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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN THE SUNDAY PAPERS

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By Nicky Willmore...
By Nicky Willmore

LABOUR TO LAUNCH FIVE-YEAR IMMIGRATION PLAN

The Labour Party is to launch its own 'five-year plan' for cracking down on illegal immigration this week, according to the Independent on Sunday (p2).

The package of measures will include an Australian-style points system to grade potential migrants to Britain and the deportation of failed asylum seekers.

MINIMUM WAGE TO BREAK THE£5 BARRIER

Chancellor Gordon Brown is set to announce that the minimum wage will rise to just over£5 an hour from October, the Independent on Sunday reports (p2).

The announcement, which the paper says will be made in a Budget expected to launch the Labour party's election campaign, will raise the hourly rate from£4.85 to£5.05 in October and up again to£5.30 the following year.

The increases are recommended in a leaked draft report from the Low Pay Commission.

GOVERNMENT'S HOUSING PLANS WILL LEAD TO ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE

John Prescott's£22bn housing plans will call cause irreversible environmental damage, according to two new reports.

The Independent on Sunday (p16) cites the conclusions of a parliamentary report by the House of Commons Environment Audit Committee and those of a commission set up by the Institute of Public Policy Research.

These warn that the housing plans will have a negative impact on global warming and the transport crisis, as well as leading to water shortages in South-east England.

LIE DETECTORS TO COME TO THE AID OF BENEFIT STAFF

Benefits office staff will be able to draw on lie detectors to assess whether members of the public are telling the truth over the telephone, according to the Sunday Times (p3).

Under plans being studied by ministers, the new technology could be installed in areas subject to fraudulent claims, such as tax, benefits and immigration.

Several government departments are said to be in negotiations with Capita, the IT firm which has bought distribution rights to the technology.

GAP BETWEEN BEST AND WORST SCHOOLS MUST BE CLOSED, SAYS OFSTED

Ofsted will this week warn the government that steps must be taken to narrow the gap between the best and worst performing schools, the Sunday Times reports (p2).

Ofsted's third annual report on standards in state schools is expected to highlight the underperformance of white, working class boys.

In addition, 300 schools are still failing to provide an adequate education, while another 300 have 'serious weaknesses'.

LONDON 'GIVES UP' ON OLYMPIC BID

London has effectively ditched its hopes of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games because it lags so far behind rival Paris, according to the Observer (p1).

Most of the senior figures behind London's bid have privately admitted that Paris is expected to win when the decision is announced on 6 July, the paper claims.

ESSEX LOOKS FOR A MAKEOVER

The Sunday Telegraph takes a look at Essex's drive to change the county's image by appointing a£37,000 a year project director (p22).

The Essex Development and Regeneration Agency, with Arts Council and local authority funding, is advertising for someone to 'transform the Essex cultural landscape'.

SWALE BC POINTS THE WAY TO EFFICIENCY SAVINGS

The Observer (Business & Media p9) examines Swale BC's success in turning round its housing benefit service to make it one of the best in the country.

It asks whether the Swale recipe, with its twin emphasis on customers' requirements and quality, could be the model for all public services in their bid for Gershon efficiency savings.

Swale's approach allowed it to separate first-time callers to the benefit office from those who were chasing progress or trying to correct failures in procedure, effectively 'failure demand'.

Its success lay in switching off the failure demand as means of increasing capacity and bringing down service costs.

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