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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN TODAY'S NATIONAL PRESS

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TEACHER SHORTAGES WORST EVER ...
TEACHER SHORTAGES WORST EVER

Schools are facing the worst ever shortage of teachers as new figures show that up to 40% of teachers with three years experience are leaving the profession, according to the chief inspector of schools, reported The Guardian (p1).

Head of Ofsted Mike Tomlinson said the government had to do more to retain teachers who found they were on salaries that offered little or no hope of buying a home. His intervention came as schools across the country scrabble to fill posts still vacant less than a week before the start of term.

Mr Tomlinson, who began teaching in Nottinghamshire in 1965, said: 'I think over my period of time in education this is about the third major cycle of this sort. I do think this is probably the worst of the three - more widespread'.

He said the problem was accentuated by the lack of short-term cover.

From next month inspectors will be required to show levels of staff vacancies and turnover, and the number of supply teachers, in Ofsted reports on individual schools. Mr Tomlinson said he expects to see an increase in 'mismatch' - the number of teachers teaching subjects for which they are not qualified.

In Guardian Education (pp1-2) Mr Tomlinson reveals proposals for an overhaul of school inspections. He will consult on plans for 'tailor-made' inspections, where schools themselves are able to decide the areas they inspect. He also admits some school inspectors were rude to teachers in the past.

POLICE TOLD TO WEAR UNIFORM

A police authority will be asked to order plain clothes officers in its force to return to wearing uniforms to increase their visibility, reported the Financial Times (p2).

Sussex Police Authority will decide whether to implement the policy, put forward by the home office after it has named a new chief constable. Former chief constable Paul Whitehouse left the force after a bungled raid in which an unarmed man was shot dead.

The idea is being considered by other forces. Under the proposals for the Sussex force, about 700 officers would switch from civilian clothes and return to wearing uniforms. Exceptions would be made for detectives working under cover or carrying out surveillance.

John Stalker, former deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, said: 'This is an old idea which was discredited. It was a bad idea 20 years ago and is still a bad idea'.

PLANNING FOR TELECOMS MASTS

David Jamieson, junior minister at the DTLR, writes to the editor of the Financial Times (p14), saying:

'Sir, Contrary to the thrust of your report 'Ministers 'cave in' on phone masts' (August 24), the government has significantly strengthened, not weakened, the planning arrangements for telecommunications development.

'The new measures have extended the consultation arrangements so that local communities can have their say. As now, local authorities will be able to turn down mast applications where they do not consider amenity aspects have been adequately dealt with.

'Changes to the planning system for telecommunications masts were announced in full in March, with briefings to the media and letters to all MPs and council leaders. These changes were implemented last week.

The government has adopted a precautionary approach as recommended by the independent expert group on mobile phones, chaired by Sir William Stewart. The Stewart report did not recommend a ban or minimum distances on masts on schools, hospitals or anywhere else.

'The planning guidance published last week emphasises the government's view that telecommunications development must be taken forward through partnership between the operator, the local planning authority and the local community. What we are proposing strikes the right balance by improving the consultation with local people and giving the 45 million people who use mobile phones the service they want.'

LABOUR FURY AT ASYLUM VOUCHER 'BETRAYAL'

Union leaders are furious at being 'double-crossed' by ministers who have decided after a review of the asylum-seekers' voucher scheme, that it will not be abolished, reported The Times (p1 and feature p8).

The unions have long been critical of a system they regard as demeaning to asylum-seekers. But home office ministers privately admit that they have been unable to find an acceptable alternative. Having spent a year looking for substitute schemes, advisers have told them to replace the scheme with cash benefits would create a 'pull factor' for thousands more immigrants.

Failure to find an alternative scheme will anger the Transport and General Workers' Union, whose general secretary Bill Morris described vouchers as 'crude and cruel'. Only the promise of of the review prevented a damaging row for Labour before the general election.

Organisations such as the Refugee Council, Oxfam, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and Asylum Aid believe that immigration minister Lord Rooker is sympathetic to getting rid of the voucher system. But he told one group last week: 'My hands are tied'.

Home secretary David Blunkett seems certain to refuse last-minute appeals to endear himself to delegates at the Labour Party conference by scrapping vouchers. Instead he may try to head off an embarrassing revolt by unveiling plans for a work permit system. His officials are also studying other alternatives, believed to include an increase in the value of vouchers to almost the same level as state benefits.

Mr Blunkett has instructed officials to study the possibility of allowing some asylum-seekers to work while awaiting their fate. At the moment some doctors among the refugee community are allowed to work, but Whitehall favours asylum-seekers doing community work and being paid 'in kind' with food packages rather than cash.

CARNIVAL COSTS POLICE£4M

Scotland Yard expressed cautious satisfaction on Sunday night after mounting its biggest and most expensive operation in the 37-year history of the Notting Hill Carnival, reported The Daily Telegraph (p2).

The Metropolitan Police spent£4m deploying 10,000 officers - 1,500 more than last year when two people were killed.

About one million people were estimated to have attended the event by early Sunday evening and at least 52 people were arrested, half of them for drugs offences.

VILLAGE ANGER OVER YELLOW CHIP ROAD

Residents in a Peak District village are furious after council workers resurfaced the road over a 16th century bridge with bright yellow chippings, reported The Daily Telegraph (p3).

They expected a sympathetic restoration of the historic Sheepwash Bridge in Ashford-in-the-Water, Derbyshire. But they were horrified after workmen finished repairs and covered the road with tons of stone chippings. They accused the council of vandalism and demanded the 'yellow brick road', as it has been named, is dug up.

Three authorities involved blamed each other for the eyesore.

The stone bridge, a scheduled ancient monument over the river Wye, stands on the old Peak District salt-trade route from Cheshire to Sheffield. It attracts thousands of tourists a year, but now they are greeted by a sign reading: 'Which buffoon authorised this act of mindless vandalism?'

Derbyshire CC put down the chippings, paid for by East Midlands Electricity after it had diverted a power-line over the bridge but said Peak District National Park Authority chose the colour.

Philip Beh-Mycock, spokesman for the park, said the colour had been used in other towns. 'The key to all of this is consultation with local people, and this was not our responsibility in this case', he added.

East Midlands Electricity also said it was not responsible for choosing the colour.

TARTAN TAX WARNING FOR FREE SPENDING SCOTLAND

Scotland is in danger of becoming a third world economy and may have to use the 'tartantax' power to pay for its extravagant spending commitments, according to a new report, according to The Guardian (p7).

The study by the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research said economic performance since devolution had been dismal with GDP growing at half the UK rate and the country 'stuck in the tax and spend era of the 1960s'.

It predicted that with growing unease in the south over Scotland's allocation of public funds, the Scottish parliament would have to choose between cutting back on its spending commitments or using its powers to increase the rate of income tax. Douglas McWilliams, the CEBR chief executive, said the Barnett formula, which apportions Scotland's share of public money, would come under increasing strain as the rest of the UK became unhappy about 'subsidising' better public services in Scotland.

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