologised to the meeting and in a letter to the council's head of legal services, Tim Mumford, and as he had taken a personal decision to stand down from the council and the parish council, that no further action should be taken.' After the ruling, Cllr Wright said that he fully accepted the decision and that he had been in the wrong but said that it had become increasingly difficult to carry out his duties. He said: 'It is a very stressful job and although I am 100 per cent in agreement with the code of conduct and having a standards board, I think it might be time that members had some protection as well. People can accuse you of being bent with unfounded allegations and there doesn't seem to be any way for the elected member to fight back.'

REACTION TO BIG PAY RISES FOR COUNCIL BOSSES

Union leaders have questioned whether large pay increases for senior staff at Sheffield City Council - including Bob Kerslake - are appropriate. A spokeswoman for the Sheffield branch of public sector union Unison said: 'They (senior managers) are very well-paid,' she told the Yorkshire Post(p8, 11/1/02). They may get more in private industry but they get more job security at a council. They are looking at putting the lowest-paid workers at social services on reduced enhancements. They are paid only£5 per hour. Mr Kerslake's increase would be two-and-a-half times what they earn in a year. We opposed these rises when they were originally proposed and the situation (council finances) has deteriorated since then.'

IN BRIEF:

-- Bruce Pullar appeared in court on 10 January, charged with the alleged stabbing of the chief executive of Warwickshire CC at his home, reports The Birmingham Post (p1, 10/1/02).

-- In his Comment column in the South London Press, the MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey, Simon Hughes, urges voters to say no to a new, directly-elected mayor in the Southwark referendum on 31 January 2002.

-- The Western Mail(p7, 11/1/02) reports on a former leader of Bridgend CBC its Plaid group, Cllr Simon Foster, who switched to the Independent Wales Party on Firday because, he says, Plaid is failing to campaign for independence. His defection came on the same day a former senior member ended up with the Conservatives.

-- Kirklees MBC has backed the creation of a powerful, directly-elected assembly to govern Yorkshire, reports the Yorkshire Post(p9, 10/1/02).

-- One of Birmingham City Council's senior members, Cllr Susanna McCorry, voiced her concerns in The Birmingham Post (p5, 14/1/01) that the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie threatened to overshadow the introduction of a new code of conduct for social workers.

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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