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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE REGIONAL PRESS - UPDATED 16:55HRS

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COUNCIL'S FINANCIAL SCANDALS SPARK ROW BETWEEN COUNCILLORS ...
COUNCIL'S FINANCIAL SCANDALS SPARK ROW BETWEEN COUNCILLORS

Alleged financial scandals at Wiltshire CC have sparked a row among councillors, reports the Salisbury Journal (p3, 17/1/02). Corruption was raised by the district auditor Richard Lott's annual letter which said the Tory-controlled council should do more to promote an ethical culture. Paul Sample, leader of the main opposition Liberal Democrats, said the irregularities over the last year reflected badly on the council. He said: 'I cannot imagine how the report could be worse. Here is a supposedly leading council which has always trumpeted its success, being shown to be no better than the rest.' Chief executive Keith Robinson said: 'The people of Wiltshire have a right to expect probity from public officials.' County council leader Peter Chalke said: 'I would stress that in only one case are there allegations of any financial loss to the Wiltshire tax payer.'

BIRMINGHAM TO SEE LONDON-STYLE CLAMPDOWN ON CARS ABUSING CITY'S BUS LANES

Birmingham could become the first city outside London to use cameras to photograph and fine motorists caught driving in bus lanes. The city council is talking to the Government about acquiring legal powers to use video footage to identify thousands of drivers who routinely ignore restrictions, reports The Birmingham Post. The paper's Comment page believes there are: 'Hard times ahead for our city's motorists.'

IN DEPTH: FAVOURABLE REFERENDUM COULD SEE YORKSHIRE ASSEMBLY WITHIN THREE YEARS

A 'first minister' for Yorkshire and 44-member assembly could be running the region by 2005 under an ambitious blueprint yesterday unveiled by home rule campaigners. Devolution campaigners from across the country yesterday emerged in jubilant mood from a meeting with regions minister Nick Raynsford, predicting that a directly-elected assembly could be up and running in Yorkshire before the next General Election if approved in a regional referendum. The forecast, from Campaign for Yorkshire director Jane Thomas, came as the government prepared to publish its long-awaited White Paper on regional governance, detailing the plans for extending devolution to the English regions. It also came as regions secretary Stephen Byers yesterday told MPs that 'disparities within the regions of England are not narrowing - they are actually growing'. Last week, Liberal Democrat-controlled Kirklees Metropolitan Council voted to back the creation of a Yorkshire assembly, in spite of opposition from Tory councillors that it would be an extra layer of bureaucracy, reports The Yorkshire Post(p4).

IN BRIEF:

-- The Birmingham Post (p13) examines the criticism and scrutiny of Walsall MBC, which is either maligned ahead of its time, but believes the council is failing those it should be serving.

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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